Here’s the thing about being a member of the Olympic team: while glamorous, it doesn’t magically give you access to a secret Olympians-only Tube line.
Which is a shame, Eggsy thinks, because he’s got enough to worry about when it comes to training and maintaining his diet and making sure he sees his mum often enough that she knows he’s still alive. If there was a separate Tube line for Olympic athletes, it would make the fact that he’s running late for practice that much easier to bear.
He keeps one hand on his bag to keep it behind him as he cuts through the crowds, trying to keep himself as slim as possible in order to fit in the smaller gaps in rush hour traffic. His train to his training centre connects at Victoria Station, because of fucking course it does, and if Eggsy had been on time then he wouldn’t have to worry about the swaths of under-caffeinated people crowding the station. But his mum worked a double last night into this morning, which meant that Eggsy was in charge of making sure Daisy got to daycare at Mrs. Blakely’s just down the way. The way in the opposite direction of his Tube station.
Then, when he got to his station, breath only slightly laboured from the jogging pace he’d used to make up for lost time, his fucking Oyster card was denied at the gate. It’s a new card, he lost his last one, and he hadn’t set up pay as you go yet.
The escalators are crowded as fuck, so Eggsy sprints the stairs to the Circle line. This should count as conditioning, really. It’s like a pre-warm-up for the warm up he has before practice, and it’s that thought that carries him to the platform of the train he needs to get to.
Just in time for the doors for the latest train to shut.
“Shit,” Eggsy says. It’s packed like a can of sardines as it starts its slow gate, picking up speed slowly before it’s gone. It would’ve been a tight squeeze; they probably wouldn’t have had room for him. Or at least, that’s what he comforts himself with.
The platform is still crowded, but he manages to find a scrap of wall to lean against. He’s not antsy, and isn’t foolish enough to think that standing closer to the tracks are going to get him on a train faster. Mind the gap, and all that. Standing at the wall is easier than getting jostled by the crowd coming off the train.
The train which should be coming soon, he hopes. He looks up at the time board.
Hammersmith. 13 min.
Shit, fuck, shit.
Foster’s gonna kill him.
Eggsy’s got no hope of sneaking into practice without Foster noticing—they’ve already finished warm-ups and moved to apparatus, there’s no way he’ll get in unscathed—but he tries. He slips through the door like he’s some sort of spy as his teammates start to work on their skills, and he manages to get into the changing room unnoticed. He changes quickly and not just because he’s cold, then packs up his bag and goes back onto the main gym floor. There’s six athletes here right now. If there were more, Eggsy could pretend that he was just in the bathroom.
Unfortunately, there’s only six athletes here. He makes it five feet from the change room before he’s made, and that’s without Tom or any of the others drawing attention to him. They haven’t even realized that he’s there yet
“Glad you finally decided to show up, Eggsy,” says a dry voice from behind him, and Eggsy barely tenses before he turns to face his coach. Foster Chapford, British Olympic Gymnast of years gone by, is still fit as fuck. Whenever he wants to put someone in their place, he reminds them that he’s a lifetime older than them and can still do half the tricks they’re doing.
The muscles never forget, and as Foster still recreationally trains Eggsy’s not surprised he still can.
“Sorry, guv,” Eggsy says. “I had to drop my sister off and didn’t budget my time properly.”
“I suppose you didn’t,” Foster replies, but the way he uncrosses his arms says he’s willing to let it lie for now. “Do a little bit of everything today, but focus on the parallel bars.”
Eggsy’s specialty is the parallel bars; he’s familiar with the shape of them in his hands more than he’s familiar with the feel of his phone. “Really?”
Foster’s not apologetic. “You weren’t as tight as you could’ve been yesterday. A little shaky on your hold elements.”
“That’s because I’m being made to hold stock still, bruv—”
Eggsy sighs. “Yeah, alright.”
“Brilliant. Start on floor if you’ve got some extra energy to burn off.”
Something catches Foster’s attention over Eggsy’s shoulder and he immediately leaves, marching towards the high bar snapping, “What the hell do you think you’re doing, Danny?” Eggsy sighs, wiping a hand over his face, and then continues towards the floor to warm up and to start his day.
He’s got six hours to burn and all this restless energy coursing through him. Throwing himself around on the floor seems like an excellent way to start his day.
The thing about training for the Olympics is that it’s actually kind of—boring.
They’re two weeks away now, and Eggsy is twitchy with the best of them, but the whole point of the Olympics is to show off the most complicated routine you can perform perfectly. There’s no learning new skills or fucking around on the vault. It’s the same shit, over and over and over again, that was new when preparing for qualifying and still fresh when it came to nationals but now it just—it just is.
The same thing, over and over again. Eggsy can’t wait until they finally start, until he’s standing in the middle of a stadium with thousands of people and lights and cameras and the rest of the world looking at him, hoping for him to succeed or to fail.
He mounts the bars easy enough. He goes through the routine with his mind blissfully blank, muscle memory accomplishing the work for him. It’s one of the nice thing about gymnastics—not thinking while he’s preforming. Doing nothing more than making sure his arms and legs are straight and his body is tight and pointing his toes so hard they may never recover right. He casts into his handstands easily, moving to a one handed one halfway through the routine. Keeps his shoulders and his hips square as he flips down the length of the bars, in between them, grabbing at the last second. His armpits complain when they catch him at the last moment, when they should, like they always do. He does a double back pike for a dismount, feet and knees anchoring him solidly as he lands.
He takes a moment to breathe, chalks up his hands, and then does it again.
He loses track of time, of where everyone else is training. Foster wants his routine tight? Eggsy routine is going to be fucking tight. He’s not going to give the man a single reason to complain, not a one—
But then he’s nearing the point of his dismount and his brain whispers, Do a triple back.
It’s insistent enough that he pauses for a moment, barely noticeable to the untrained eye but long enough that Foster says, “Lose your train of thought?” like Eggsy is doing any thinking at all. And the thing is, Eggsy shouldn’t be thinking, but then he was, and now he just wants to see if he can do it.
For science reasons, of course.
He goes through the rest of his routine easily enough, aware of Foster coming closer to watch. Eggsy thinks about trying to talk himself out of it but then it’s time for his dismount and he casts harder than he usually does and his hands leave the bars. One and two are easy enough, but he starts the third instead of straightening out and as soon as his hands had left the bars he knew he didn’t have the height for it—
His knees crash against the mat, and he falls flat on his face.
For a moment there’s silence, interrupted only by choked laughter—James, probably.
“The fuck was that, Unwin?” Foster asks cordially enough from where he’s leaning against the nearest pommel horse.
Eggsy keeps his eyes closed, revelling briefly in his failure. His knees ache sweetly from impact, and his nostrils are clogged with the familiar and cloying smell of chalk. “An attempt at a double back pike,” Eggsy says.
Foster snorts. “That wasn’t an attempt at a double back and you know it. You could pull that off in your sleep. And you did, just now, before you rotated more than you should’ve. Try again.”
“It may have been an attempt at a triple back.”
“Fascinating, since I don’t recall you competing with a triple back pike, which is a skill that you’re too tall for.” The mat sinks slightly as Foster walks towards him, and Eggsy rolls onto his back when Foster nudges him with his foot. His coach looms over him, head surrounded by a halo of light, and if Eggsy didn’t know better he’d think it was all quite angelic-like.
Unfortunately, Eggsy knows better, and now that Foster has that look on his face he has regrets. Foster doesn’t disappoint the feeling of foreboding Eggsy has. “Since you want to be reckless, how’s an extra hour of conditioning today sound?”
Eggsy sighs. “Ah, fuck you, Foster.”
“No, fuck you, Eggsy,” Foster replies. He kneels down all nice and personal, which is almost worst because if Foster doesn’t yell at him then he can’t have anyone silently commiserate with him once Foster’s finished with his evisceration. “You think that what you do isn’t dangerous enough? You think that your life isn’t in danger as it is? Any one of your limbs could snap like a twig if you fall right, including you neck, and you want to add an unknown variable into that? We’re here to train for the Olympics, not to try and pull a new trick. Understood?”
Eggsy does understand, is the thing, but he’s a gymnast which means that his self-preservation instinct took a shit the first time he did a handstand on the high bar. “It’s just a little fun, Foster, you know I don’t mean anything by it. ‘sides, I can’t stay late, I’ve got other responsibilities and shit.”
“Well, those responsibilities will have to wait until you remember you have responsibilities here,” Foster says.
“I’m not budging on this, Eggsy,” he says. “Go and take care of whatever business you need to, but you’re staying late tonight. Maybe then you’ll learn.”
Eggsy doesn’t say anything as Foster walks away, muttering something under his breath. After a moment, he takes a deep breath and pushes himself up, first onto his elbows and then all the way into a sitting position. He rubs over the calluses on his hands as he swallows back the frustration.
Then he stands up, chalks up, and does his mount again.
I'm freshairandspearmint on tumblr, but be aware that I am terrible at compartmentalization so it's a lot of everything. Also: like Eggsy, I'm a sucker for encouragement
Eggsy’s known Mrs. Blakely since he was a little bit older than Daisy is now. He remembers going down the street with his mum for tea and biscuits on sunny afternoons that his mum had a day off, playing with trains and cars under the table while they caught up.
The visits tapered off a bit after Eggsy’s dad died, morphing into Mrs. Blakely looking after Eggsy while his mother was at work and he wasn’t at gymnastics practice. He could walk to her flat in with his eyes closed, in his sleep, if the situation called for it.
He almost feels like a dead man walking as he goes to pick up Daisy, sun casting hazy light over the estate as Eggsy tries to get his lead heavy limbs to cooperate. It wasn’t so bad moving immediately after practice, but now that he’s cooled down everything’s starting to lock up in a predictable yet no less miserable sort of way. Eggsy hasn’t thought about having an ice bath in a long time, but tonight may just call for it.
He knocks twice on Mrs. Blakely’s door. She doesn’t leave him waiting long, opening the door with a smile on her face. “Eggsy,” she says. “Come on in.”
He steps inside; he knows better than to refuse. At the very least he might get a chocolate chip cookie out of it, and there are very few things as comforting as one of Mrs. Blakely’s chocolate chip cookies. Eggsy toes off his shoes and follows Mrs. Blakely to her kitchen; the flat is ominously quiet. “Daisy sleeping?” he asks.
“Poor dear resisted her afternoon until about half an hour ago,” Mrs. Blakely confirms. She stirs one of the pots, lifting up a lid to check on another. “I’m letting her sleep until supper’s all done. Considering you were running late, I didn’t think you’d want to cook much tonight.”
“You didn’t have to do that, I was just gonna get Maccy D’s or something,” Eggsy says, but it’s a half-hearted protest. He’s supposed to be limiting his takeaway intake, even with how convenient it is, and if Foster found out that Eggsy’s been bending the restriction a bit then there’d be that much more conditioning to do. But that conditioning would result in more takeaway which would result in more conditioning, and on and on and on, so he’s not going to complain about Mrs. Blakely cooking for them.
Maybe on a night when his arms don’t feel like they have ten pound weights attached to them, but not tonight.
Eggsy settles at the kitchen table, chair familiar. She hasn’t bought new kitchen chairs in all the years that Eggsy’s known her. “Daisy was good for you, yeah?”
“Always,” Mrs. Blakely says. “She was an angel, apart from the nap business.”
“Have any idea what was keeping her?”
“She wanted her mum.”
Eggsy rubs a hand over his face, breathing deep. “You haven’t heard from her, have you? Mum.”
“She stopped in before she went to work,” Mrs. Blakely says. She’s stood with her back to him but turns briefly to offer Eggsy an apologetic smile. “Picked up a shift tonight, asked if it would be alright for me to hold onto her until you got off.”
Eggsy was supposed to hang out with Jamal and the boys tonight at the pub. He slips his phone out of his pocket, sends out a quick, I’ve got Dais tonight I guess, to them before he replies. “Thanks, again. You don’t have to.”
“It’s not a problem, dear,” Mrs. Blakely replies, just as a sleep-heavy voice says, “Eggs’?”
Eggsy pivots in his chair to face the sitting room doorway. Daisy still looks half out of it, blanket hanging limply from one hand and trailing behind her as she walks to him. Daisy’s nearly three, and Eggsy loves her. She’s one of the biggest motivators he has in his training; nothing quite spurs him on like the mental image of Daisy posing with his Olympic medal around her neck. He’s gonna make her proud, make his mum proud, and they won’t want for anything. Not after these games.
Eggsy hoists her onto his lap when she’s close enough, wrapping the blanket around her as well as he can while she cuddles into his chest. “Hey there, flower,” he says softly. “Did you have a good rest?”
She nods, but doesn’t say anything. The last thing Eggsy wants to do right now is keep her up, she looks absolutely knackered, but if she sleeps more now she’ll be an absolute terror later.
His phone vibrates. Eggsy carefully slips it out of his pocket, glancing down at the screen without jostling Daisy too much—he wants her awake, not experiencing an earthquake.
Jamal: I thought you was getting a night off?
Texting back one handed is a little more difficult, but Eggsy manages well enough.
Eggsy: mum picked up a shift
Jamal: But your night off, bruv
Eggsy: I know
Mrs. Blakely sets the table quietly around him and Daisy, and when it’s time to eat he bumps her out of the doze that she’s in to set her in her seat. She frowns for a moment as she looks at her plate, like she’s considering crying, and Eggsy almost faints with relief when she decides against it.
Ryan: We can go over to yours?
Eggsy: only if you’re fine dodging a toddler
Ryan: We’ll let Jamal handle her for being such a shitpot
Jamal: The fuck you will
Eggsy dishes up for himself, inhaling the food on his plate before pausing for a full glass of water. He probably shouldn’t be eating so fast, not after a training session as intense as today’s, but when you need the carbs you need the carbs and Eggsy’s not about to withhold. Not when it tastes this good.
Mrs. Blakely works miracles in her kitchen, he swears.
Eggsy: if you want, come over in an hour
Ryan: We always want, but are you gonna be able to stay awake?
Eggsy: it wasn’t too bad today
Eggsy: it was just an extra hour of conditioning. I’ve done an extra hour of conditioning more times than I can count since I started competing
Jamal: yeah yeah
Ryan: We’ll be there in an hour
Eggsy’s fork scrapes against an empty plate and he looks up from his phone, surprised. Mrs. Blakely is smiling at him from across the table. “Seconds, dear?”
“Absolutely,” he replies, reaching for the nearest pot, and it’s not just because he needs the carbs.
Sunset is coming for them fast as Eggsy and Daisy walks home. More awake and with food in her tummy Daisy’s flat out talking his ear off about all the things that she and Mrs. Blakely got up to today, and Eggsy is thrilled for the break. Talking with his little sister is easy, yet doesn’t require any huge amount brainpower. Just keep an ear out for phrases that she repeats and ask leading enough questions and he’s all set.
When they turn the corner to the estates, though, Eggsy ducks his head a little bit, tugs at Daisy’s hand a little so that she’s walking closer to him. Not that everyone here is bad news, and Eggsy has more friends than foes, but there’s a new guy that’s just moved in and he’s brought his lads with him.
And they are not a good-looking crew.
So Eggsy keeps his distance, because he’s a smart boy who knows better. He’s a gymnast training for the Olympics; he’s got no time to get all tied up with shit. He keeps his head down and doesn’t make eye contact and he hopes that he’s able to get his family out of here sooner rather than later.
Because his mum—she’d done her best, hadn’t she? Husband died in the field, left her with a young son, and then when she finally was ready to jump back into the dating pool the man she dated flat out pulled a runner when she told him she was pregnant. So raising two kids, while living on the knife-edge of poverty in one of London’s more shady corners—Eggsy’s not sure that he could do it.
But, at the same time, if they weren’t two pence away from being poor, then he never would’ve gotten a scholarship to do gymnastics full-time, which meant that he might not be here at all.
It’s a double-edged sword, one that Eggsy doesn’t necessarily like to fall on. He’s got one goal: win a medal, do Team GB and his country proud, and then run. Far away. And yeah, sure, he’s got the medal that that one bloke gave him after his father died, in case of emergency, but Eggsy highly doubts that the man meant for the medal to be used as a ‘get out of the estates’ card.
When they get to their flat, Eggsy unlocks and opens the door without even thinking about it. He shuts it behind them, but doesn’t lock it again; Ryan and Jamal will be getting here in—he checks his phone as Daisy runs off to go and play with her toys—twenty minutes. The kitchen is a mess; his mum had planned on doing it tonight, he thinks, before she went and took that shift.
The throb in Eggsy’s arms have turned from just regular fatigue to a dull ache. He sighs, rolls up his sleeves, and starts to run some water.
Eggsy’s on time for practice the next day because he doesn’t make the same mistake two days in a row.
He’s so on time that Victoria station is still yawning awake when he sprints to it, and he gets a whole carriage to himself on the Circle line.
He’s so on time that, when Foster gets to the gym, he jumps when he realizes that it is, in fact, Eggsy leaning against the wall by the door and not just a discarded mannequin. “Morning, Foster,” Eggsy says cordially enough as his coach swears himself away from a heart attack.
“Morning, Eggsy,” Foster says once he’s steadied himself, unlocking the door. “How are you today?”
Both of Eggsy’s arms feel as if they’re two seconds away from detaching at the shoulder. “Fantastic.”
“I’ll bet.” Foster opens the door, holding it so that Eggsy can pass through before him. “Unwin, is that pot I smell on your jacket?”
Eggsy shrugs, kicking off his shoes. “If it is, it isn’t mine. I haven’t touched the stuff since I signed the training contract.”
Eggsy flicks on the lights, then looks back at Foster when his coach doesn’t reply right away. Foster looks contemplative but not necessarily disbelieving, so Eggsy’s not worried. All he needs is for Foster to believe him; if his coach believes him and trusts him, he can deal with those who don’t. Foster waves him on, turning into his office, and Eggsy goes into the change room to get ready for the day. When he comes out, Foster still hasn’t emerged, so he proceeds with warm-ups as usual. He’s here; he might as well get started.
He’s sat on the floor in a pike sit, reaching for his toes, when Foster’s hands land on his shoulders. “Really, now,” his coach says. “How are you today?”
Eggsy sits back up, and Foster moves back with him. He rolls his shoulders, clenching his fists. “Nothing I can’t handle,” Eggsy says. Then he looks over his shoulder and winks, just for cheek. “You’re gonna have to do a little more than that to put me out of commission, guv.”
Foster nods absentmindedly, then digs his thumbs ruthlessly hard into one of the knots in Eggsy’s shoulders. “You need to loosen up, Unwin.”
“I was trying to, wasn’t I?” Eggsy asks, ducking his head forward all the same. Foster keeps up the treatment until the knot loosens, giving absentminded greetings to the athletes that walk in the door. Eggsy looks over every time Foster says hello to someone, giving whoever it is a weak little wave of his own, because even though he’s melting in a painful sort of way that’s no excuse to be rude.
Tom and James come in together, and James shakes his head at the scene as Tom says, “Oi, Foster, you know you can’t kill him, right?” and Foster replies, easy as you like, “If I wanted him dead, he’d already be dead and his body would be gone and you would be none the wiser.”
“Sure,” Eggsy draws out, but he’s not truly skeptical. Foster draws back, patting him on the shoulder before going to talk to one of the assistant coaches, and Eggsy rolls his shoulders out. His arms still feel like lead, but at least it’s not completely scrunched up in his back anymore.
The door opens again. Eggsy turns, hand already raised. “Hey,” he starts, and then abruptly cuts himself off because that’s not one of his teammates that’s walked in the door. Well, you know, it is, except it’s not one of the teammates he’s used to seeing on a regular basis because the girls have got their own training gym somewhere, don’t they?
Oblivious to his awkwardness, or maybe not if the glint in her eyes is anything to go by, the blonde holds up a hand as well. “Hi,” she calls.
Eggsy stretches again and then rolls up to his feet, jogging over to her. “I’m Gary Unwin,” he says, because the least he can do is give the bird his name before he asks her what the hell she’s doing here. “Y’can call me Eggsy, everyone else does.”
He holds out a hand, unsure of protocol. Her smile grows as she takes it. “Roxanne Morton,” she replies, “but call me Roxy.”
Eggsy nods, glancing away for a quick second. “I don’t mean to be rude, but what—”
“Am I doing here?” she asks, just as two more girls slip through the door behind her. She shrugs but her smile softens, like she understands and forgives his confusion. Which is—good, honestly, because Eggsy is quite confused. “Your coach and our coach decided it would be good for us to train together for a bit. Foster inter-team relationships, and whatnot.”
“Huh,” Eggsy says, because that’s about all he’s got.
“Yes,” Roxy replies.
The door opens again. Roxy turns to face it as Eggsy looks around her to see who it is that’s going to walk in next. A middle-aged man walks in, suit clinging to him as he pushes his glasses up his nose and looks entirely out of place. Eggsy’s brow furrows, and he opens his mouth to undoubtedly say something he’s going to regret, but Roxy’s face brightens in recognition and Foster calls, “Harry!” from across the gym.
The man, Harry, looks unsurprised by the attention. His eyes scan the gym, lingering a bit on where Eggsy knows the exits are, before his eyes fall on Eggsy and Roxy. Before he can properly introduce himself to Eggsy, Foster bounds over and clamps a strong hand down on his shoulder.
Eggsy keeps his wince to a minimum. He wasn’t going to do anything that stupid.
“Glad to see you, Harry,” Foster says. “It’s been a time. Welcome to our humble training grounds.”
“The pleasure is all mine,” Harry says. If Foster’s familiar with him then they must know each other from a gymnastics thing, but who familiar with gymnastics wears a full suit to a gymnastics club? “Roxy, shouldn’t you be getting ready?”
“Oh, yeah,” Roxy says, nodding quick at Eggsy before going to the other change room. Eggsy watches her go, then turns his attention back to Harry. He’s going to have to do a whole new warm up to make up for the stagnancy, but he finds he doesn’t care. There’s something about this man…
“I’m Eggsy,” he says, sticking out a hand. “Eggsy Unwin.”
Harry looks down at his hand and shakes it. Regardless of whatever weird familiarity Eggsy feels, there’s not a trace of recognition on Harry’s face.
“Harry Hart,” Harry says. “It’s a pleasure to meet you.”
I'm taking suggestions for a playlist, because it has proven to be quite difficult to find songs that suit Eggsy. Save for "Anything" by Hedley, which you should listen to if you haven't yet.
Thanks for reading! You guys are the best. I hope you've been enjoying it so far :)
They’re not standing around. They’re clustered together, yes, but they are stretching and mentally running through their high bar routines and talking about changes in their training that Foster is making to help them be readier. They’re definitely not standing around, never mind keeping a close eye on the girls, because if Foster ever tore his attention away from running Peter through release skill after release skill they’ll have to choose a whole new men’s artistic team. Foster’s ire will incinerate them, that Eggsy knows without a doubt.
He chalks up his grips again. The music of the floor routines isn’t difficult to get used to, but it is different. Not the most intense of distractions, when it came down to it. Not nearly as distracting as the skills that the girls are pulling today as they run through their routines like there’s nothing strange about the practice.
James whistles low under his breath as he watches the one on floor tumble. “I just—how the fuck does she have the speed to throw in the front layout at the end of that tumbling line?” he asks. “She looks like she’s on her last legs, then bam! One extra goody. Flat as a board, every single time, not even a hint of a pike.”
“I dunno, bruv,” Eggsy says. Roxy is doing some truly incomprehensible things on the beam. Not incomprehensible in the way that there’s no way she should be able to do them; incomprehensible in the way that he doesn’t get how she can. Men’s gymnastics is a lot of flying around, a lot of upper body movement and speed and endurance, but Eggsy has no fucking clue how the women can pull an aerial trick on a four-inch piece of wood and not worry about splitting the beam every single time.
He’s seen it happen, a girl splitting the beam. The poor bird hadn’t made a sound as she’d gone down, but Eggsy had fucking flinched hard. It ain’t pretty.
But Roxy—Roxy makes it look easy. She makes it look like she doesn’t have a care in the world. Like she’s on the solid floor, not five feet off the ground. She keeps her hips and shoulders square with the beam and there’s not even a hint of a wobble in her.
“Whoever says that women gymnasts are dainty little flowers truly have no idea of what they’re capable of doing,” Eggsy says.
Tom hums in agreement. “Maybe it’s because their muscles aren’t as pronounced?”
“More pronounced than yours,” Eggsy replies, earning himself a shove. He grins at Tom, who grins back, and his eyes return to Roxy’s beam just in time to see her tumble her way off the beam, nailing the landing with a triumphant look on her face. She turns to present to judges that aren’t there, and Harry—
Is leaning against the wall closest to the beam Roxy is working on. He’s looking in her direction, but there’s something in his gaze that says he’s not looking at her. Which is shit for a trainer, to be honest. Eggsy lays a hand on James’ shoulder briefly, leaving a chalk mark behind. “What do you think his angle is?”
James doesn’t wipe the chalk away as he turns from the floor to Eggsy. Hazards of the training. If they were bothered every time they got chalk on them, they’d never get anywhere. Chalk is their war paint. “Dunno, mate. He ain’t a coach, that’s for sure.”
Peter thuds to the mat, hands slipping off the bar when he goes for the grab and leaving behind a vibration. “Again, but without the fall,” Foster says, almost sounding bored, like he wants Peter to get this more than Peter himself does so they can finally move on.
Peter stands, shakes out his shoulders, and starts his routine again. Eggsy resolves himself to another two minutes of waiting. He’s up next, and he’s been revved up for it for the past ten minutes. Part of the torture of gymnastics is the waiting. “Definitely not a coach,” Eggsy says. “Roxy said he was a trainer.”
“He doesn’t look like one of them, either,” James replies.
“What, his suit means he can’t be a trainer?”
James looks pointedly at the chalk mark Eggsy left on his arm, and raises an eyebrow at how Eggsy’s forearms are covered in white. It just happens, okay? He can’t help it. He should bathe in it, for all the good it does him.
“Yeah, alright,” Eggsy concedes, because what the fuck would a guy risk a bespoke suit for at a gym club? At least wear something that’s not so well-tailored. “Maybe he’s her agent?”
“There’s a difference between a trainer and an agent, Eggsy.”
“Yeah. Foster knows him, too. Seemed amused by the suit.”
“Maybe it’s just a quirk,” James says, just as Peter dismounts. He takes a giant fucking step, which makes Foster’s eyes roll so hard they almost fall right out of his head, but he’s still waved away.
“Let’s see what you got, Unwin,” Foster calls. Eggsy nods, stepping up to the bar, and before he does his mount he sees Harry’s eyes flick up to him. Fast enough that Eggsy almost misses it.
Distracting enough that he has to abort the mount, stepping back before he jumps. Shaking off the look. Shaking off the—speculation.
“Did Peter leave something contagious on the bar that I can’t see?” Foster asks, and Eggsy flips him off before he settles himself again. Stands in front of the bar, eyes focussed on him, that quick look already sliding out of his mind in favour of his routine.
He mounts. This is different than the parallel bars; less hold moves, more movement. More letting go of the bar and trusting that it’ll still be there when you come back for it. More rotations, over and over again. The women have the benefit of the low bar, they can switch it up every now and then, but the high bar is a continual cycle of dizziness.
Eggsy threw up after a high bar routine more times than he cared to count, in the beginning. His stomach is more or less steady, now. Not necessarily any less dizzying, but his knees bend to steady him after his double twisting double layout and he fucking nails the landing.
Applause sounds; Eggsy presents and turns to grin at Roxy, who’s got an appreciative smile on her face. Even Harry’s looking at him, but when Eggsy makes eye contact his eyes drift away.
“That was acceptable,” Foster says.
Eggsy throws him a wink. “Thanks, guv.”
“Do it again.”
Eggsy isn’t surprised; he doesn’t sigh even though he’s sorely tempted to, moving back to where he mounts. “The fuck did I mess up this time?"
“Your legs bent a bit when you went over the bar. Your legs aren’t long enough that your toe is going to catch on the bar, Eggsy.”
Eggsy shrugs. “Might be a subconscious thing, like.”
“Good thing that can get trained out of you,” Foster says. He nods at the bar. “Let’s go."
A different song starts, pulsing through the gym’s speakers; someone new is on floor. Eggsy lets the music fade to the background, focusses on the bar, and runs through the routine in his head. Sometimes wiping the smug smile off Foster’s face is the biggest motivator he’s got, and the man must know it, but Eggsy’ll take the motivation where he can get it.
There’s a note on the kitchen counter when he gets home. His mother’s handwriting is steady; she must’ve had a chance to rest.
Taking Daisy to the movies. Don’t stay up too late.
A night alone is more than he could’ve ever hoped for, and he takes it for the apology about last night that it is. Eggsy’s mum doesn’t take extra shifts to spite him, he knows that she doesn’t, but Daisy is growing like a weed and they could always use a little extra money.
They need the extra money.
Right now, more than that, Eggsy needs the peace and frigid cold of an ice bath.
They’d started keeping bags of ice in the freezer when training started getting more intense. Three, at least, on call at all times. It’s Eggsy’s job to make sure that it’s taken care of, because he’s the one using it, but every now and then he’ll find an extra bag stashed behind the ones that he buys. Every day is an intense day of training, if repetitive, and Eggsy tries to save his ice baths for when he can fully enjoy it. As much as they can be enjoyed.
He’s not expecting his mum and Daisy to be out too late, but there’s still enough time for Eggsy to run a bath, inhale some food, and pass out in his bed before they even come home. So he runs the bath with cold water, adds the ice, and strips down, just in time for someone to knock on the door.
Eggsy wraps a towel around his waist. The knock becomes more insistent. “You’ve got time!” Eggsy shouts, but he still gets to the door as fast as he can if only so that the noise stops.
Jamal and Ryan are on the other side. Jamal whistles lowly. “Looking good, bruv.”
Eggsy rolls his eyes. “The fuck you doing here?” he asks.
“Saw your mum and Daisy leave,” Ryan replies. He’s got a bag in his hands, entire body relaxed except for the tight grip he has on the handles. “Figured we’d pop in for a vist.”
“Didn’t get enough of me last night?”
Jamal clears his throat. His eyes dart around, checking for anyone overhearing, and then he ducks his head a bit closer before he speaks. “We’ve got news,” he says quietly. “About the new boys in town.”
Eggsy doesn’t want news. Eggsy wants to be as far as he can be from news.
But Ryan’s starting to twitch, and Jamal’s got this desperate look on his face, and Eggsy’s going to ride this ticket out of here if he can but he’ll be leaving them behind. With their news, and everything that means for them.
He opens the door a little wider. “Mind the toy cars, gents, Daisy still hasn’t forgiven you for the last time you stepped on one.”
They come inside, and Eggsy shuts and locks the door behind them as they take off their shoes. Eggsy goes to his room to put a bathing suit on—it’s not as comfortable and it’s going to cling in the worst sort of way but it’s better than subjecting his friends purposely to his dick—and meets them in the bathroom.
The tub’s still where he left it, full of ice and water and everything. If anything, it’s gotten time to become colder. Not that Eggsy would know—cold is cold is cold, and his balls still try to crawl up into his body when he sits, water coming halfway up his chest. It’s torture. Every single time he’s done it it’s been torture, but Foster swears it helps so Eggsy fucking does it.
Foster might be laughing all the way to the bank, but Eggsy does it.
Ryan slips a joint out of his pocket, bag on the floor at his feet, and Eggsy pulls a face at him. “You gonna smoke that shit around here, you’d better be doing it by a window or outside, bruv,” he says. “Foster smelt it on me today, and I don’t want him to give me trouble I don’t deserve.”
Ryan shrugs, setting up shop near the bathroom window as Jamal sits on the toilet. Bathroom chats while Eggsy soaks in ice is old hat. They’ve been doing it for years. “I don’t know how you tolerate that, Eggsy,” Jamal says, staring at the cubes, and Eggsy shrugs as he wiggles his toes.
“Work out enough that your muscles feel like they’re on fire and you’ll see the appeal,” Eggsy promises.
“Hard pass, guv. Hard pass.”
Silence falls. It’s nice enough that Eggsy can almost pretend that they’re not even there and that he doesn’t compete in the fucking Olympics in a week and a half. He slides down a little further in the bath, eyes sliding shut.
Then Jamal goes and says, “Ruger’s crew is gone.”
Eggsy’s fingers twitch. “About time.”
“Not of his own accord.”
“More’s the pity.”
Ryan takes a long drag of his joint, taking care to exhale directly out the window. “Rumour has it that the new guy chased him out,” he says.
“It happens all the time,” Eggsy says, feigning unbothered. He’s not even convincing himself, though. “Drug lords depose drug lords. It’s what happens, innit?”
“Yeah, it’s what happens,” Jamal says, “and then someone more powerful comes up.”
“Some upstart peddling molly or the like. Stick to pot and you’ll be fine.”
“Don’t try to pretend like this doesn’t affect you, Eggsy.”
“I can’t let it affect me. I’ve got more important things to worry about.”
“For now,” Jamal says quietly. “But what happens if he starts to give you trouble? Or your mum, or Mrs. Blakely?”
“Then he’s a right arsehole, isn’t he?"
“If he thinks he’s powerful, I doubt he’ll care.”
Eggsy swallows, shifting his limbs slightly. They’re not quite blocks of ice, but it’s close. His bed is going to feel like heaven tonight. “Maybe he won’t start shit,” Eggsy says. “The fucking Olympics are in town, bruv.”
“Maybe,” Jamal muses quietly. “Maybe.”
Ryan finishes up his joint, stubbing it out on the windowsill. “So how was practice today?” he asks, lacking any tact whatsoever, and Eggsy snorts. He takes the ticket that it is, though, because otherwise his thoughts will chase themselves around in circles to try to solve a problem that he can’t, and he doesn’t have time for that. But Jamal’s uneasiness has infected him, seeping into his very veins, and hours later the thoughts still linger in the shadows.
I am *exhausted*, but I wanted to get this chapter out and to you before I lost the image of Roxy training and Eggsy enduring an ice bath as a friend indulged in a joint at the window. Thankful, as always, for your support <3
Eggsy’s not a light sleeper. He can’t remember being a light sleeper. He grew up in the Estates, swearing and fights and sirens and the occasional gunshot the background music of his childhood, and he learned how to sleep right through it. When he joined gymnastics, any chances of him being a light sleeper were shot because, well, staying awake after a full day of training when all of your muscles are screaming at you to rest and you almost fall asleep on the tube on the way home just…simply isn’t an option.
Eggsy’s not a light sleeper. He’s never been a light sleeper. Still, there’s something about Daisy’s soft cries that will wake him up every single time.
They’re not even loud, he thinks as he stumbles from his bed to where Daisy’s whimpering in her playpen, trying hard not to cry. Their mum’s out on a night shift and Daisy’s eyes are big and filled with tears and Eggsy doesn’t check the time because he doesn’t want to know. “Hey, flower,” he says quietly as he brushes her hair away from her face. His hand slightly twinges with pain; he ripped a callus as he’d worked on his high bar routine. Less than two weeks before he competes in the Olympics. Perfect timing, really. “Have a bad dream?”
Daisy nods, lower lip wobbling dangerously. She doesn’t say anything, and he eyes are far away like she’s still seeing whatever it was that pulled her from her peaceful sleep. Still living it.
Daisy’s the worst for sharing a bed, even being a small child. She sprawls when she sleeps, taking up as much of the mattress as she possibly can, like she’ll need the room just in case she sprouts four feet overnight. Still, Eggsy says, “Did you want to come sleep with me?”
A tearful nod. Eggsy sighs and stands from his crouch, thighs not quite burning, lifting her and settling her on his hip. Immediately Daisy’s head finds his shoulder, dipped under his chin, and she fists a hand into the collar of the shirt she’d been sleeping in. Already she’s shaking a little less, breathing evening out. She’ll be asleep in five minutes, maybe less. Eggsy could stand here and rock her until she’s out and lay her back down, and Daisy would be none the wiser. He could finish getting a good night’s rest before his only day off this week—second to last day off before the Olympics—and Daisy wouldn’t care.
A promise is a promise, though, and Eggsy would never go back on his word like that, not even for something as little as this. So he carries Daisy over to his bed, gently settling her under the covers and disentangling the hand from his collar before grabbing a separate blanket for himself. He might get Charlie horsed at least once tonight, but at least if Daisy wakes up because of another nightmare he’ll be there.
In the morning, it’s like the nightmare never happened. Eggsy and Daisy are sat at the breakfast table when their mum walks in, eyes tired and shoulders slumped, and Daisy immediately forgoes any semblance of eating nicely in favour of throwing her arms up for a hug. When Eggsy raises an eyebrow at their mum she gives him a look that plainly says, “Don’t,” and bends to kiss the top of Daisy’s head. “Were you a good girl for Eggsy, love?” she asks, and Daisy lights right up at being spoken to.
Eggsy pours himself some more coffee as Daisy babbles about their night yesterday, more than half of it absolutely not true. At least one unicorn is brought up, among other things, but Michelle plays the part of attentive mum as Daisy goes on and completely forgets about her cereal.
Eggsy sets down a glass of water in front of their mum; she doesn’t need any more coffee, not right now. Michelle curls a hand around it but doesn’t take a drink out of it, eyes only for Daisy.
Eggsy doesn’t feel neglected; rather, it’s nice not having so much attention focussed on him for once. Given how often he’s subjected to Foster’s laser-like focus at training, being able to just melt into the background for a little bit is freeing, and there’s nothing Daisy likes more than a spotlight.
Eggsy takes a sip of his coffee. It might run in the family, but who’s he to tell?
When Daisy’s story starts to flag, Michelle says, “Finish your breakfast, dear,” before turning to Eggsy. She still hasn’t touched the water. “You can take her over to Mrs. Blakely’s if you want, today.”
“Does Mrs. Blakely know to expect her?”
“Popped in before I got home,” she says. “I know it’s your day off. With the—the competition so close, you deserve a day off.”
Competition. Like it’s just another regular competition. It’s how they’ve always referred to big competitions—regionals, then nationals, then internationals, and now the Olympics. It feels cheap, to lower the Olympics down that far, but at the same time Eggsy’s not antsy to change tradition. He’s not necessarily the superstitious sort, but it can’t hurt anything, can it?
Eggsy finishes off his coffee and goes to wash his cup, kissing his mum on the top of the head on the way to the sink. “Thanks, mum,” he says.
Michelle smiles gently. It’s a tired thing. “It’s not a problem, dear.”
She waits for Eggsy to collect the things Daisy will need for the day before she goes off to bed, sending them out the door with a hug and reminder to stay out of trouble for both of them. Daisy takes it solemnly into account, but Eggsy has to keep from rolling his eyes. He does his best to stay out of trouble, but trouble just loves to happen to him.
Like now. The Estates are starting to wake up and bustle, and the key to the flat doesn’t want to cooperate. He’s been struggling to get the keys in the lock for ten minutes when a bloke he doesn’t recognizes approaches him from the left. Now, it’s not often that people exactly approach each other on the estates with good intentions, and it’s clear this man is coming right for them, so Eggsy casually tucks Daisy behind his knee and focusses on getting the door locked. He can deal with anything, so long as the door’s locked.
The key slides in, finally, and the lock snicks into place when Eggsy turns it. It’s not going to stop much if someone wants to get in, especially around here, but Eggsy has no reasons to expect any trouble. Not even if the guy is looking at them all…contemplatively, like.
Daisy’s got an arm wrapped around his leg, and it tightens like even she knows something wrong with this. Eggsy takes a deep breath and then tilts his chin up at their guest—sandy brown hair, facial hair, bulky. Eggsy’s fast, but with Daisy he wouldn’t stand a chance if this goes south. “You’ve got a problem, bruv?” Eggsy asks.
The bloke holds his hands up, standing up from where he’d leaned against the wall. “None at all. Name’s Dean, and I’m new around these parts.”
It’s taking conscious effort to keep his hand from clamping down painfully on Daisy’s shoulder. “That’s cool, mate, but we’ve got places to be—”
“And I don’t want to keep you,” Dean says. He doesn’t move to get closer and his hands are still up, but Eggsy doesn’t relax. “You’re Michelle’s boy, aren’t you?”
“How do you know my mum?” Eggsy’s mum is allowed to have friends, of course, but she works so much and is either looking after Daisy or sleeping when she’s not that Eggsy has no idea where the hell she’d be able to fit it in.
Dean shrugs, slipping his hands into his pockets. “Ran into her at Tesco one day, got talking. You wouldn’t happen to know when she’s free, would you?”
“You can talk to her about that,” Eggsy says. “It’s none of my business. She’s her own person.”
Dean eyes Eggsy then seems to come to a decision, nodding once. “Alright. I’ll leave you to it. Be seeing you.”
He didn’t even ask Eggsy’s name.
Daisy tugs at his jeans. “Go now?”
Eggsy watches after Dean, taking note of which way he turns before he’s out of sight, and then takes Daisy’s hand. “Yeah, love. We’re going now.”
Eggsy: wtf do people do on their days off?
Jamal: don’t bother the people who are working, tbh
Eggsy: shit mate sorry
Jamal: no problem. an interruption from you is better than trying to make sense of this shelving arrangement.
Eggsy: I just don’t really remember how days off go, is all
Ryan: Go for coffee or something. Go for a walk. Smoke a joint.
Eggsy: the first two were good but then you lost the plot a bit
Ryan: He doesn’t own you on your days off, does he?
Eggsy: technically he doesn’t own me at all, but I’ve heard the ‘cannabis is on the IOC’s list of banned substances you wankers’ rant more than I’ve ever wanted to
Eggsy: is it ok if I come but don’t train?
Foster: If I see you within fifty metres of the gym you’ll do so much conditioning you’ll forget what year it is
Eggsy: ain’t no way
Foster: Try me. It’s your day off, Unwin. Be off.
Ryan: Get your coach to smoke a joint?
Eggsy: we’ll file that one away for future reference
He ends up going for coffee, because that’s what normal people who aren’t Olympic athletes do.
Hell, maybe that’s what Olympic athletes do, too, but Eggsy never really talks to his teammates about what’s happening outside of practice because there’s too much time about what’s happening in practice.
He doesn’t even remember what kind of coffee he likes. It’s not on Foster’s list of banned substances, but it’s definitely strongly encouraged to abstain. “Caffeine is on the list of banned substances,” Foster had said in response to the blank stares he got. When they’d gone blanker, he’d said, “Granted, you’d have to drink the equivalent of twelve cups of coffee or something like that, but you won’t be getting anywhere close to that. I’ll not have you not sleeping the night before you compete and then mainlining coffee to survive.”
So Eggsy hasn’t really had coffee since he signed the contract, not that he was a big coffee drinker beforehand, but that was almost four years ago now. Four years ago, so he finds a Costa Coffee that looks friendly enough and stares blankly at the menu for a few minutes and when the barista is clearly starting to get concerned Eggsy clears his throat and says, “Americano?”
So he gets an Americano, not that he’d know the difference between that and a regular coffee. He adds more cream and sugar than he cares to keep track of, because coffee is fucking bitter when you’re not used to it, and then begins the hard work of trying to find a place to sit.
They’re nowhere near any of the tourist traps, but the rest of the world runs on coffee. He’s just one bloke and doesn’t want to take up a whole four-seater for just himself, especially not when a haggard looking bloke with two kids just walked in.
His eye catches on out-of-place emptiness near the window, a beacon of hope surrounded by people sitting in chairs, and he’s making his way towards it before he realizes what he’s doing. It’s just sitting there, an empty chair, and awkwardness creeps down his spine at the thought of asking to use that chair but he and his coffee don’t take up a lot of room—
And then he realizes who’s sat in the other chair at the table.
Harry Hart looks up before Eggsy can decide whether he’s going to ask to sit or make a very gracious and hopefully unnoticed retreat. He puts his mobile face down on the table and says, pleasantly enough, “Eggsy.”
Eggsy clears his throat. “Hi.”
And that’s all. He takes a drink of his coffee in the hopes that it’s not as abrupt as it sounds, and he grimaces through the pain as the coffee scalds his tongue. Judging by the raised eyebrow, Harry sees right through him. “Are you alright?” he asks, politely concerned.
If he wasn’t holding coffee, he could do something useful with his hands. Like put them in his pockets. Harry’s all buttoned up in his regular suit, not a thread out of place, and Eggsy is standing there trying to figure out his words like an idiot. “I’m sorry,” he finally says, grasping at the first sentences that clearly come to mind. “It’s just—I’m not sure what to call you. You’re not a coach, and you’re not my trainer—"
“Harry will do,” Harry says. Then, taking pity on him: “Would you like to have a seat?”
The cup in front of him is still quite full though it’s not steaming, like he’s been sitting for a while but had been distracted by whatever had been happening on his mobile. Harry seems like the sort of bloke who’d probably come to a coffee shop to do some work for the day, though what that work would be Eggsy has no idea. “Thanks, guv,” he says as he sits, tucking his knees under the table. He nods at Harry’s cup. “Tea?”
Harry reaches for the cup’s handle and swirls it a bit. “Just regular old coffee, I’m afraid,” Harry replies. “Due to medical concerns I’ve been drinking more tea recently, enabled by those closest to me, so when I have a moment by myself I imbibe.” Harry glances down at the liquid in his cup before taking a drink, making a face. “Unfortunately, I afraid I’ve rather lost my taste for it.”
“Yeah, I know what you mean.”
“Not a coffee drinker?”
“I drink a bit,” Eggsy says. “Y’know, a cup in the morning. Other than that, though, not really. If Foster had his way, we’d only drink water all the time.”
Harry quirks a smile. “He cares about you.”
Eggsy shrugs, looking down at his cup, taken aback by the warm familiarity in Harry’s eyes. “He cares about the results.”
“Eggsy,” Harry says, tone serious for all that he’s still smiling. “Don’t be mistaken. He cares about you.”
Eggsy drums his fingers on the table, looking out the window. He takes his days off because Foster insists that he needs them, that his body needs them, but he doesn’t sit still very well. Part of the reason his mum put him in gymnastics in the first place, he supposes; to keep him busy and out of her hair. His energy levels are occasionally difficult to manage.
He glances down at his Americano. It probably won’t help anything. He might have to go for a run later, just to wear his energy down a bit.
“Tell me about yourself, Eggsy,” Harry says.
Eggsy’s attention flies back to him. “Pardon?”
“Tell me about yourself,” Harry repeats, patient as fuck, before taking another drink of his coffee. He makes the question sound so innocent, like he’s asking about the weather.
“Not much to tell,” Eggsy says.
“I’m sure there’s more to you than meets the eye.”
Eggsy’s eyes narrow. “Shouldn’t you be at the gym? Keeping an eye on Roxy and the girls, or whatever?”
“I was given the day off to deal with more pressing matters,” Harry says diplomatically. “Now that those matters have been tended to, I find myself with a bit of free time.”
“And you want to spend that free time talking to me?”
“Did you have somewhere you needed to be?” Harry asks, and, well, no, Eggsy does not. What throws him isn’t that, though, it’s that Harry seems to know that Eggsy doesn’t have anywhere he needs to be. There’s this look in his eye that suggests Harry is more aware of things than Eggsy knows. That there’s more to him than what Eggsy sees.
Eggsy clears his throat, takes a drink of coffee and says, “Well, my real name’s Gary,” because that’s as good of a place to start as any. Harry just looks at him steady, willing him to go on without saying a word, and Eggsy sighs. “I live with my mum and my baby sister, and the only reason I’ve got this far is because people kept telling me I was ‘talented’ or ‘had promise’ and would foot the gymnastics bills. My dad died when I was small.”
Eggsy winces when the last part slips out, but Harry passes right over it. “It was very kind of people to pay your way in gymnastics for you so that you could continue something you enjoy,” he says.
Eggsy shrugs, cheeks flushing hot. “Doesn’t mean they were right.”
“I think you’ll prove them right,” Harry says easily.
“You don’t even know me.”
“I’ve seen glimpses of your talent, Eggsy,” Harry says. “If you didn’t have a chance of doing well then they wouldn’t be sending you. You’re beyond talented—you have a natural affinity for the sport. More than that—you’re a good man, Eggsy.”
Eggsy’s barely into his twenties; he doesn’t even feel like a man yet. “And you’ve got that on good authority, do you?”
A shadow passes over Harry’s face, even as he smiles. “Yes,” he says. “I believe I do."
Before Eggsy can retort, Harry’s mobile rings. Harry turns it to look at whoever is calling him, and then he sighs. “My deepest apologies, Eggsy, but duty calls.”
“Roxy twist her ankle?” Eggsy asks as Harry gets up, leaving some change on the table for a tip.
“Something like that,” he replies. “We’ll continue this conversation later, shall we? Enjoy your day off, Eggsy.”
And Harry Hart gets up, nods, and leaves Eggsy behind to contemplate his cup of coffee and wonder what the fuck that conversation was about.
YOU GUYS. I AM SO SORRY ABOUT THE WAIT. The words in my brain went off the rails and I was writing only poetry for a week. Now things are levelling out, and they're trying to evenly allocate themselves again.
Hopefully it was worth the wait (?)
(love you, always, and thank you for giving my words your time)
The organizing committee truly should’ve looked into an Olympians-only tube line.
It would’ve been on the top of Eggsy’s list of priorities when it came to organizing an event that was going to bring thousands upon thousands of people to the city. They come to compete in the competition or to watch the competition; surely, nothing is more important than making sure that the athletes can get to where they need to be in a timely manner.
It’s not his fault that he’s running late this morning, except for the fact that it is, because somehow after a day of doing nothing and going to bed early just so that today would come faster Eggsy slept through his fucking alarm. He slept through his alarm, which meant getting Daisy out the door later as their mum slept on in her bedroom, which meant missing the first stop on his transit journey, which ultimately led Eggsy here, to where he is right now, trying to navigate a crowded as fuck Victoria station.
He should know better. He does know better. Perhaps it’s time to bump up to four alarms from his usual three. He still should get to his train in plenty of time by some miracle, until—
There’s a little old lady, older than Mrs. Blakely at least, looking like she has no fucking clue how to navigate the London Underground. She’s all alone, treated like she’s invisible by the crowd at large, and has a map in her hands that she’s neglecting for the map on the wall. She either doesn’t know where to go, or how to get to where she wants to go, and Eggsy does not have time for it. He does not.
The screechy thunder of a train getting closer approaches. Eggsy can almost guarantee it’s the train he needs to be on. The stale air of the Underground tastes like sweat, humidity, and Foster’s impending ire, tangible even this far across the city.
There are people employed to help this little old lady. His hand tightens on his bag. It’s not his concern.
But his feet won’t fucking move. The crowd parts around him. One helpful bloke shoulders him on the way by.
Eggsy clears his throat. “Excuse me? Did you need help?” He repeats it louder when she doesn’t acknowledge him, stepping forward beside her when he’s ignored again. “Can I help you get to your train?” he asks.
She startles, dropping her map. Eggsy bends to grab it before it can blow away or be trampled on. “I need to get to Holborn Station,” she says as he stands. “Do you know how to get there?”
Eggsy peers down at the tube map—the writing is so fucking small, of course she wouldn’t be able to read it—and it’s seconds before he finds the station she’s looking for. Holborn Station is on the Piccadilly and Central Lines. How the fuck did she end up here?
She’s looking up at him so hopefully. It’s the first time in a while that Eggsy’s felt tall.
A train pulls up to the Circle line platform. His train.
Eggsy hoists his bag onto his shoulder. If he’s going to be late, then he’s going to be properly fucking late. None of this ‘trying to get in as close to the time he’s supposed to be there hoping that Foster will have mercy’. The universe wants to have a go at him on the tube, of all places? Fine. He’s going to make it worth it.
“D’ya have a pen and some paper?” he asks the little old lady, and she procures it from her handbag after a few minutes of digging around for it.
Well and truly late. Fantastic.
He holds out the tube map for her, starts tracing her route with the pen, walking her through it. He writes instructions on the little notepad he’s given her, too, because the London Underground is a beast that will eat you up and spit you out if you don’t know where the fuck you’re going and the chances of her forgetting everything he’s said is incredibly high. When he’s finished, two more trains he could get on coming and going, and when she can repeat it back to him without consulting the paper, she presses fifty pence into his hand. “Thank you, dear boy,” she says, and then she’s hobbling back towards the Victoria line.
There’s a disturbance in the air, like Foster already knows, even though Eggsy’s got five more minutes before practice starts. Eggsy saunters towards the Hammersmith-bound Circle line platform like he doesn’t have a care in the world, leaning against the wall. He keeps his pone in his pocket, because although Foster is undoubtedly trying to get into contact him, there is blissfully no service down here and Eggsy will enjoy his last moments of freedom before his impending destruction, thank you very much.
Nothing discernible changes when he walks into the gym. Training doesn’t stop, even though it feels like it should, even though it feels like all eyes are on him. There are only some eyes are him—Tom is whistling lowly under his breath across the gym from where he’s standing by a corner of the floor, tapping his wrist. Roxy smirks at him. Foster is resolutely ignoring him—he’s right pissed, but Eggsy had expected that.
Harry Hart is just fucking…looking at him.
Eggsy goes to the change room and gets changed.
Foster is best at this kind of torture, where he resolutely ignores Eggsy until Eggsy bends and breaks and begs for forgiveness. Eggsy’s well over half an hour late and he knows he deserves whatever’s coming to him, even if his muscles are just now starting to get to rights again. He can take the conditioning. He can take the extra training.
The disappointment is a different thing entirely.
Peter calls, “Oi, Eggsy, where the fuck were you?” but Eggsy ignores him as he starts his warm up. Foster shifts Tom from the floor to the pommel horse with a look, giving Eggsy the space he needs to warm up without a hint of recognition, and practice continues on a normal. Eggsy runs more laps than he strictly has to, lungs burning as he completes circle after circle, and he makes sure that he’s well and truly stretched off in a corner. His mind, blissfully, is blank.
Harry keeps looking at him.
Eggsy steps up to Foster after he’s warmed up the jitters out of himself. Foster keeps his eyes on Tom as he runs through his floor routine, but says, “I suppose you have a well-crafted excuse?”
“Not today, guv.”
Foster raises his eyebrows, glancing at Eggsy.
Eggsy shrugs. “I could tell you where I was, but I’d still be late after it’s all said and done, so it ain’t worth the breath.”
Tom rips through a tumbling line. Foster nods approvingly at it before he says, “The Olympics are almost a week away, Eggsy. I won’t see you falling flat on your face right before the fucking finish line.”
The disappointment slices through any even footing he’d managed to gain, cold and sharp as it rolls through him. Knowing it was coming doesn’t make it any easier to handle.
He cares about you, Harry had said.
“I’m not going to trip, Foster,” Eggsy says. “I just—I’m not going to.”
There’s too much riding on him to fuck this all up now. And Foster must read it on his face, because after an appraising look at Eggsy he nods. “Alright. If you’re sure.”
“Start on vault today.” There’s a glint in his eye as he says it. “There’s not enough double pikes in your life.”
It’s not that Eggsy doesn’t like vault. There’s nothing more exhilarating than flinging yourself as fast as you can at an extremely stationary object as fast as you can possibly run and then flipping off of it. Even better when you do a round-off onto the springboard and make your initial approach backwards. It’s like staring death straight in the face, and then sprinting towards it with open arms. The vault will always be there for you, whether it be to help you fly or crush your spirits and your dreams and your body, and he’s got the x-rays of cracked ribs at age fourteen to prove it.
Eggsy fucking hates vault. He channels his hatred of it into the springboard, every single time.
He does a double pike for one, and a handspring double front for the other. Honestly, Eggsy doesn’t mind the flying through the air part—he does it on everything else—it’s just the approach that bothers him. But if Foster wants him to work on his vaults, even though he probably won’t be qualifying for the vault final, then he’s going to do his fucking vaults. This is his penance, and if this is all that Foster is asking of him then it is—tolerable.
Everyone else is off training in their own little worlds. Music occasionally interrupts the regular noises of gymnastics, and Eggsy is grateful for the reprieve. He flips off Peter when Foster is looking at them, and makes faces at Roxy when they’re both not doing anything.
He doesn’t catch Harry looking at him again, but he can’t shake the feeling that the man is…sneaking glances, somehow.
It would be easy to do, though. Eggsy’s not focussing on who’s looking at him as he races towards his potential death over and over again.
He ends up on his arse after a double pike, but there’s no commentary from Foster. The man’s chewing James’ ear off about his rings routine, but whether or not it was as brutal as the berating suggests is up to interpretation, probably.
“You’re supposed to land on your feet,” Harry says, startlingly closer than where he was last time Eggsy had checked on him, so unexpected that Eggsy almost falls over again in his process of getting up.
“Anybody ever tell you that you’re not supposed to sneak up on people like that?” Eggsy asks.
“My friend Hamish, often,” Harry replies. “I take care to remind him that I’m paid to do it.”
“You’re paid to sneak up on people?”
Harry either doesn’t hear him or is ignoring him. Whatever. Eggsy stretches, rolling out his ankles. “You don’t got anything better to do than watch me fall on my arse?”
“I’m just getting some water, Eggsy, that’s all.” Harry waves the bottle he’s got in his hand as if to make a point, but Eggsy won’t be taken in so easily.
“The fountain’s over there,” Eggsy says, eyebrows raised, pointing in the directions of the change rooms, and Harry hums when he sees what Eggsy’s pointing at.
“Ah, yes, well, this gym has rather changed since the last time I was in it,” Harry replies. “If you’ll excuse me, Eggsy, thank you.”
Harry saunters off, staying off the mats (and fuck if it doesn’t look strange, him walking around in his suit and socked feet in a gym), and Eggsy says, “Wait, what do you mean last time you were in it?”
“Get on with it, Unwin!” Foster finally calls across the gym. Harry ignores Eggsy entirely. Eggsy waves Foster off, glares at the vault, and walks towards the beginning of the runway. Only a couple of more weeks and then he’ll never have to vault again if he doesn’t want to. Time sometimes feels like it’s passing too fast, and Eggsy doesn’t want the Olympics to be over, but the last time he runs towards an anchored vault cannot come fast enough.
Foster keeps him late.
He keeps Eggsy busy enough that Eggsy doesn’t have enough time to look forlornly after people as they leave the gym. He’d gotten Roxy’s number during one of their breaks and he promised to text her when he was done, so there’s that, but Eggsy has to endure Foster first.
And he will endure. He will survive.
He shifts his hands on the bar. His arms strain as he hangs, legs held in a pike.
“Your legs are dropping,” Foster says from where he’s sitting on a nearby block, not even looking up from his phone, the wanker. “Tighten your core. Relax your face. This is easy.”
“Fuck you, Foster.”
Foster doesn’t dignify that with a response. “Thirty more seconds. You can do it.”
Eggsy does it. He might be holding his breath by the end, every little movement making it a little bit harder, but he does it. He drops unceremoniously to the mat, and Foster throws a water bottle at him that lands just shy of his left ear. “The fuck would you’ve done if you concussed me with a water bottle just now, Foster,” Eggsy asks, and Foster replies, “The water bottle wouldn’t have concussed you, you little shit.”
Yeah, Foster cares about him.
Eggsy lays there for a moment, and then a longer moment. Once his arms aren’t quite like noodles, he leans up on his elbows and takes a drink. “We done then, or are you just enjoying the view?”
Foster’s still not even looking at him. “I was going to let you go, but if you’re feeling this randy—”
“No, Foster, I’m sorry, I swear it’s all good.”
Foster slips his phone into his pocket, stands, and walks to Eggsy. He holds out a hand, helps Eggsy up. “I like staying late just about as much as you do,” he says.
“Could’ve fooled me.”
“I’ve got better things to do than watch you hold a pike for three minutes,” Foster says dryly. “And while you owed me time for being late, there was another reason I held you back.”
“Yes,” Foster says. And then he goes uncharacteristically silent.
“Foster, mate, you can’t just bait me like that and then drop it.”
“Yes, yes, sorry.” Foster shakes his head a bit, looks back at Eggsy with newly focussed eyes. There’s something darker in them, a sort of serious that Eggsy hasn’t seen in a long time. Like when he said that Lucas had violated the training contract and had to be cut, except…worse.
“Foster, you’re scaring me, guv.”
“It’s nothing serious,” he says quickly. “Well, nothing immediately serious."
“There’s been a threat made against the O2 arena.”
The O2 arena. Newly christened North Greenwich arena, because Olympic venues can’t have affiliations to companies or whatever. The arena where the gymnastics events will be happening.
Eggsy says, “Well, shit.”
“It’s nothing serious yet,” Foster says. “I told the rest this morning. The authorities are keeping an eye on the situation, and because it’s the Olympics—well, this isn’t the first threat to be made. I’m honestly not expecting anything to come of it. I just—wanted you to be aware."
The gym is so fucking quiet when there’s no one else training. “Yeah,” Eggsy says, brushing his hands on his thighs and leaving chalk marks behind. “Yeah, thanks, Foster. I just—can I go? I’ve got to pick up my sister.”
“Yeah, Eggsy, of course.”
Eggsy nods. Claps Foster on the shoulder and leaves a chalk mark behind, and Foster tells him he’s a little shit, and it’s almost like things are the regular amount of normal.
Except they’re not. They’re so, so not.
Eggsy: you give your number to anyone else recently?
Roxy: No, nevermind
Eggsy: are the you sort to grab a pint at a pub or go dancing at a club?
Roxy: Dancing tonight, I think. Though we can’t stay out too late
Eggsy: course not, foster would fucking flay me. you got a place in mind?
Roxy: I know a place
The place that Roxy knows is—loud.
Eggsy’s surprised, but maybe he shouldn’t be. He’s still just getting to know Roxy, but there’s this wry glint that always seems to be in her eye, like she knows something that the rest of the room does not. It’s present when she looks back over her shoulder at Eggsy as they walk the rest of the way to her choice, a grin on her face to match, effect not hindered by the specs she’s wearing at all.
The bassline throbs in the cobblestone under their feet. “Where the hell are we going, Rox?” Eggsy asks, torn between curiosity and trepidation. It’s not that they’re in a sketchy part of the city; it’s actually quite well-lit, and there’s people everywhere, which is almost enough to qualm Eggsy’s nerves at being in an unfamiliar place. “And since when do you wear glasses?”
“Sh,” Roxy replies as they approach the door, smiling sweetly at the bouncer who lets the slip past the line, and when the hell is getting into a club ever that easy? “Relax. Nothing’s going to happen in here.”
“How can you be sure?”
The flashing light glints off her specs. “I’m sure.”
They don’t have any coats to check, it’s too lovely of an evening for them, so Roxy slips a hand into Eggsy’s and tugs him past the line and onto the dance floor proper. She’s got a lot of strength in her tiny frame, but Eggsy’s not resisting, either, conceding to her lead easily. This is her territory, for however long they’ll be here. Eggsy doesn’t exactly have a curfew—his mum’s decided to stay home for the night instead of picking up a shift, so she’s watching Daisy—but he doesn’t want to be out too late, either. Foster has a tendency to know whenever they’ve been out late the night before and run them ragged the next day.
Eggsy was already run ragged today. He doesn’t want to make it two in a row.
The dance floor is a continual wave of bodies dancing on beat, motion interrupted every now and then by someone who has no concept of what a beat actually is. Eggsy’s never had floor routine music to worry about but that doesn’t mean that his routine isn’t preformed to a beat of his own making, so to see people be so unaware of the fact that there is a beat is—embarrassing, if he’s honest.
“Come on,” Roxy says.
Alcohol, Eggsy knows well, is not on the IOC’s list of banned substances. It is on Foster’s list of Strongly Disapproved of Substances, but it doesn’t make an appearance on the IOC’s list so it’s acceptable, for tonight. He was planning on drinking anyways. “Just the one,” Eggsy says, because even if he is allowed alcohol in moderation going overboard isn’t going to help his case tomorrow morning, either. Roxy nods in understanding before she turns to the bar, flashing a charming smile at the bartender, before placing an order for them, and before the song is over she turns back to him with two tall glasses of amber liquid in her hands.
Eggsy says, “The fuck is that?” because he usually sticks with beer. Roxy shrugs as she takes a drink, and, well, if the bird’s gonna treat him to a drink the least he can do is give it a try, right?
He takes a sip. It burns all the way down in one of the most delightfully confusing sensations he’s ever felt. So he takes another drink, just to make sure he got a read on it the first time, and it still burns and he has no idea what the hell it is. “Roxy,” he says, dipping closer to her ear, “what the fuck is in this drink?”
“You said you just wanted the one,” Roxy replies, “so we have to make sure that we get our money’s worth.”
“A Long Island Iced Tea!” Roxy says—shouts, really—and she rolls her eyes at the way Eggsy blanches. “You don’t have to drink the whole thing. It was my uncle’s idea!”
“The fuck is your uncle doing telling you to drink Long Island Iced Teas?” Eggsy wonders, but Roxy is slipping through the crowd away from the bar and he doesn’t want to lose her so he follows her. He feels a bit like a lost puppy, but fuck if he won’t own it. He keeps an eye on one drink and the other on Roxy as they delve further into the crowd, towards the dance floor, and Eggsy feels the music like a pulse in his fingertips and fuck if he doesn’t want to dance.
He loves gymnastics, but what they’re doing right now isn’t for fun, it’s for gold. He can’t lose himself in the way that he’d like to because he’s hyperaware of his knees and his toes and whether or not his body is a perfectly flat plank. It’s been so long since he could just—let go.
Somehow, they find a table close to the floor. Roxy reads him with a look, then nods towards the floor. “I’ll watch the drinks,” she says. “You go.”
“What about you?” Eggsy asks, even as his heart pulls him towards the floor, because this was her idea and this is her place and he doesn’t want to keep her from enjoying herself. Roxy just gives him that look, the one that tells Eggsy he doesn’t know nearly as much about her as he thinks he does, and she waves him off towards the dance floor.
“I suspect you need it more. Go.”
Eggsy’s not going to argue.
He’s fine dancing alone for a bit, closing his eyes and tilting his head back and just moving with the music, but there’s something about the breadth of his shoulders and the swing of his hips that calls to birds and blokes alike and Eggsy’s not going to complain. He’s not looking for company tonight, but he won’t turn down some a new friend or two, and it’s not long before he’s got a girl at his front and a pair of broad hands on his hips yet keeping a respectable distance. He sways with them—mercifully on beat, Eggsy will always be grateful for competent partners—lets his head rest on the shoulder behind him, and breathes.
When the song ends, the bloke lightly kisses his neck, and then a smaller hand tilts his head down for a gentle kiss on the lips. Chaste, a thank you more than anything. Eggsy opens his eyes when it’s over, and she’s smiling at him. “One more?” she asks as a new song starts up, and Eggsy looks for Roxy as a callused thumb rubs over the back of his hipbone.
He finds her still sat at the table she chose for them, looking around the club discretely as her lips move just enough for Eggsy to know that she’s talking to someone and that doesn’t make any sense, does it?
Eggsy catches her eye. Roxy takes another drink of her Long Island Iced Tea, raises an eyebrow at his partners of choice, yet waves him on.
“One more,” Eggsy agrees, watching as Roxy’s lips start moving again—she doesn’t even have her mobile out, what the hell?—and lets his hips go once again.
They leave just as it starts really getting good, crowd easy and melted right into the rhythm of the night, but early enough that Eggsy should be able to sleep off his Long Island Iced Tea, probably. It tasted like a glass full of mistakes but Eggsy doesn’t believe in doing things by half-measures, nor leaving something he started unfinished. Hence why he’d helped Roxy clean up the last bit of hers, too.
He’s not drunk. He’s just…slightly intoxicated. But he’s not worried, because Roxy is prime and a damn good friend, even though he probably shouldn’t be leaning this much of his weight on her.
“Why you still got them specs on Roxy?” he asks as he struggles not to trip over his own feet. “I didn’t even know you wore specs.”
Roxy readjusts the grip she has on his waist. “I don’t all the time. I only need them on occasion.”
“They’re glasses, Eggsy,” she says, sounding a touch exasperated, but he’d like to think it’s because of how fond she is of him. Kind of like how he thinks of Harry, except Roxy doesn’t hide it like Harry does. Speaking of.
“What the fuck’s up with Harry?”
Roxy stumbles, and Eggsy tightens his grip around her shoulders in an effort to be helpful. Must’ve been a loose cobblestone or something, and when he looks at her she looks as if nothing happened so he lets it go. “What do you mean, what’s up with Harry?”
“Well, he’s not your coach, right?” Because Eggsy has eyes, okay, and Harry interacts with the woman gymnasts a hell of a lot less than the petite Russian that glares at the men if they watch the women for a second too long. “And he only really interacts with…you.”
“He’s my trainer,” Roxy says.
“What does that mean?” Eggsy asks, his brow furrowing. “He only work with you or something?”
“Or something,” Roxy agrees, and she doesn’t elaborate further. Before Eggsy can think through the slog of his thoughts and make a question out of whatever it is that’s happening in his brain, Roxy says, “Finally,” and, “Your face is going to get stuck like that,” and, “Get in the cab, Eggsy.”
“What cab?” Eggsy asks, but a black taxi pulls up to the curb before he can even finish the two syllables. He maneuvers his way into the back seat without much of Roxy’s help, and Roxy slides in beside him. Roxy gives the driver—a bald bloke, the light from the street lamps is glinting off the top of his head—Eggsy’s address as Eggsy frowns at the liquor cabinet. “The fuck kind of ride is this, Roxy?”
“A private company,” she answers without hesitation, answering something on her mobile.
Eggsy sinks back into his seat, mind still churning. “Y’know, sometimes I think you an’ Harry are up to more than you let on.”
Roxy smiles. That wry glint is ever present in her eye. “That’ll be the liquor talking.”
“There’s nothing special about me and Harry, Eggsy,” Roxy says, and the driver snorts but Eggsy ignores him. “We’re normal. Well, as normal as an Olympic gymnast and her trainer can get and that’s about it. Stop worrying—just relax, we’ll have you in bed soon.”
Eggsy grumbles something that might be English, but the seats in this cab are absurdly comfortable and he finds himself nodding off a bit in his seat as London flies by his window. Roxy and the driver have a murmured conversation, but Eggsy doesn’t really care. It’s none of his business, right, and now that the high of the club is wearing down he’d really love to be in his bed.
When they arrive back at the Estates Roxy helps him to his flat, jimmying open the door when Eggsy doesn’t have the patience for his fingers to do it. The lights inside are off save for a lone light in the kitchen—his mother looking out for him, always. “This was a fucking good night, Roxy,” Eggsy says as he toes his shoes off, one hand on her shoulders to keep his balance. “Seriously. Fucking good idea."
“I’m glad you think so,” Roxy snorts. “Do I need to help you to bed?”
That’s a little bit of a lie. Eggsy could make it to bed on his own, medicate and everything so that when he wakes up tomorrow he doesn’t want to completely die, but he enjoys Roxy’s company. Not in a romantic sort of way, but in a camaraderie sort of way. Eggsy’s only really got Ryan and Jamal in the way of friends, so Roxy is a nice change of pace.
And she is a fucking good friend. Brings him quietly to his room, leaving him to get changed and into bed while she goes and finds painkillers and a glass of water, and then making sure he actually takes them. “I’d better be going, Eggsy,” she says when the water’s all gone. “How many alarms did you want set?”
“Four. Can’t you stay just a little longer?” Eggsy asks. He pats the mattress beside him when Roxy hesitates, and that’s all she needs to sit down. Maybe Roxy’s even as lonely as he is.
“I can’t for long. The cab—”
“Hang the cab,” Eggsy mutters.
“Hang the cab? How very posh of you.”
“You must be rubbing off on me.”
“I’ll not be rubbing off on your anything.”
Eggsy smiles, pulling the blankets on his bed up to his shoulders, cuddling into Roxy’s side. He’s a cuddler, okay? There ain’t nothing wrong with a little physical affection. Not when he’s feeling all warm and vulnerable like this, when the loneliness that he tries to ignore is being eased for however long.
He’s actually about to pass the fuck out when Roxy says, quietly, “What do you remember about your dad, Eggsy?”
Eggsy’s forehead pinches as he tries to remember. The memories that his dad is in are hazy, tinged with loss and love and time. He’s sure that as he grows older he misremembers more and more, so he goes with what he knows, furrowing deeper into his blankets as his eyes drift closed. “He was a good man,” Eggsy says. “Not always a perfect man, but he was kind, and he was good. Loved mum and me. I didn’t—he joined the Marines. I don’t have a lot to go by. But he was kind, and he was good.”
A gentle hand brushes his fringe away from where it was tickling his forehead. “I’m sorry he died.”
“Mum smiled more when he was still here,” Eggsy mutters. “Worked less.”
“But if he hadn’t died, I might not have Daisy, y’know? I think a perfect world would be a world where I had him back, but got to keep Daisy.”
“Go to sleep, Eggsy,” Roxy says, and Eggsy has no problems tumbling down into slumber. It’s a dead sort of sleep, and he only has an annoying sort of headache when he wakes up the next morning, but at least he wakes up before the third alarm can even go off. Daisy’s an angel too, getting ready without much of a fuss, and it’s only when Mrs. Blakely smiles after he drops Daisy off that he realizes he didn’t fucking tell Roxy that his dad was dead in the first place.
It’s incentive to get to the gym on time, if there ever was any, except Roxy’s not there at all and Harry doesn’t show up, either. Eggsy stops one of the other women on the team, as they all warm up. “Roxy out sick today or something?” he asks, going for casual, but judging by the way that her eyebrow raises he’s failed.
Still, she answers him. “Today’s Roxy’s day off,” she said. “She should be back tomorrow.”
Fuck if Eggsy doesn’t like the idea of waiting until tomorrow, but he feels like this is a conversation that shouldn’t happen over text. Best case scenario, Harry for some reason told Roxy about his dad, but worst case…
Eggsy doesn’t even know what the worst case scenario would be.
(let the record show that I've only been to a club once, when I was in Italy, just under ten years ago)
Thank you, as always, for reading and trusting my words for entertainment. I'd love to hear from you, whether it be good, bad, ugly, or how you took your coffee today (I work in a hipster coffee shop, and as such I'm more invested in coffee than I probably should be).
As I've mentioned: I'm terrible at compartmentalization, so you can find me on tumblr @ freshairandspearmint. Feel free to drop a line there, too :D
Maybe Foster feels sorry about all of the vaulting he had Eggsy do yesterday, or maybe he knows how much Eggsy had to drink last night and wants to make life hell. Regardless of what it is, Eggsy is sent to the high bar for his first apparatus of the day. Eggsy’s certainly not going to complain; high bar is a damn sight better than rings or vault. When Eggsy was little, just before he was moved from the recreational track to the competitive track, he climbed the uneven bars like the jungle gym he fancied it to be, making a game out of seeing how high he could climb before a coach would notice and pry him off.
“If you want to swing on a bar,” his coach had said, voice tinged with amusement as he carried him away from the uneven bars, “then this is the one you want.”
He’d lifted Eggsy, then, and Eggsy had looked up and seen the bar and his hands were reaching and opening before he could register the motion because yes. He could work with this.
Now, years later, Eggsy’s not sure if they meant for him to start climbing up to the high bar instead, transferring his focus from one target to another. But that’s what he did until he was tall enough to jump to reach the bar, focussing energy on swinging and gripping until he could do a simple mount to get to the upside of the bar.
It was a long time ago now, but damn if Eggsy still doesn’t love the high bar. Especially now that he longer feels like he’s going to vomit after every go at it.
He rubs a thumb over the rip that’s still too fresh before he tapes over it. He’s probably going to have to compete with tape and grips which he’s not looking forward to, but there’s no way he’s going to get that callus back to where it needs to be to compete in the fucking Olympics. Eggsy has always preferred to feel the whole bar under his hand, though, and removing even a silver of that contact throws him off, a gap in his senses where he should be feeling the friction of hand against bar. This rip is outside of the protection of the grips he would wear, of fucking course, so tape and grips it is.
Floor routine music starts, jolting Eggsy a little as he finishes taping up. He shakes off the shock and Foster’s inquisitive glance, sliding his grips on without a thought. Eggsy hates the things but it’s muscle memory at this point, another piece of armour that he wears to go off into battle. He pulls on the wrist bands he’s got and then unfolds the grips from the neat little balls they’re rolled into when he stores them. He slides one onto his wrist, then the other. Tightens each of the straps before buckling them up nice and tight. Puts his pointer, middle, and ring fingers into the holes at the top of the suede leather in each of them.
The whole process takes less than thirty seconds before Eggsy is ready to go, spraying them with water before chalking up. He’s not quite comfortable with grips—not feeling the whole bar in his palm leaves him feeling like he’s about to slide right off—but they’re tolerable.
So long as there’s friction, something for them to grip onto, they’re tolerable. Nothing scares Eggsy quite as much as a smooth high bar, vault notwithstanding.
He jumps up, grabs the bar. He takes a few practice swings, putting the grips through their paces, acclimating once again. He does a simpler routine than the one he’ll be competing with—just a few giants and release elements involved, but throws on his double twisting double layout at the end because his grips have nothing to do with his dismount.
Foster’s stood just off the edge of the mat, safely out of harm’s way should Eggsy miss the bar. He nods at Eggsy’s grip-protected hands when he has his attention. “Rip bothering you that much?”
Eggsy shrugs. “It won’t be ready to compete on. Not in under two weeks.”
“Think it’s going to impede your parallel bars?”
“Shouldn’t,” Eggsy says. “If it does, I’ll just tape it.”
Foster nods, watching almost lazily as Eggsy walks to stand under the bar, resetting, and after Eggsy’s started his routine proper he meanders away, shouting at Tom for doing something, “so fucking stupid, for fuck’s sake, Tom, you need that fucking ankle, we can’t just replace it and have you ready to compete in time, so be fucking careful.”
There’s something about the rhythm of the high bar that sends Eggsy into a lull. There are no hold elements on the high bar—if your momentum ever comes to a complete stop, something’s gone wrong. It’s all about the giants and the release elements, over and over and over again, punctuated by the dismount.
Eggsy loves it. Loves cutting through the air, loves feeling like he’s flying. The grips keep everything from being perfect, but there’s still the sound of the steady slide of his hands against the bar. His shoulders and arms bear his weight, and his hands are sure with his catches. Eggsy could do this routine in his sleep.
But then he does a simple release element over the bar, letting go, and his eyes catch on a figure cut in a dark suit hazy and unfocussed leaning against the wall of the gym just inside the door past where his eyes are locked on the bar, and—
his hands are slippery from holding onto the snow globe. his mum is crying, but he can’t make out why.
a man in dark kneels at his side.
—Eggsy reaches for the bar and one hand grabs sure but the other—
“what’s your name, young man?”
It’s almost funny how quickly it happens. Gymnastics is muscle memory, which means that as soon as Eggsy’s other hand doesn’t come back to the bar like a magnet he knows he’s going down. He’s going down, and he’s going down fucking hard, and when his momentum flings him off the bar he clutches his hands to his chest (“Never put your hands down,” his first coach told him) and hopes for the best in the eternity it takes for him to crash to the ground.
“can I see that?”
eggsy hands the snow globe over. the man gives him a medal.
“you take care of this, eggsy, alright?”
He hits his head, maybe.
It’s so much fucking worse falling from the high bar. Every single inch of him feels impact, and his arms sting with the small skid he’d taken across the mat. Eggsy’s still trying to get his bearings, but the gym has stopped. It’s too quiet, everybody probably wondering if he’s fucking died, and the only sounds he can hear is the pant of his own breath (still alive) and the music of a floor routine that is no longer being finished and the sound of Foster swearing like the world is ending.
Is it ending? It feels like it’s tilting, at least.
The mat presses down at his side. Eggsy opens his eyes and then squeezes them shut again, groaning. Why the fuck are gym lights so bright?
It takes a little bit longer for his ears to come online in a more focused sort of way. He appears to have missed the best parts of Foster’s tirade, which isn’t so horrible, because he’s going to have a fucking monster of a headache for a little bit.
“…first Tom, now you too? What the fuck, Unwin? Did you all leave your brains at home today?”
“I,” Eggsy starts, but he’s still trying to get his bearings and figure out if he’s got a fucking concussion because wouldn’t that just be fucking great. After a little bit of effort, he can remember what day it is. He knows where he is. He knows how many days remain until he marches in before the rest of the world at the Opening Ceremonies. He remembers how he fell.
Eggsy takes a deep breath. Says, “I took my eyes off the bar.”
He opens his eyes to the sight of Foster hovering over him, pinching the bridge of his nose, and that’s how Eggsy knows that he really fucking scared him. The only other time Eggsy’s seen him pinch his nose is when an old teammate, Ollie, snapped his leg like a twig.
“I’m not concussed,” Eggsy says, hoping that will maybe make things better.
Foster shakes his head slightly, taking a deep breath. “I’m going to have to fucking bleach my brain to keep from seeing that in my nightmares, you flying off the bar like you fancy yourself a fucking superhero,” he says. “For fuck’s sake, Unwin, why’d you look away from the bar?”
Because that’s gymnastics rule number one, honestly. Always keep your eyes glued to the apparatus that may kill you. And Eggsy—he doesn’t remember right away, until he does, and he looks over his shoulder so fast that he gets a little dizzy but the dark figure.
They’re not there anymore.
“Wasn’t somebody just over there?” Eggsy asks, pointing.
Foster follows it, brow furrowed, and then says, “Not that I’m aware of. Are you sure you don’t have a concussion?”
take care of this, eggsy
Eggsy nods, looking back to his coach. Foster still looks like he thinks Eggsy might drop dead at any second.
“As sure as I can be,” Eggsy says, because he knows what a concussion feels like and he’s done the tests, and an impending headache from hell aside he feels okay. And Foster—Foster trusts his judgement. More or less.
“I’m keeping an eye on you,” he says all the same, trust or not. “Go take something from your head and take a bit of a break. We’ll put you on the parallel bars next.”
Eggsy tilts his head, takes the hand that Foster offers to help him to his feet. “Not floor?”
Foster snorts. “You think I’m going to let you fling yourself around flipping about so soon after that, you’ve got another thing coming. Maybe later. But for now—parallel bars.”
Eggsy nods and Foster walks away. He takes his grips off and stretches out his hands, freed from their prisons. Fuck, Roxy asks him about his dead dad and now he starts seeing things. That’s exactly what he fucking needs.
Mrs. Blakely smiles when she opens the door, Daisy on her hip, but goes pale before Eggsy can even say hi. “What on earth happened to you?”
He must look like he’s in rough shape, even though he’s got no visible bruises yet. Daisy makes grabby hands from, and he shifts his bag so that he can take her, muscles twinging. Eggsy shrugs, and even that pulls in ways that is painful. Daisy’s hand finds the chain that the medal hangs from, and he’s more keenly aware of it than he’s been for years.
He clears his throat. “Fell from the bar,” he says, and when she gasps he says, “I’m fine.”
“Eggsy,” she starts, but he’s already shaking his head.
“It’s an occupational hazard, Mrs. B., honest. I did something stupid, and I paid for it. It’ll be fine.”
She doesn’t look convinced. “When you get home—”
“I’ll take it easy, yeah?” Eggsy says. He bumps Daisy on his hip, smiling when she smiles. Fuck, if he doesn’t love her. “How was the flower today?”
“An angel, as always,” Mrs. Blakely says, handing Eggsy Daisy’s bag. “We made cookies today; there are some in there for you.”
“You made chocolate chip cookies without this one stealing half the chocolate chips?”
“I never said that,” Mrs. Blakely says, but she’s smiling. It’s the warm smile that makes Eggsy feel like he’s wrapped up in a blanket, all cozy and cuddled and taken care of. She’s been so good at taking care of them. “She’s just like you were when you were that age.”
Eggsy pulls on an affronted look. “You accusing me of stealing chocolate chips, Mrs. B.? Because I never—”
She swats him on the unoccupied hip with a dish towel before he can dance out of the way. “You did too, and you know it.”
Eggsy shrugs but doesn’t comment either way—he’s not about to incriminate himself like that. Daisy is totally content in his arms, head resting on his shoulder, and Mrs. Blakely sighs. “You better get her home, Eggsy. She didn’t have a nap, and she’s fading fast. I got some supper into her.”
One less thing Eggsy has to worry about. At least he won’t feel so guilty about ordering a pizza, because like hell is he cooking tonight. He’ll order his pizza and wash Daisy off and maybe watch telly for a bit before putting her to sleep, if he doesn’t beat her to it. Won’t be the first time they’ve spent the night on the couch, though he’s not sure his body will be as forgiving tomorrow.
“Thanks, Mrs. B.,” he says. He turns to leave, but she says, “Eggsy, your mum stopped in to say not to wait up for her tonight,” and that—that’s not normal. Eggsy’s mom leaving a message like that is normal, but the way that Mrs. Blakely says it…
“She say why?” Eggsy asks, turning back slightly, leaning Daisy’s weight more into him because she is flagging fast. “She didn’t pick up a shift, did she?”
“No,” Mrs. Blakely says. She fidgets slightly with her apron, but then she appears to make up her mind and says, “She had a date.”
What? “A date?”
“That’s what she said. Was dressed to the nines and everything. Well, for your mum.”
“She say with who?”
“Didn’t mention a name.”
That Dean bloke pops into Eggsy’s head, and shivers run down his spine, but there ain’t no way. Eggsy’s mum has been on dates far and few between since his dad died, since Daisy was born, but Dean’s not her regular type and there’s just something off about him.
‘Sides, their brief conversation aside, it’s not like he put out any feelers in regard to whether or not she’s dating any one. Asked if she was free, but not if she was in a relationship. And—well, she’s not, but—
Great. Now he’s going to have to wait up until she gets home. “Thanks again, Mrs. B.,” he says.
Mrs. Blakely smiles, though she still looks troubled. “You know it’s never a problem, dear.”
Eggsy nods and turns, and the door clicks shut, and Eggsy wishes his brain would just give it a rest but it’s one of those fucking days. Hopefully, maybe, it will help him stay up, though that’s a shitty perk if he’s ever heard it.
I dug my grips out of storage just to make sure I remembered what wearing them was like, and everyone, I kiddeth you not, everything about gymnastics is muscle memory because I haven't worn those in over ten years but I remembered how to put them on without a thought
Also, I just wasted half an hour watching the men's 2012 high bar final, but was it *really* a waste of time?
So grateful, as always, that you give my words your time. I'd love to hear what you think and all that jazz :D
Eggsy: i’m not moving from this fucking couch ever again
Jamal: dais finally asleep then?
Eggsy: i’m going to die here
Jamal: yeah? how’re you gonna compete in the Olympics, bruv?
Eggsy: i don’t have limbs to compete with
Ryan: Then how’re you going to get Daisy out of the estates?
Eggsy: fucking low blow, bruv
Ryan: I’m not sorry
Eggsy would stop talking to the wanker now if he didn’t need the two of them to stay awake. Daisy’d been a terror to put down for bed, good mood dissolving into clinging and crying and screaming for their mum and refusing a bottle every step of the way. Eggsy probably would’ve admired the tantrum if it weren’t for the fact that he’s bloody tired, every single part of his body is sore in some way, and he can’t just pass out like he wants to.
No, he has to stay up.
Well, he doesn’t have to stay up—but it’s so out of character for his mum, to go on a date without even telling him that she was interested in a bloke. Eggsy knows that he’s busy and she’s busy and they don’t exactly get a lot of time together, but he’s got a mobile for fuck’s sake, she can at least text him about these things instead of leaving Mrs. Blakely to pass on the message like she’s some sort of secretary.
Maybe that’s what got him all out of sorts. That his mum didn’t do the easy thing and text him, like she was afraid of a quick response. Like she’s afraid of a response at all.
Eggsy pulls the blanket tighter around his shoulders. It feels strange, sitting in an empty room with all the lights off save for the kitchen one, but the remote for the telly is sitting beside it and all of the lights are too far away. He wasn’t kidding: he ain’t moving.
Eggsy: you lot seen my mum around?
Jamal: yeah, she just left my place
Eggsy: jfc jamal
Jamal: stop asking stupid questions then, arsehole
Ryan: If you can’t say something nice, don’t say it at all
Eggsy: we’re not four anymore
Jamal: you didn’t even obey that rule when we were four
Eggsy: better than you ever did
Ryan: What are cranky gymnasts doing up at this hour, anyways? Shouldn’t they be freezing in an ice bath or something?
Eggsy: you need to help me stay up because i’m about to go tf to sleep
Jamal: then go to sleep, why are you fighting it
If Jamal were physically present, Eggsy could be persuaded to break his personal stance of never moving ever again in order to kick his arse. They’ve wrestled plenty over the year, and Jamal used to have the size advantage but Eggsy is all muscle now. He wouldn’t have a chance, and then he’d be sorry for being so fucking sassy, fuck.
Eggsy: who pissed in your guinness?
Jamal: i don’t have any guinness
Eggsy: so that’s your problem then
Jamal: fuck you, eggsy
Fuck no he didn’t. Lifting his arm is too much effort, so Eggsy settles for dialling Jamal’s number and putting it on speaker, laying his mobile on his thigh.
Jamal doesn’t pick up the first time, but Eggsy hadn’t expected him to be—however, in a battle of stubbornness, Eggsy will still win. Jamal, Eggsy muses as he dials again, and again, and again, seems to have forgotten that. Eggsy’ll call as many times as it takes—the incessant ringing is about to get annoying at some point, and if Jamal’s gonna be all pissy with him the least he can do is explain why.
The number of redials is climbing closer to double digits. Eggsy starts leaving one word voicemails. Strung all together they make a coherent enough sentence, once the “wanker”s are cut out, but Jamal doesn’t let him finish. Apparently the voicemails were the final straw (which is good, because Eggsy was running out of ways to string the sentence along). “Stop fucking calling,” Jamal says. His voice is scratchy, low. “If I wanted to talk about it, then I would’ve said.”
“No,” Eggsy says, because he likes to be contrary like that. “And if you hang up, I’ll just keep fucking doing it, bruv, so how ‘bout you share with the class what’s crawled up your arse, yeah? Then maybe I won’t feel so bad about kicking it next time I see you."
“Like you have a chance.”
“I’m pure muscle, and you know it.”
Jamal doesn’t even bother to refute. He sighs, and in his mind eye Eggsy can see him run a hand over his face. “I truly don’t want to talk about it, Eggsy. Drop it, yeah? I’ll be better.”
“I’m not a huge fan of dropping something that’s bothering you,” Eggsy says.
“Yeah, well, you can’t do nothing about it.”
“Why? Did someone die?”
Jamal’s stony silence is enough, and fuck, did Eggsy every stumble onto that one. Talk about a fucking landmine. “Fuck, mate, I’m sorry—I didn’t mean—”
“You didn’t know,” Jamal says quietly.
Exhaustion is still pulling at Eggsy’s bones but his mind is racing with all of the possibilities and implications. “Who? What happened?”
“A cousin of mine. Drug deal gone bad with the new crew in town."
A frustrated noise escapes Jamal. “I don’t fucking know, okay? And it’s not like he’s alive to say.”
Eggsy takes a step back from the line of question, giving Jamal space. The screen of his mobile lights up with a text.
Ryan: Hello? You fuckers gonna keep insulting each other, or what?
“Does Ryan know?” Eggsy asks.
“No,” Jamal replies, “and he doesn’t need to know, alright? Nobody needs to know, and I don’t want to talk about it, so let’s let it lie, yeah?”
Eggsy: we’re making out in a separate conversation
“Whatever you want, bruv,” Eggsy replies, even as something in his stomach fucking twists. This Dean guy shows up and Ruger’s crew is gone and his mum’s going on dates and Jamal’s cousin fucking dies—
The door to the flat opens quietly, opened by a person that’s expecting everyone inside to be asleep. And, fuck, Eggsy should be asleep. He fucking wishes he was asleep. “Listen, I’m sorry.”
“I’ve got to go. If you need to talk—”
Jamal sighs. “Yeah, yeah. I know.”
Jamal returns the sentiment, and then the screen of Eggsy’s mobile informs him that the call has been ended. Just as well, to be honest, because it might be dark but his mum just giggled and his mum ain’t the giggling type if she’s alone.
So she’s not alone.
They don’t turn the living room light on, which suits him just fine, because when they realize that he’s there his mum jumps half a foot into the air. “Eggsy,” she gasps, turning on one of the lamps—also good, because Eggsy was serious about not moving if he had to—and, oh.
Fuck, but if the man doesn’t work quick.
Dean is as surprised by Eggsy’s alertness as Eggsy is of his presence in general. Didn’t they meet in a fucking Tesco just the other day? Like, he’d suspected, but that doesn’t mean that he wanted to be right—
Still, Eggsy (painfully) holds out a hand to Dean. “I don’t believe I introduced myself,” he says. “I’m Eggsy.”
Dean shakes his hand, looking at Eggsy like he’s a puzzle to be solved. Eggsy’s doing the exact same thing, because there’s something about the way that the man’s got his arm curled around his mum’s waist that just…puts him off. His grip looks too tight. His handshake is definitely a smidge on the side of uncomfortable, but Eggsy’s hands grip things for a living. He can give as good as he gets, if not better.
“Why are you still up?” his mum asks when the too-long handshake is finished. “I thought that you and Daisy would both be asleep by now.”
Eggsy checks the time—23.05, fuck, he’s going to be dead on his feet tomorrow. Eggsy bites back the I can tell that so desperately wants to slip out and says, instead, “There was something I wanted to talk to you about.”
Her brow furrows. “What about?”
Dean starts fucking kissing her neck. Eggsy’s mum leans into it even as her eyes are on him, but Dean’s looking at him, too. Daring.
“Nothing important,” Eggsy says quietly. “It can wait, I suppose. I better get to sleep.”
His mum nods. “Olympic athletes need their sleep,” she says, because she likes Dean, and therefore wouldn’t be fucking worried about the way that he fucking perks up at the news, eyes looking at Eggsy with a whole new level of appreciation but not the sort of appreciation that Eggsy likes. It’s the sort of appreciation that Eggsy sees everywhere in the state—it’s an appreciation of an asset. It’s a look of how much can you benefit me and fuck. Fucking fuck.
Eggsy takes a deep breath and stands, hoping Dean don’t notice how much of an effort it is. He just—doesn’t feel right. Nothing about this feels right. Eggsy shuffles close enough so that he can kiss his mum on the cheek, eyes locked on Dean the entire time. “I’ll bring Daisy to Mrs. Blakely’s in the morning,” he says.
“Oh, you don’t have to do that—"
“It’s on the way,” Eggsy says as he steps away, even though it fucking is not. “Night, mum.”
His mum pats his cheek, looking at him like she’s grateful, and what kind of a shit son is he that he’s questioning everything? “Night, Eggsy. Sleep well.”
Eggsy nods, but he already knows he’s not going to sleep a wink.
“Two words,” Foster says the next morning, bright and early, men and women and assistant coaches all rounded up like this is a game. Roxy’s up front, on the opposite side from him—and she’s not avoiding him, but she’s not exactly sought him out, either. They’ve only been here for a few minutes, but she’d walked in the door just before practice started, Harry hot on her heels, and her usual air of infallibleness had been tainted by…something else.
Speaking of Harry, he’s in this crowd, too. At the back, talking to one of the coaches, but his eyes keep drifting to Eggsy like he can’t help it and why is everything so fucking weird all of the sudden? They’re a week away from competing in the Olympics, this is a terrible time for everything to suddenly fall to shit—
“You ever gonna tell us what those two words are, Foster?” Peter calls from somewhere behind Eggsy.
Eggsy relishes in the way that Foster’s face twists—fucker deserves it for the way he’s leaving them hanging—before he says, “Mock. Competition.”
In a remarkable show of self-restraint, none of them groan. It’s a close call on Eggsy’s part for sure, because his four alarms almost weren’t enough to get him out of bed on time and he still feels achy and out of sorts. Tom nudges him in solidarity, then asks, “With judges?”
Foster levels Tom with a look. “What the fuck kind of a mock competition would it be if it didn’t have judging, Tom?”
Tom shrugs, unapologetic. “Just wondering where you’re getting them from is all, mate.”
“I’m not your mate,” Foster says.
“Clearly not, if you’re organizing mock competitions. A mate wouldn’t do that to me.”
“Fuck’s sake, Tom.”
“Sorry,” Tom says, but he doesn’t sound sorry at all.
Foster nods, accepting it, then claps his hands once. “You’ll be split into your teams, due to obvious apparatus differences. Each team will have a group of judges that follows them from apparatus to apparatus, rotating in the standard order starting on vault for the ladies and floor for the lads. Now, obviously this is not going to feel like the Olympics, but that’s not the point.”
“What is the point?” James asks.
“Me and the coaches have a betting pool going regarding how many times you bend your legs during your floor routine, Jimbo,” Foster says dryly, “and I don’t want to lose.”
That catches James off guard if his, “Wait, really?” is anything to go by. Foster, predictably, entirely ignores him.
“You’ll have time to warm up; judges should be showing up at around 9, and we’ll be well on our way at 9.30. Though—one of them is already here, to be fair.”
He pauses, clearly waiting for someone to ask who, but when nobody does he rolls his eyes. “Of all the times to stop it with the questions out of turn—Harry, get up here.”
And Harry fucking Hart steps to the front beside Foster. Foster lays an arm around his shoulders like they’re old school friends—and, honestly, they might be, given the way that Harry doesn’t even flinch. Foster grins at him, and the smile turns shark-like as he looks out at them. “Harry’ll be one of the judges for our men, and he doesn’t fuck around, so please don’t embarrass me.”
The rest of his team aren’t bothered by it, but they don’t really know Harry like Eggsy does. Not that Eggsy really knows Harry, either, but he’s spoken to the man, and being a trainer is one thing but having judging qualifications is another thing entirely.
Eggsy steals a look at Roxy. She’s paying attention, but there’s something in her expression that says she’s lost in her own world. Foster claps again, snapping her out of it and startling Eggsy, and says, “Alright, you lot, get warming up, you haven’t got a lot of time.”
They do, obedient, lest they risk the ire of Foster. And now—as they run laps and stretch and Roxy does it as far away from him as she possibly can—he knows she’s ignoring him.
But that’s a problem for later. For now, he’s got a mock competition to kick his teammates arses at.
We're cutting this one off before the mock competition because I won't be able to update for a few days and wanted to give you something to tide you over.
Also: I hear I'm really good at writing angst and we're only scratching the tip of the iceberg, so I hope everyone is ready for the rollercoaster we're about to put poor Eggsy throughhhhh!
When Eggsy was younger, mock competitions were his own special version of hell.
He’s just—he’s never been really good at sitting still, has he? That’s part of the reason why he ended up in gymnastics in the first place, to work off some of the energy he always had and channel it into something better than just racing around the estates. Practices were fine, because he was allowed to fuck around and talk to people so long as he was ready for his turn where he was supposed to be. As he progressed through the ranks and trained more seriously, there was less and less waiting involved.
Mock competitions, though? Pretend that it’s a real competition, with real judges, with real stakes. Pretend that every toe that’s not pointed or even slightly bent knee takes you a further away from your goal, and that taking a step on landing is a nail in the coffin. Wait as quietly as you can while everyone else competes, and do not write messages on mats with chalk, Unwin.
Eggsy’s meant to keep his hands busy, is the point, and mock competitions make it very difficult to do that.
Luckily there’s only the six of them—five excluding himself—to sit through before they rotate, and not all of them will be competing on each apparatus. Eggsy takes a pass on the rings and the pommel horse, because he’s not here for individual all-around; if he wins gold in anything, it’ll be parallel bars and the team all-around.
If they win gold at all. If they even compete, because a threat’s been made against the arena they’re competing in.
They’ll have to wait for the judges to tabulate their scores, of course, but no numbers will be flashed to an imaginary crowd today. The men’s and women’s Olympic order of competition is so vastly different that they won’t have to worry about running into each other on vault or on floor, what with the women starting on vault and the men on floor. This also means that Eggsy’s not going to have a chance to talk to Roxy soon which is—less than ideal, honestly, because he just wants to clear the fucking air and she keeps giving him these looks.
He claps his hands together and shakes his shoulders out. They’re all warmed up, both in general and on the apparatus that they’re preforming on. The birds have already started competing on vault, and Eggsy’s stood on the outside edge of the floor just outside of the white line, waiting for the judges to call on him. Eggsy has no idea where Foster dug the other two up from, but Harry is shuffling the papers in front of him around like he really is that disorganized.
Eggsy might not know Harry very well, but he damn well knows that the man isn’t the disorganized sort. Maybe sneaky as fuck, maybe knows more than he lets on, but if Harry’s disorganized then Eggsy will never complain about vaulting ever again.
The judge to the right of Harry holds up a card. Eggsy takes a steadying breath, presents, and steps past the white line and onto the floor to his starting corner.
“Floor is easy, Eggsy, you know that,” Foster had said when they were working on crafting this routine. “You just have to be stiff as a board yet graceful as fuck, yet with all the power of a storm behind you.”
“Like Mulan?” Eggsy had asked, because he’s a little shit and he knows it. When Foster’d looked at him blankly, Eggsy elaborated: “Swift as a coursing river? All the force of a great typhoon? All the strength of a raging fire? Mysterious as—”
“Do another tumbling pass, Unwin,” Foster had interrupted dryly, “because you clearly have too much time on your hands.”
Now, mock competition underway, Foster claps his hands and stands relaxed with the rest of his teammates, eyes focussed on Eggsy. He doesn’t cheer, but he doesn’t have to. Foster’s never been the cheering type, and Eggsy only wants the recognition if he deserves it.
The judges are all looking at him, waiting, but Eggsy’s only really aware of Harry. There’s still something in his gaze that just—throws Eggsy off. But if the man wants to judge, then Eggsy’s going to do his best to make sure he doesn’t have a lot to complain about. A small smile on his face, he presents again, and launches into his first tumbling pass.
The nice thing about Olympic order is that Eggsy gets a substantial break at some point during the competition. Men go from floor to the pommel horse to rings, and as Eggsy’s not competing on either of the latter two he gets to spend his time sitting on his hands and cheering on his teammates and not looking forward to vault.
His attention is divided, though, and he finds himself watching the women when he can. Not in a creepy sort of way, but in a I’ve-practically-got-these-bloke’s-routines-memorized-I’ve-seen-them-so-much sort of way. He couldn’t do their routines, but he could definitely recite all of the moves of his teammates from memory, and so having some different routines around is a nice change of pace.
Roxy doesn’t compete on vault, but she steps up to the bars and the beam like they’re mountains she’s already conquered. Eggsy’s not much taller than her but she still seems so tiny, and he knows it’s irrational but there’s a split-second before each of her routines where Eggsy worries, even though he has no reason to, and she shows him up anyways. Roxy’s driving motivator seems to want to surprise everyone, to take their assumptions about her and shove them up their arses, and it’s fantastic to watch.
Eggsy still has no fucking clue how she can be so calm when she’s tumbling about on a four-inch piece of wood like that, which makes him admire her all the more.
His vaults aren’t perfect, but they’re a damn sight better than they have been recently. Every time he completes one, as much as he hates running at that fucking table, his confidence grows more and more. He’s never going to be completely surefooted when it comes to vault but Foster’s, “Fuck yes!” when Eggsy nails the landing for his competed double pike does wonders for his confidence.
He tapes up as soon as he’s done his second vault, because parallel bars are next and the high bar’s after that and he’s got a rip to protect. It stings, but it would sting more if he just left it hanging out there for all to see and the pain would be nothing but a distraction. Eggsy takes glance at Harry, who’s already finished marking Eggsy’s vaults and now seems to be totally content looking at him. Eggsy’s got enough distractions as it is, to be honest.
He nails his parallel bar routine, and it’s so old hat that Foster just says, “Your toes weren’t pointed on your dismount,” like Eggsy cares, and Eggsy cheerfully flips him off. Foster can say what he wants, he knows that routine was prime, and the only person that’s going to be able to come anywhere close is Peter, maybe, but Peter would have to pull off some miracle of nature to do it.
So he’s feeling pretty good, by the time he gets to the high bar. It’s the last rotation, and since the birds are already done they’re sat on the beam and cheering them on. Eggsy checks the tape over his rip and puts his grips on without thinking about it, making faces at Roxy, who finally makes a fucking face back at him, a glimmer in her eye as her expression contorts. They still have shit to talk about, but maybe it was the stress of the mock competition that was getting to her. Maybe that’s just how she gets before she competes.
Eggsy’s the last to warm up, last to compete. It suits him just fine, except the high bar hasn’t treated him too kindly this week, but so long as he does what he’s supposed to and doesn’t lose his head he’ll be fine.
A shiver runs through him when he steps up to the bar. He’ll be fine.
It’s all a mind game in the end, gymnastics. You’ll be scored on how you preform and ranked according to that score, but it’s really a competition against yourself. It’s against the fear you should be ignoring and the lingering aches and pains from a routine that’s already screwed you over and the knowledge of how the people ahead of you have done.
It’s his turn before he knows it. Maybe everyone else is as ready for this to be over as he is. Eggsy steps onto the mat but stays off to the side, waiting for acknowledgement.
Waiting for Harry to look up at him.
Focus, Eggsy, for fuck’s sake.
Their head judge, finally, raises his card, and Eggsy steps up to the bar. His hands are shaking, and he clenches them into fists to make them stop.
One more routine. Then they’ll reveal the scores, and Eggsy’ll find out how he did, and then he can spend the rest of the day training on whatever it is that Foster’s decided to nitpick today.
“Easy, Eggsy,” James says, and Eggsy ignores him because James’ voice doesn’t have a place. Not here.
He jumps, grabs the bar, does his mount. There are thoughts trying to push in from the get go, urging him to remember what happened last time and annoying as fuck, and Eggsy does his best to ignore them. The giants are easy, and the release elements aren’t as intimidating after he’s done his first one, eyes on the bar. He lets go, flies over, and his hands reach out and the bar is exactly where he left it. He keeps his breaths steady, eyes on the bar, and let’s the rotations lull him into the comfort of knowing he’ll be okay so long as he keeps his eyes on the bar.
He does. He takes a small step on the dismount, but he’s okay.
He presents, and Foster steps up to him, placing a careful hand on his shoulder. “Eggsy, you’re shaking, boyo.”
Harry’s head tilts even as he tallies up his marks, like he heard what Foster said.
“I’m fine,” Eggsy says, taking his water bottle when Foster hands it to him. “I’m okay.”
And if he’s not, he’ll be there soon enough.
The judges, once they’re all finished, giving Foster and the women’s judge the final scores before they slowly slip out of the gym. Harry is the only one who stays but even he does his best to fade into the background, once again sliding to the back of the group and out of Eggsy’s general awareness.
No matter. When Foster calls them all together, he sits next to Roxy. She doesn’t seem surprised, even smiles at him. “You did very good, Eggsy,” she says, and it sounds like an apology although Eggsy doesn’t know what on earth it would be for.
Eggsy, still, nudges her shoulder with his own. “Your beam routine is fantastic,” he says. “You’ll be doing circles around them, Rox.”
Roxy smiles a sly little grin; not bashful, never bashful, but pleasantly surprised all the same. “I know you’re in it for the parallel bars,” she says, “but I think you at least have a fighting chance on the others.”
“I hope so. Would hate for Foster to have wasted his time and all that.”
“What was that, Unwin?” Foster snaps from the front of the group, all concentration as he looks down at the final marks.
“Just talking about how beautiful your eyes are,” Eggsy replies, grinning as Roxy gasps and elbows him in the side.
Foster rolls said eyes and finally looks up. “I’m glad you think so,” Foster says dryly. “You want to continue waxing poetry, or would you like to know the final results?”
There’s not a shadow of a doubt in Eggsy’s mind. He sits down immediately and he doesn’t have to look behind him to know that everyone has followed suit. Roxy sits much more gracefully than he did, folding herself up neatly as she settles, but Eggsy’s done with the preforming for the day. Foster can complain about his posture or his form all he wants; right now, waiting, he’s off the judging clock.
Foster narrows his eyes at Eggsy like he knows, but he lets it go. Via, the women’s coach, steps forward to read their results first. Every single one of them is placed, not just stopping at first through third, so Eggsy’s looking forward to placing in fourth a few times if Foster does the same. At least he doesn’t have to go through the indignity of standing beside the podium.
Roxy finishes first on beam, like she ought to; Eggsy holds out his hand inches above the floor when they hear, and she gives him a discreet high five. He really hopes that she doesn’t live too far away, because Eggsy’s never really had a friend like Roxy and he’d like to keep her around, if he could.
Foster clears his throat, and Eggsy’s eyes snap to him so quickly it derails him from whatever it was he was going to say. “I think that’s the fastest I’ve ever seen you pay attention, Eggsy.”
Eggsy shrugs, leaning back on his hands as he stretches his legs out in front of him. Now that he’s cooling down a bit he feels the need to stretch, but that’ll have to wait. “Ain’t much else to do, is there?”
“I thought it was because you fancied my eyes."
“I fancy the marks you’re handling more.”
“Classless,” Foster mutters.
“You knew that when you took me on, guv, I ain’t apologizing.”
“You’re not going to find out these marks if you don’t shut your fucking mouth.”
Eggsy’s jaw slams shut so hard and so quickly that it clicks loudly enough for Roxy to flinch. Foster nods approvingly. “Brilliant. Now, remember, these marks were compiled by a neutral judging panel and are subject to their opinion of how you did, et cetera et cetera, you know the drill. It’s not quite an Olympic judging panel, but my friend Harry has judged nationally so, in that regard it’s quite close.”
Eggsy resists the impulse to look back around at Harry, to question him with a look, like he has any right to that sort of familiarity. Roxy tenses up beside him but relaxes a second later, so Eggsy writes it off as nothing more than an involuntarily reaction. Maybe she got a chill or something; she hasn’t put her track suit back on, and her body must be cooling down as she waits, regardless of how high the temperature Foster keeps the gym at.
Foster glances back down at the paper, and without any further introduction he starts reading out the results. Eggsy gets second on vault and on the high bar, first on floor, and on the parallel bars, “…fourth.”
Eggsy blinks, and the, “Fucking what?” slips out before he can even begin to repress it.
Foster sighs with all the resignation of a coach who’s dealt with shitty judging before, unable to do anything about it or to change the results. “These marks were compiled by a neutral judging panel and are subject to their opinion of how you did,” Foster reminds him, but his face is twisted like he’s getting a surgery done without anaesthetic.
The back of Eggsy’s neck is itchy, like someone is staring at him. He refuses to turn and see, because he doesn’t want to deal with Harry Hart’s completely fucking neutral expression, not when his anger is bubbling over. “This is a load of bullshit, Foster—”
“Watch your tongue, Unwin,” Foster says quietly.
“I nailed that routine and you fucking know it—”
“Watch your tongue,” Foster repeats, injecting each word with force, “or you’ll do so much conditioning you forget what it’s like to be sore—”
But it’s too late, the box has been opened and Eggsy doesn’t have a hope of closing it now, not even with the warning hand Roxy places on his arm. He just—if there was a reason for him to be fourth, he’d be fine, but that was one of the best parallel bar routines he’s ever done and everyone in this room knows it, and he’s not just going to roll over. “It’s an unfair mark and you know it, Foster,” Eggsy snaps, and without a moment of hesitation Foster says, “Rope climbs, now.”
Oh, shit. “Foster—”
Eggsy’s mouth twists but he stands up and he goes to unhook one of the ropes without looking at anyone. Not Roxy, not Foster, not his teammates, not Harry.
He takes a deep breath, grabs the rope, and starts climbing under the strength of just his arms even as the hand with the rip on it starts screaming.
I can't believe I pulled this out of my head. Never believe me when I say, "next update might not be for a bit," ever again, except for maybe this time, because I need to start working on short stories for Christmas presents. The next chapter's half done right now, but after that things will slow I think. So instead of three updates a week, we might be down to...two.
Oh, the horror.
(but seriously, I can see this being done by the new year, if you were wondering about *~*timing*~* and things)
We're going to thank "Someone to You" by BANNERS for this chapter. I'm sorry if this chapter seemed super dry. I'm endlessly thankful for your support, as always; you're all the real MVPs, silent readers and feedbackers and everything in between.
Foster doesn’t tell him to how many reps to do, so Eggsy just keeps going.
The rope was always a solution to his incessant need to climb, and Eggsy took to it like a fish to water. He would climb it until it wasn’t fun anymore, and when it was time to do conditioning he would climb it the number of times his coach would tell him to, and now he just. He just climbs. Climbs like he needs it, climbs like he’ll find the answers to the burning in his chest at the top of the rope.
Every time he reaches the top, though, ringing the bell that serves as incentive for the kids out of spite, there are no answers to be found.
Foster still pays him no attention, flitting about between the rest of his athletes discussing their marks with them and what to improve. He avoids the rope corner like Eggsy’s caught the Black Death, but that’s fine with Eggsy because he already knows what he needs to improve, and that’s why he’s on the fucking rope. If he doesn’t improve the grasp he has on his temper, then he’ll always find himself back here.
His arms start to burn after the fourth time up and down. After the sixth, he briefly lets his feet touch ground so that he can wipe down his hands before going up again. Halfway up that seventh time the bottom of the rope becomes suspiciously steadier, not swinging quite as wildly under the momentum of his climb, but he doesn’t look down. Whoever is holding onto the bottom will still be there when he climbs down.
The rope is held until right before he jumps off. Eggsy turns, expecting Foster, or maybe Roxy, but it’s Harry.
Eggsy swallows against his anger and his frustration and faces the rope again, taking it in hand. The hand with the rip on it is pissed as hell at him, but he’ll keep climbing. He’ll climb until it no longer feels like there’s a black hole in the pit of his stomach or Foster tells him to stop or his arms just flat out fall off out of spite, whichever comes first.
“Eggsy, no,” Harry says quietly.
“You’re not my coach,” Eggsy says, but he doesn’t start climbing. His arms are shaking now that they’ve had a moment to relax, and there’s something in Harry’s voice that compels him to stay down.
“He’s otherwise occupied and sent me over in his stead.”
‘Otherwise occupied’ is a polite way of saying that Foster’s trying to untangle Peter’s floor routine, if the fragments of the familiar yelling that Eggsy’s heard are correct. “There are other coaches.”
“Yes, but none of those other coaches just gave you a mark you weren’t anticipating on an apparatus you’re used to excelling at.”
Eggsy shoulders stay tight. He doesn’t let go of the rope, but he doesn’t start climbing, either. “You always say it like it is?”
“A gentleman never lets people operate under false assumptions. Not if they can help it.”
Eggsy nods, still doesn’t move. His shoulders have started to burn, as if Eggsy wasn’t already still hurting from falling off the high bar yesterday. Fuck, yesterday. Training really throws off his sense of time. “I didn’t deserve that mark, Harry.”
“I’m not here to explain why you got it,” Harry says easily, like they’re talking about the weather. He’s completely unbothered, immune to Eggsy’s bad mood, and Eggsy grits his teeth. “Nor am I here to tell you what to do better. That is Foster’s job."
“Then why the fuck are you here?”
“Stop punishing yourself.”
“Sit down, Eggsy,” Harry says, something that almost sounds like kindness tinting his tone, and now that Eggsy’s repetition has been broken he sits down. He’s not even waiting half a minute before Harry moves behind him and two broad hands fall on his shoulders, working out the knots there with a patience that Eggsy’s never had.
“You need to stop punishing yourself,” Harry repeats softly, skilled fingers chasing Eggsy’s anger and tension away. “The mark wasn’t your fault. You cannot control what the judges are going to decide to give you. You need to learn how to channel your frustrations when something you can’t control happens.”
“Is that why you gave me a shite mark?” Eggsy bites out. “To teach me a lesson?”
“There’s an enormous amount of potential in you,” Harry says like he didn’t hear him, thumb digging ruthlessly into a knot, “but you need to continue to grow as you realize that potential. You can’t remain immature when everyone expects the world of you, because you’ll keep disappointing yourself. You have to rise.”
“And what if I don’t want to rise?”
It’s a misleading question because Eggsy does want to rise. Not just to the Olympics, not just getting his mum and Daisy out of the estates, but beyond that. His life can’t end at the Olympics. But what if he fails? What if he doesn’t do well? What if he has a shit day on a day he happens to be competing and that blows his chances?
What if he’s only good at gymnastics, and he just stays on the estates afterwards? What if he fails to get out?
Harry’s thumbs dig into his neck. Eggsy tilts his head down.
“I think we both know the answer to that,” Harry says. He persists for a few minutes longer before stepping back. “Foster says he wants you to run through your floor routine a few times, then you may leave for the day.”
Eggsy’s brow furrows. Floor instead of the parallel bars? What the fuck is Foster on? “But the Olympics are next week, and my parallel bar routine—”
“That’s what your coach says.”
Harry’s room doesn’t leave any room for argument, so Eggsy nods and stretches out his legs before he stands. As he hooks the rope back against the wall he hears a soft voice say, “I didn’t give you a shite mark, either,” but when he turns to ask what the fuck Harry did do the man is halfway across the room, eyes on Roxy’s bars dismount.
Daisy’s still working on her colours, but fuck if she doesn’t get purple right every single time.
She’s still getting a handle on her “r”s, too, so her ‘purple’ comes out sounding more like a ‘puhple’ but Eggsy doesn’t care because it’s adorable, isn’t it? ‘Puhple’ and ‘wed’ and ‘owange’ and ‘boo’ and Daisy’s just got him wrapped around her tiny little finger. She knows it, too, smile angelic as she looks from the book that they’re reading up to him. “Ice cream?”
Eggsy shakes his head, bouncing her a bit. “Can’t do that, Daisy, you didn’t finish your dinner.”
Daisy’s bottom lip trembles, and Eggsy had just seen that one coming, hadn’t he? Still he keeps his voice firm. “No, Daisy,” he says. “You know the rules. Mum says you have to finish your dinner if you want ice cream.”
“But Mum’s not here,” Daisy says, crossing her arms across her chest.
“No, she’s not, but they’re still her rules.”
“When’s she comin’ home?”
And that—that is a damn good question. He hasn’t seen her since last night when she stumbled in with Dean, and she sent him a brief text telling him he was going to be late home tonight. Eggsy doesn’t mind—
Well. Honestly, he does mind. A whole fucking lot. Because he’s competing in the Olympics in a week and it’s difficult enough to look after himself, let alone make sure that Daisy is taken care of because who the fuck knows when their mum is going to be home and when she’s not? Why the fuck should Jamal and Ryan keep coming over to his flat when they want to hang out? Why can’t he ever go out with them?
He wants his mum to be happy, to have a life, but Daisy is her kid, and—
But no, he cuts the thought off, guilt already rising in his throat. He sets the book on the table and bounces Daisy gently on his lap, her laugh chasing the feelings away. For now. “She’ll be home tonight,” Eggsy says, and it’s not a lie because she will be home tonight even if he doesn’t fucking know when. She’s not as easily placated though—Daisy is old enough to know when something is off, and something is definitely off right now—so he kisses the top of her head and says, “What if I had some ice cream and shared with you? Then it’s not really just your ice cream, is it?”
She claps her hands, immediately wriggling out of his lap so that he can get up. He ignores the sink and the stove, same way that he ignores the garbage until it gets unmanageable or the grime of the bathroom until he starts to feel dirty stepping into the room. He doesn’t have time to do everything and to take care of himself and Daisy; he’s just doing his best.
In the quiet moments, it doesn’t feel like his best is enough.
Eggsy stands, grabbing a big bowl from the cupboards that are out of Daisy’s reach and two spoons. He lets her pick the ice cream and he puts quite a bit into the bowl, if he’s being honest, because he’s had a fucking rough day too and he deserves it. Harry wants him to stop punishing himself? Fine. Then he’ll treat himself. It’s just that easy, isn’t it?
He texts his mum before he settles back at the table.
Eggsy: did you know what time you were going to be back by?
The night passes quietly. Daisy is fairly easy-going, willing to settle for cable telly and cuddles for the night. Eggsy’s quite sure she’s got no idea what’s going on in the show, but she still laughs when the studio audience does, anyways, and Eggsy laughs because she is and then it’s just a little giggle loop that they get themselves into.
Daisy’s all wrapped up into her blanket, and her eyes droop lower as her bedtime gets closer. Eggsy checks his phone as subtly as he can, but there’s no text from his mum.
Eggsy: daisy was hoping you’d be home for bedtime
The sun sets, painting the living room gold before it disappears beyond the horizon and they’re only left with the light of the telly. Daisy’s snoozing by then, not quite asleep, so Eggsy carefully lifts her and brings her to her room. When he sets her down, her fist clings in his shirt, and she slurs out, “’gsy? Where’s mu’?”
Eggsy takes a deep breath, gently removing her fingers. “She’ll be home soon, flower,” he says quietly, hoping that his mum doesn’t make a fucking liar out of him, but the hour grows later and the quality of the shows he’s watching gradually becomes shittier and Eggsy doesn’t need to look at the clock to know what time it is. It doesn’t matter what time it is. His mum’s not coming home tonight.
He wakes up in between his first and second alarm, dozing on the couch, because his mum stumbles in the door.
“Shit,” Eggsy says, forgetting to be quiet as his mum echoes the sentiment, on her hands and knees just in front of the door. He rushes to her, ignoring Daisy’s cry for the time being—she’ll be fine if she waits, but his mum looks like she’s about to completely collapse. He gets an arm around her and hauls her up, kicking the door shut in case any of their neighbours want to get an inside look, and gently brings her to the couch.
She’s dazed, that much is clear, her head lolling back once he’s got her settled. “Mum,” he says, “what happened?”
“I want my baby,” she mumbles.
“She’s crying, Eggsy, can’t you hear her?”
“I do,” Eggsy says, and he’s stood right in front of her but her eyes can’t settle on anything and when they fall on him they look straight through him. She’s not drunk—he’s seen her drunk, this isn’t it. She’s slow and lethargic but her eyes continue to dance, and her hands are twitching.
Growing up in the estates wasn’t easy, but between gymnastics and school Eggsy didn’t have enough time to get involved with the people that could get him into trouble. It has the unfortunate side effect of many in the estates thinking that he thinks he’s too good for him, which puts him in a weird no man’s land in between classes, but he never got into drugs. Ryan doesn’t go any harder than pot, and Jamal hasn’t touched much at all since his stint in rehab a few years ago, so Eggsy knows he got off easy.
What does his mum have to protect her? Save her?
He cradles her face in his hands. “What are you on?”
“I don’t think she should see you like this,” Eggsy says quietly.
His mom doesn’t say anything as she takes that in, digesting what he’s said. Does she understand? Maybe she doesn’t understand. Finally, though, she blinks hard and looks at him. At him. “We was just having a bit of fun,” she says.
Eggsy knows, a stone drops in his gut, but he still has to ask. “Who’s ‘we’?”
Whatever she’s taken has completely disengaged her verbal filter. “Dean,” she says. “He said it’d make me feel good.”
Eggsy swallows back his anger, turns his thoughts away from Harry telling him, you need to learn to channel your frustrations when something you can’t control happens. Dean gave his mum something, and doesn’t it just all make sense now as his stomach drops? A new crew in town, one that gets rid of Ruger’s gang, and then Dean starts sniffing about shortly after? Eggsy stays out of the gang wars if he can, but the gang wars have come to him and he can’t just fucking do nothing.
Eggsy’s entire body is tense and he lets go of his mum’s face, leaving her head to lean back again. “Where’s he now, mum?”
“The Black Prince,” she mutters without even thinking about it. “Eggsy—”
“I know, mum,” he says softly, kissing her on the head. “I’ll grab her.”
He changes Daisy and gets her ready for the day before bringing her out to the couch, settling her on their mum’s lap. She barely register’s Daisy’s presence but her arms still come around her as Daisy cuddles close. Eggsy checks his watch and quickly shovels down some breakfast, then goes and picks up Daisy. Daisy doesn’t want to be picked up, but there’s something in her eyes that knows something is wrong in only the way that a kid can.
“Mum’s not feeling well, flower,” he says quietly. “We’ll put her to bed and then take her to Mrs. Blakely’s for the day, yeah?"
Daisy nods, and it’s difficult to balance his sister on his hip and help his mum to her room but he does her best. He tucks the blanket around her shoulders and kisses her again, leaning Daisy down so that she can do it, too.
When he leaves the flat, he makes sure the door is locked. Wonders if he shouldn’t just get a new one.
Nobody is following him, but Eggsy can’t shake the feeling that he’s being watched. Mrs. Blakely is surprised to see him so early but she takes Daisy easy as everything, and Eggsy will never be able to repay this woman. “Is everything alright, dear?” she asks as Eggsy settles Daisy’s bag inside of the door, and he nods. It’s a stiff motion that doesn’t trick her, but he doesn’t care.
“We’re alright, Mrs. Blakely,” he says. “Just getting nervous for the competition, I suppose.”
A hand wrinkled with age cups his cheek. “You’ll make us proud,” Mrs. Blakely says, looking at him seriously, like she believes it without a doubt.
Eggsy nods, but he doesn’t trust his voice. Mrs. Blakely seems to sense it, and pats his cheek once more before closing her door. Eggsy doesn’t leave until he hears the door lock.
It’s been awhile since he was at The Black Prince, but Eggsy could find his way there in his sleep if he needed to. It’s the pub closest to theirs, so it was the one that he and Ryan and Jamal started going to younger than they probably should’ve. Years have passed since then, though, and the clientele has changed, and as the gangs came in Eggsy and his friends slowly moved away from meeting at The Black Prince. Too many fights there. Too many people who had their fingers in all the wrong sorts of business.
Dean’s not sitting outside. Eggsy marches to the door of the pub and then pauses, heart thumping in his throat.
Just turn around, you fucking idiot, and go to practice, a voice that sounds too much like Foster’s says in his brain, but Eggsy can’t go to practice and pretend like everything is okay. He can’t go to practice, because unless he sorts this out it’s always going to be waiting for him when he gets home and he deserves better than that. Daisy deserves better than that.
His mum deserves better than that.
Eggsy opens the door, walks inside, and the way that it shuts behind him feels like a death sentence. If Dean truly is the new drug lord in the estates, then he must be packing.
More than that, he’s not alone.
Two of his lackeys get up immediately but Dean waves them off, standing up and walking over to Eggsy. “Eggsy!” he says, smiling like their friends, but there’s a glint in his eyes that screams danger. Enough so that even Eggsy, for all that gymnastics has trained the fear out of him, fights the instinct to flee.
This doesn’t have to get bad. He just has to send a message. “Dean,” he says coolly.
“What brings you down to these parts?” Dean asks, clamping a hard hand on Eggsy’s right shoulder, and it hurts like hell but Eggsy doesn’t flinch. “Don’t you have a gymnastics practice to be getting to, or something?”
“That’s where I’m going,” Eggsy says, because he’s not ashamed of the sport that he loves. “I just had something to say to you, first.”
One of Dean’s lackeys laughs openly, like that’s the funniest thing he’s heard this week, and maybe it is. Dean’s taller and broader than Eggsy, and even if Eggsy thought that he could maybe handle a bit of a fistfight he’s nowhere near prepared for any weaponry. It’s just him and his muscles and his skin; Dean’s got a whole arsenal in comparison. Dean huffs a laugh as well but lets go of Eggsy’s shoulder, stepping back, arms held wide.
Eggsy reaches for the anger still thrumming through his veins. He says, quietly, “I don’t know what you gave to my mum last night, but if she comes home high again I will fucking end you.”
“Oh yeah?” Dean asks, eyebrow cocked. “How’re you gonna do that?”
It feels like the medal is burning against Eggsy’s skin. “Don’t you worry about that,” Eggsy says—honestly, he doesn’t even know if the number will work, but he knows that whoever it is will come. Hopefully. “Just know that I can, and I will.”
The lackey laughs again, but Dean’s eyes narrow. Eggsy’s pulse jumps as Dean walks closer, but he doesn’t move a muscle. Dean says, quietly, into his ear, “Never you mind what I do with your mum. We don’t want you getting into any trouble now, do we?”
His breath stinks of beer. Eggsy stands tall, even as he swallows thickly. He doesn’t say a fucking thing.
Dean waits, then says, “Run along, Eggsy. You’ve got a practice to be getting to.”
Eggsy checks his watch as Dean walks away, and he doesn’t jump or swear but it’s a fucking close call. He makes a tactical retreat, ignoring the laughter and whistles and jeering that follow him out the door, and the anger still coursing through his veins feels a lot like defeat.
He gets to the gym on time by some miracle of all his trains lining up fucking perfectly. Hell, he’s warming up as the stragglers come in, waving sweetly at James and Tom as they meander in. Foster’s locked himself in his office, but that’s not strange. Foster’s behaviour often gets erratic right before a competition, and given that it’s the fucking Olympics approaching Eggsy’s not surprised at this.
“Oi, Foster!” Eggsy calls when the man finally comes out of his office, but Foster completely ignores him and heads towards the door. Where two cops have just walking in, fucking hell.
Eggsy catches Roxy’s eyes from where she’s warming up across the floor, and she jogs over without him needing to prompt her. “What the hell’s up with that, d’ya think?” Eggsy asks, and Roxy shrugs.
“I don’t know,” she says, but she’s frowning. “Have you seen Harry around?”
They presence of cops have them too keyed up to really focus, so Eggsy says, “He can’t have gone far,” and they waste some time scanning the gym for him. Around the time they find him, not that it was hard, leaning against the wall by Foster’s office, Foster is leading the cops towards the change rooms. James and Tom walk out before Foster can kick them out, and after a brief conversation Foster gives the cops the go ahead and they walk into the change room.
“What the fuck,” Eggsy breathes, turning again to look at Roxy. His brow furrows. “Why are you staring at Harry?”
“I’m not staring,” she says. “What happened?”
“They went into the men’s change room,” Eggsy says, and since he highly doubts that they stopped in just to use the toilet there has to be something else.
They aren’t left waiting long. The cops emerge from the change room looking too serious, and fuck. Foster waves a hand, and Eggsy leaves Roxy behind as he and his teammates gather around.
“Whose jacket is this?” the cop asks, holding up Eggsy’s jacket, and Eggsy frowns but steps forward. Of course he can’t fucking catch a break.
“Mine,” he says.
The cop raises an eyebrow as his partner jots something down. “And you are?”
The cop digs into the left pocket of Eggsy’s jacket, pulling out a little baggy. “And is this yours as well?”
Eggsy looks at the little baggy, filled with white powder, and his heart fucking drops.
Everyone is staring at him.
“I—no,” Eggsy says, shaking his head, and it’s difficult to breathe, come on, Unwin, deep breaths, don’t flake out now—
“Then where did it come from?”
Eggsy’s hands twist into his pants. They’re sweating. “I don’t know, but that’s not mine—”
The cop makes a disbelieving noise, and Eggsy doesn’t blame him. This probably isn’t even the first time he’s fucking busted a high-level athlete for drug possession, and every single one of them probably gave up the same song and dance that Eggsy’s giving him now, but Eggsy has no idea where the fuck those came from. He read Foster’s contract, he signed it, he practically has the fucking thing memorized, he wouldn’t throw away his biggest chance—
“Foster,” he says, desperation leaking into his voice as his coach stares at him, “Foster, that’s not mine. Guv, you have to believe me—”
But Foster is shaking his head, turning away, and the cop steps forward. “Mr. Unwin, if you’ll come with us.”
He doesn’t want to. He doesn’t want anything to do with them, because that’s not his shit. That’s—it must be Dean, he doesn’t know how the man planted it, but—
Eggsy looks around slowly. They’re all fucking staring. Roxy’s got a hand over her mouth.
Harry, expression as put together as his suit, is impossible to read.
Eggsy takes a deep breath, clenches his jaw, and goes.
Chapter 10! This is almost like twice the length of a regular chapter, but I wanted to get that end part out, y'know
(if it was as easy to write original stuff as it was to write about this goofy cast of characters, I'd have no problem writing my own books, everyone, frick)
(not that I'm complaining)
As always, I'm grateful for the attention that you've given to this little-slowly-turning-big fic, and I love to hear from all of you :)
In another life, Eggsy imagines he’d be more familiar with the four greying walls of an interrogation room than he is right now.
That’s just the reality of growing up in the estates, isn’t it? Eggsy was spared, but if he wasn’t in gymnastics then maybe he wouldn’t have been, and he can imagine a life where he can act like he’s at ease with the situation. Where everything feels old hat. Where there’s some truth to his cockiness, instead of feeling like it’s just wholly an act.
His still in his gym suit. They hadn’t given him back his jacket for the journey to the police station, and he’d kept his chin up as he was paraded through the bullpen. Eggsy’s never been ashamed of the fact that he’s a gymnast, and there’s no reason to start pretending like he is now. He’s proud of himself and what he’s accomplished and what he can do, and if anybody thinks otherwise then they can go fuck themselves.
Unless they’re people with the power to arrest him, put him in jail. Unless they’re people that can keep him from competing.
There’s no clock in the interrogation room, so he has no idea how long he’s been waiting for but it already feels like hours. Eggy’s not surprised at the wait; either they’re letting him sweat it out or there are other more important things that need doing. If Eggsy was a cop, he’d be chomping at the bit to get at this case, an Olympic athlete with drugs on them. Call the IOC, call the press, we’ve got a fucking doper on our hands and he’s a British athlete.
His mum would be crushed.
Daisy would never get out of the estates.
Would Foster even take him back?
Eggsy’s never been good at having too much time to himself; his mind runs away from him and his imagination goes crazy and it feels like he can see his world and life as he knows it collapsing around him.
The chair is fucking uncomfortable.
Not that interrogation rooms are meant for comfort. They’re certainly not winning any decorating awards, either, because Eggsy’s been staring at the walls long enough to know that the paint up near the corners is starting to chip, and there’s definitely water damage in a corner. The two-way mirror needs to be cleaned, as well, and that distracts him from the way that it mocks him.
He takes a deep breath, clenching his hands into fists and then releasing them. The new skin that’s coming up from where the callus ripped pulls, still getting used to the ‘being used every day’ thing. He resists the urge to shout, to ask for food because he’s on a specific diet and he needs to keep it up whether they’re going to charge him or not, to break and ask for his phone call just so that his mum doesn’t worry.
Eggsy might not be familiar with procedure, not as much as others are, but he knows he only gets the one phone call. He doesn’t want his mum to worry, but reassuring her isn’t going to get him out of here any faster.
And he will. Get out, that is. He just has to figure out how damning whatever the fuck Dean planted on him is.
He never should’ve gone to the Black Prince.
The doorknob jiggles before it opens, and Eggsy sits up a little bit straighter as the man who’s been chosen to break him walks in. He’s a little bit older, soft around the middle, and looks at Eggsy likes he knows everything he needs to. Like he already has all the answers, and this is just a formality. He already knows where Eggsy’s from, which means that Eggsy’s trying to throw not just the system off his back, but also all of the prejudice that comes along with growing up on the estates. On paper he’s just a chav who lucked out—of course he got caught with drugs on him. It was, after all, only a matter of time.
“Gary,” the cop says.
“It’s Eggsy,” Eggsy replies.
The man takes a seat, stretching out. Eggsy leans back in his seat, hands clasped together as they rest on the table. He’s got nothing to hide. He’s not in trouble.
It’s not his.
He hasn’t, not since he signed Foster’s contract. He did before, but he’s out of it now, and he has to convince this cop of that.
“Eggsy,” the cop concedes with a nod. “You’re in a spot of trouble, aren’t you?”
He’s got no fucking chance.
The cop places a folder on the table in front of him, but he doesn’t open it up. It taunts Eggsy, makes his hands twitch for the briefest of moments, because he’s so strapped for a want of something to do that he wants to know what’s inside. Reading would give him something to do, and fuck if Eggsy isn’t desperate for something to do. He has no way to gauge what time it is, but he knows without a doubt that if he were at the gym he’d be halfway to exhausted by now.
The cop raises an eyebrow, waiting. Eggsy’s watched old crime shows to know that anything he says will be twisted, so long as they can get it out of him, and Eggsy’s not inclined to make it easy for them.
“I’ve been reading up on you,” the cop continues, nodding at the folder in front of him, though Eggsy highly doubts that’s what’s actually on the papers within. “Your story’s fascinating. Father died young, serving in the Marines, raised thereafter by a single mother. Plucked from the estates by a benefactor who thought you were a promising gymnast, and then personally chosen by Foster Chapford to train with him. And now—the Olympics next week. A true BBC classic in the making, that. If only you hadn’t gone and cocked it up.”
Eggsy’s lips purse, because there’s a story here regardless of which way it goes. He’s living a movie, but he’s waiting on the ending. Waiting to see if he’ll rise above, or crash to the ground.
He told Foster he wasn’t going to trip, and he’s not going to. Not if he can help it.
The cop sighs, smoothing out the front of his jacket. There’s a hint of impatience to the sound, like Eggsy’s not playing according to the rules, but Eggsy doesn’t know what the fucking rules are to begin with and he’s not fond of dancing to someone else’s tune. Not if he can help it.
The cop runs a thumb against the edge of the folder. “We’re running tests right now, but it would be a lot faster if you told us what was in the bag, Eggsy.”
“Well, add me to the list of people anxiously awaiting to find out what’s inside,” Eggsy says dryly, “because I don’t know.”
“It was found in your pocket.”
“Doesn’t mean it’s mine, does it?”
“It would be strange for you to own everything in your pockets except for the illicit material that could land you in jail.”
Eggsy shrugs with a confidence he doesn’t feel, swallowing against the lump in his throat. “It’s strange,” Eggsy says, “but it’s the truth.”
The cop hums. “And what happens when we find out what it is, Eggsy? You can keep your mouth shut all you want, but it was still found on you. That’s a possession charge, at least.”
Eggsy had expected as much; he’s been in here a long time, and he’s good at imagining all of the possible angles. It’s been a helpful skill for him whenever it’s been time to dream up a new routine with Foster, trying to link together tumbling lines and skills that will make him look his best.
The cop’s not done, though. There’s a glint in his eye that makes the tentative ease Eggsy had been resting in leak right away. “Once we pass on the news to the IOC, you’ll be forbidden from competing. Your teammates will come under scrutiny, as will Foster’s reputation. Anything they win will always have that asterisk, that possibility that they were doping, too."
It’s the too that gets him. “I’m not doping,” Eggsy says.
“In your pocket, Eggsy.”
“You don’t think I would’ve hid it better if I was doping? Fuck, guv, I ain’t stupid.”
The cop leans forward. “Then what are you, Eggsy?”
Eggsy’s jaw tightens, and he looks away. “They’re not my drugs.”
“Where did they come from?”
Eggsy knows in his fucking gut that it was Dean, knows that the man got his mum high last night, too, but if Eggsy can’t prove it all he’ll be asking for is a death wish. Dean is dangerous, but Eggsy doubts that thy care about a small dealer in the estates. Not when Ruger’s crew was there for so long and did so much damage. There are bigger fish to fry.
Like Olympic-level gymnasts.
Eggsy takes a shaky breath. “I don’t know. I signed a contract when I started training with Foster. We all did. I haven’t touched the stuff.”
“Would your teammates say the same?”
Their faces as he had walked out of the gym—shocked, angry, confused—flash to the forefront of his mind. “Leave them out of it.”
“Foster said that he’s smelled pot on your jacket before.”
“Weren’t mine,” Eggsy says, “and we both know there’s a difference between pot and white powder, besides.”
The cop is tiring of this game, brow furrowing as his expression pinches, but Eggsy’s been tired all fucking day. He’s ready for a break, but he’s not going to get one at the rate this is going. The cop slides a piece of paper out of the folder, pushing it towards Eggsy. A prepared confession.
“One time deal,” he says, pity back full force. “It’ll get you the lightest sentence. You won’t be able to compete, but it’s the least we can do. If I walk out of this room, offer’s gone.”
It’s tempting. So fucking tempting. His eyes scan what he can read without pulling the paper closer, and it might be as light of a punishment as he can get but it’s still hanging him out to dry. The cop taps a pen on the table, taunting Eggsy, daring him to ask for it.
A medal pressed into his hands.
take care of this, eggsy
“I’d like to exercise my right to a phone call,” Eggsy says, mouth going dry, but fuck. He has to try. It’s been nearly two decades, but he still has to try.
The cop sighs and stands, collecting the folder and ripping the confession in half. He nods towards the phone, and says as he walks out the door, “It’s a shame, Eggsy.”
When the door clicks shut, Eggsy clenches his eyes shut, head bowed, and tries to remember how to breathe.
He doesn’t call the number. Not right away.
There’s no rush now, though surely they’ll know what type of drug it is any time and Eggsy’s new cop friend will undoubtedly want to let him know how much his life is going to get fucked. Depending on how illicit the drug is, Eggsy could be going away for a long time.
His memories of his dad are fuzzy at best, and the night when the man stopped by to tell them the news and his mum cried and Eggsy clenched the medal in his small fist for the first time is slowly becoming just as hazy. Eggsy could be misremembering what he was supposed to say when he dialled the number—and fuck, what kind of phone number is that, anyways? Six digit numbers don’t just fly, not anymore, not with millions upon millions of people in London alone. There’s no way that this is going to work, and he’s going to waste his phone call on a number that’s imprinted on his brain, that his thumb has rubbed across over and over again, and where’s that going to get him?
But it’s the only chance he’s got. It’s not like his family’s rich and they have a lawyer on retainer just waiting to be let loose, to go after whoever it was that wrongfully charged him. Eggsy’ll get saddled with a public defender at best, who will have seen hundreds of cases just like his, and then he’ll get jail time and his mum’s not going to leave Dean and Daisy’s going to be all alone—
Fucked if he does.
Fucked if he doesn’t.
Eggsy takes a deep breath, then dials.
It rings once, twice, and Eggsy’s heart leaps to his throat because this was a fucking mistake before the line clicks and a cool woman’s voice says, “Customer complaints.”
Eggsy resists the impulse to ask if he’s dialled the right number. He swallows thickly and says, “I’m Eg—Gary Unwin. I was told to call this number if I ever needed a favour and I—I’m up shit creek, about to get slammed with a possession charge and a doping investigation from the IOC over drugs that aren’t mine—”
“I’m sorry, sir, you have the wrong number—”
And fuck if that doesn’t make Eggsy want to throw up, but his tongue runs away from him and he says, “Wait! Wait.” He purses his lips together because he feels like a fucking idiot, there’s no way this is going to work, but he still says, “…oxfords, not brogues?”
A pause for long enough that Eggsy thinks that the call has been dropped, and then the lady says, “Thank you. Your complaint has been noted, and we hope we have not lost your business as a loyal customer."
The line clicks. Eggsy ends the call, dazed, and then rests his head in his hands.
If a few tears escape, no one has to know. Not even the people on the other side of that fucking window.
He doesn’t know how long he sits there. Might be minutes, might be hours. Maybe he should’ve called Mrs. Blakely to tell her that he was going to be late—would’ve served him much better than whatever the fuck happened during his only phone call.
His coach thinks he’s using, his mum might still be passed out at home, and Daisy is waiting for him to come and pick her up, shit, fuck, shit—
The door creaks open. All the way, like they’re not worried that he’s going to escape.
“Mr. Unwin, you’re free to go.”
Eggsy blinks, because there’s no fucking way—drugs were found on his person, and he’s an Olympic athlete, that doesn’t just disappear—
But the person, not the cop who had been interrogating him, pops her head in the door. “Mr. Unwin, if you would please follow me.”
Eggsy stands, takes a moment to steady himself. He hasn’t eaten all fucking day, and between that and the lack of sleep and the pit of the emotional low that he’d hit he feels like he’s been hit by a train. “But—”
She waves him off. “Now, Mr. Unwin.”
Weaves his way through the bullpen, still wearing his gym suit. Claims his jacket and his bag from lock-up, though the attendant says, somewhat wryly, “We’ll be holding on to the drugs, of course.”
“They’re all yours, bruv, do whatever the fuck you want,” Eggsy breathes, because there’s no fucking way this is happening, this is a dream, even though he doesn’t wake up when his hat pulls on his hair and his finger gets caught in his zipper as he tries to do it up in his haze and the late afternoon sun near fucking blinds him when he steps outside—
And Eggsy’s not going to stop for no one, he’s not even going to go home, not yet, he has to go and talk to Foster, to explain—
He turns around the corner just before the stairs, and his eyes glide over a dark figure and glance away before they go back to him and stay.
They stay, and Eggsy jolts to a stop, and Harry fucking Hart dips his head and says, “Eggsy.”
This *might*, tentatively, be fifteen chapters. But don't hold me to that.
Thanks for reading, as always, I still hope that you're enjoying it, and I always look forward to hearing what you think :)
The taxi that pulls up to the curb looks like any regular, black, non-descript London taxi. Eggsy’s seen enough of them in his lifetime that there’s nothing out of the ordinary about it, and he’s more bothered by the fact that Harry Hart appears to have sprung him from jail than he is about anything in regard to the cab itself. It’s a cab. One that Harry managed to wave down bizarrely fast, Eggsy thinks as Harry holds one of the back doors open for him, but still just a cab.
Until he’s in the backseat of the cab, and the screen and keyboard and liquor cabinet built-in—and that’s what Eggsy can see—makes him realize that this is not just a cab. It’s more than a cab.
He peers at Harry out of the corner of his eye. The man notices, of course he does, tilting his head in Eggsy’s direction in recognition. Eggsy’s starting to think there’s a lot that he notices
“You ain’t no fucking trainer, bruv,” Eggsy says.
“Don’t call me bruv,” Harry replies smoothly, unbothered, looking out the window as the city passes them by. It’s not a denial, but Eggsy suspects he’s not going to get much more out of him until they get to…wherever they’re going. Come to think of it—he hadn’t heard Harry tell the cabbie an address, had he? Eggsy had gotten in the cab, and then Harry had gotten in the cab, and then the driver was maneuvering the cab away from the curb.
Eggsy nods towards their bespectacled driver. “He’s not a cab driver, isn’t he?”
Harry opens his mouth, no doubt to deflect, but the driver beats him to it. “I’m a cab driver right now,” he says, Scottish accent tinted with dry amusement.
“Not just a cab driver, then,” Eggsy amends, leaning back into his seat and crossing his arms over his chest, looking directly at Harry and daring him with the tilt of his chin to do something. To say something.
The cab driver says, cheerfully, “Not in the least,” and Harry finally cracks.
“Merlin,” he says.
Eggsy’s eyebrows shoot up his forehead. “Merlin?”
Harry’s jaw twitches, like he hadn’t meant to actually say the man’s—name? Who the fuck names their child Merlin?—but Eggsy knows an opening when he sees it. “You’re shitting me,” Eggsy says, pushing, eyes focussed on Harry’s face, waiting for the moment when he completely breaks. He’s had a lot of practice doing this with Foster; Eggsy knows how to wiggle answers he wants out. “There’s no way your name is Merlin, guv—”
“It’s the only name you need to concern yourself with,” the cab driver says, which makes Harry bite out another, “Merlin,” and Merlin counters with, “He clearly suspects something, Galahad, and I’ve no intention of keeping him in the dark when I don’t need to.”
“Galahad?” Eggsy asks. He’d chanced a look at Merlin while he’d waited for an in, and fuck if he doesn’t look like the bloke who picked him and Roxy up that night they went out to the club which means that Roxy’s not all that she seems, either, but his eyes sweep back to Harry at this new piece on information.
There’s a pinch to Harry’s expression, like he’s very barely managing to restrain himself from doing something that he’ll regret, and he completely ignores Eggsy. “Merlin, I don’t think this is the appropriate venue for this discussion.”
Merlin quirks an eyebrow. “You don’t think that a secure, soundproofed, Kingsman cab is an appropriate venue? I’d argue it’s the most appropriate place.”
“Not here,” Harry bites out.
Merlin makes a smooth right turn, sneaking into the intersection right before the light turns red, and doesn’t say anything. Eggsy relaxes a little more into his seat, arms still comfortable across his chest. The medal presses against his chest, chain dragging into a new position against his skin, and Harry’s eyes latch onto it before moving on.
There are so many questions Eggsy wants to ask, but Harry’s still braced like there’s a hurricane coming and he doesn’t have a hope of breaking through when he’s still this on-guard. So Eggsy turns his attention back to Merlin and says, “You were the bloke that gave me and Rox a ride the other night, aren’t you?”
A smile quirks at the corner of Merlin’s mouth. “Aye.”
“But you’re not just a cab driver.”
“And Harry doesn’t want to talk about it.”
Eggsy doesn’t have to look full at Harry to know that it’s true; the ire radiating off of him is hint enough. “So you’re spies or something?”
Harry says, quietly, “Eggsy, please.”
If the number on the medal brought Harry to his rescue, then Harry knows what happened to his dad. What really happened to his dad. Harry Hart’s certainly no trainer, but he doesn’t strike Eggsy as a marine, either.
And there’s something else—in the way that he’s holding himself, how he just can’t quite seem to stand down. He’s worked up over something, and there’s a shadow to his expression that Eggsy hasn’t seen before. And Eggsy wants answers, desperately so, but if Eggsy’s shocked then Harry must be even more out of sorts. Not that he wasn’t expecting someone to call the number ever, but Eggsy’s worn the medal in Harry’s presence before. Harry’s known about Eggsy for a lot longer than Eggsy’s known something’s weird about Harry.
So Eggsy does for Harry what he’s never let Foster get away with, and lets it go.
“Alright, then,” Eggsy says, uncrossing his arms and settling his hands in his lap. “You want to hear about the time I forgot my floor routine at a competition and made it up as I went along and still somehow placed second?”
Merlin snorts, expression pleasantly surprised, but doesn’t say anything—the both of them know that they’re waiting on Harry.
Harry takes it as the out that it is, and waves a careful hand. “By all means,” he says, shoulders minutely relaxing, and Eggsy entertains them with gymnastics happenings and mishaps for the rest of the ride. Halfway through the story about how he crashed into the vault at age fourteen, Eggsy thinks that maybe he should be paying attention to where the fuck he’s being taken in a cab that is most certainly not a cab, but then he looks at Harry and he knows Harry’s safe. So long as Harry is around, nothing is going to happen to him.
Harry has always been safe.
It looks like just another London house from the outside, but as Eggsy and Merlin and Harry approach it, Harry walking half a step behind Eggsy to shepherd him in the right direction, Eggsy’s resolves to not fall for the same trick twice. He was wrong about the cab, and about Harry, so he’s going to be wrong about the fucking house as well. Especially when more than a simple unlocking mechanism is required to get in, Merlin placing a thumb in the middle of the doorknob for long enough for a scanner to read.
Because there’s a fucking fingerprint scanner. In the doorknob.
Eggsy is slipping his mobile out of his pocket before the door has even clicked open. Harry lays a hand on his elbow, and even though Harry is safe Eggsy still flinches. “I need to make a couple of calls,” Eggsy says, voice steady and sure even though he’s nervous as fuck.
He looks up at Harry, hoping that his pleading look will help convince him. These phone calls are not negotiable, truly; he has no idea how long Harry is planning on keeping him here, and the time that he’d normally pick up Daisy is fast approaching. He needs to call his mum and see how she’s feeling—was that only this morning, fuck—and then he needs to get a hold of Mrs. Blakely and tell her what to expect. She’s watched Daisy overnight before, when Eggsy was competing out of the city and his mum had to work, but he doesn’t want to spring it on her more than he has to.
He doesn’t want to spring it on her at all, but judging by the look in Harry’s eye Eggsy’s going to have to make a few concessions.
Merlin pushes the door open, and Harry says, “When we’re inside,” and Eggsy will fucking take it. He’s surprised Harry even trusts a foreign phone coming into his super-secret spy lair, but he suspects that Harry is making some on concessions of his own.
Harry closes the door behind them as Merlin meanders further into the house, and as he locks it back up Eggsy dials his mum. She doesn’t answer; she may still be sleeping, or she may be with Dean. He swallows thickly around his worry, giving her the benefit of the doubt for now, and rings up Mrs. Blakely.
She answers before the first ring can even finish, like she was waiting for this call. “Eggsy, darling,” she says, sounding calm as fuck considering Daisy is wailing in the background, and Eggsy’s heart clenches and he turns away from Harry, like he’ll be able to hide this conversation from him. Like he doesn’t already fucking know, with his spy house and his spy cab and—
He shakes his head slightly, hunching against the wall. “’lo, Mrs. Blakely,” he says. “Can Daisy stay with you tonight? I’m sorry about the short notice, but—”
“Something came up?” Mrs. Blakely says wisely, unquestioning, and Daisy’s crying gets closer. “Not a problem, dear.”
“You want me to talk to her?”
“If you don’t mind.”
“Never,” Eggsy says, and he leans against the wall and waits through the shuffling sounds until the crying gets louder. He takes a deep breath. “Oh, Daisy.”
His sister sniffs, and the sound is so loud it’s like she’s actually doing it into his ear, not over the phone separated by miles and miles of city. “’ggsy?” she asks, voice hitching.
Eggsy bites his lip. “Hey, flower. What’s wrong?”
Eggsy’s stomach rolls. He’s going to be fucking sick if he’s not careful, not that he has all that much to vomit up right now anyways. “You’re going to have to stay the night with Mrs. Blakely, flower,” he says, trying to keep his voice as steady and as soothing as possible, pleading with every deity he can think of that she takes it as well as a small child who wants her mum can. “I’m sorry.”
The only thing that Eggsy can hear for a few heart wrenching seconds is the hitching sound of Daisy’s breath, before she says, “T’morrow?” and his entire body relaxes, breath rushing out of his chest.
Harry’s shoulder brushes his back as he walks past him, following the path that Merlin took. “Yeah, Dais, tomorrow. Can you be good?”
“Alright. I love you.”
“Love you,” Daisy echoes, and then there’s more shuffling sounds. Eggsy rubs a hand over his face, tired as hell. He says, “I’m really sorry,” before Mrs. Blakely can get anything out.
She laughs. It doesn’t even sound strained. “It’s not my first time dealing with a toddler, Eggsy,” she says fondly. “After you, Daisy’s an angel.”
“A lady never jokes,” Mrs. Blakely says wryly.
“I’ll let you know what’s happening tomorrow? Is that okay? Fuck, I’m sorry—”
“Eggsy,” she says, and Eggsy flinched because he tries not to swear in front of Mrs. Blakely if he doesn’t have to, born of habit, but she doesn’t seem to mind this time. “It’s not a problem. Daisy’s an angel, and you have quite a lot on your plate. Call me tomorrow.”
“If you’re sure—”
Eggsy clears his throat as his eyes burn. “Thanks, Mrs. Blakely.”
“It’s not a problem, my dear boy.”
They exchange pleasantries and Mrs. Blakely ends the call from her end, which is all well and good because Eggsy lowers his mobile for as long as it takes to dial his mum. Now that he’s got Daisy’s situation figured out it’s not as pressing, but he has no idea what the fuck she was on or how much she took and he shouldn’t have gone to practice today, fuck—
Still no answer.
Eggsy wipes the palms of his hands against his pants, dials the next number on his mental list. As soon as he picks up, Foster says, “If this is your one phone call, boyo, you wasted it,” dry as hell, and it shocks a laugh out of Eggsy.
“It’s not my phone call,” Eggsy says. “I’m out.”
“Favourably, I’m assuming, because the news outlets aren’t running rampant with stories of an Olympic athlete found with drugs on their person.”
Eggsy clears his throat. He can be out of jail all that he wants, but if Foster doesn’t trust him—if Foster doesn’t believe him, believe in him… “It wasn’t mine, Foster.”
His ears strain as he listens for any sort of tell, any indication of what direction Foster is leaning, until finally his coach sighs. “I believe you, Eggsy,” he says quietly. “But where did they come from? I’m going to have to explain to your teammates—”
“I don’t know,” Eggsy says honestly. “Well, I think I do, but I don’t have—”
“Proof?” Foster asks.
“That’s a shitty spot to be in, Unwin.”
“And a fucking terrible time to be in it.”
“I know, Foster.”
Tapping sounds, and then Foster says, “I’ll figure something out. Where are you? At home?”
It’s still fairly dark in the house, Harry and Merlin apparently fucking allergic to lights, but Eggsy sees the shadows shift at the end of the hall. “I’m at a friend’s house,” Eggsy says carefully, because he doesn’t know what the fuck Foster knows or doesn’t know, and the shadow moves away in silent approval. “I’ll be at practice tomorrow. Unless—you don’t want me to be?”
“I’ll figure it out, Eggsy,” Foster repeats. “Just be here.”
“Now I have to go before Tom breaks his fucking ankle being gutsy on the rings. Last thing I want to do is put you on rings at the Olympics, fucking hell,” Foster says, and he doesn’t wait for Eggsy to reply before he hangs up. Eggsy doesn’t mind; if anything, he relaxes a little bit further at the normalcy. At the thought that, maybe, everything will be okay.
Eggsy takes a deep breath, dials his mum again. He doesn’t leave a voice mail this time, hanging up before he says, “Harry?”
The shadows shift again, and Harry steps back into the entry hall. He holds out a hand, expectant, and Eggsy hands him his mobile. “I don’t know what you super spies do with boring old mobiles,” Eggsy says, “but I’ll need that back tomorrow.”
“But everything’s sorted until then?” Harry asks, and his brow furrows when Eggsy hesitates. “We can’t afford secrets now, Eggsy.”
Well, if that’s the case. Eggsy takes a deep breath and looks Harry in the eye, like they’re of the same height. “My mum came home high as a fucking kite this morning,” Eggsy says, hands clenching into fists at his sides. “My sister is taken care of, but when I left the flat this morning she was passed out and she hasn’t answered any of the times I’ve tried to call her.” He tilts his chin up though his voice is shaking, because Harry doesn’t owe him any favours but if he’s the man that gave Michelle the medal first all those years ago then he has to try. “I’m worried.”
“Drugs aside,” Harry says slowly, “do you have any reason to be?”
“I think her new what-the-fuck-ever is the estates’ newest drug lord.”
“Dean something,” Eggsy says, flinching slightly as he does because he knows that’s not much to go on at all. Having a last name would be better. Having an address or a phone number or something would be icing on the cake. “Harry, I’m sorry—”
Harry holds up a hand, and Eggsy stills. His eyes are far away for a moment, and Eggsy hardly dares to breathe until Harry nods, tapping the frame of his glasses once. “Someone will check on her,” he says, like it’s that fucking simple, especially when he doesn’t appear to have done anything. “Follow me?”
It’s not an order masquerading as a request; Harry’s eyes are too earnest for that. Eggsy could leave, right now, and Harry would let him go with no repercussions. He could go back to his normal life, and Harry would be just a trainer, and Eggsy will never find out how this all ties together and after the Olympics Eggsy will likely never see him again.
It’s tempting, because while Harry is safe the one thing he’s consistently brought to Eggsy’s life is change, and change isn’t something that he necessarily needs right now. Not with the looming Olympics looming over him, not with the shit that’s happening with Dean.
Eggsy rocks back onto his heels, and he shoves his hands into his jacket pockets. “Yeah, alright,” he says, because if everything is changing what’s adding one more thing to that pile, and pretends not to notice the relief that washes over Harry’s face.
“I trust that I don’t need to tell you that whatever is said in this house stays in this house?”
“I told you about my mum’s drug problem, Harry,” Eggsy says, rolling his eyes. “I’m not telling anyone anything.”
Harry nods, turning slowly and going back down the hall, trusting that Eggsy will follow. Eggsy does, idly taking in what he can see of the house as he does, and the decorating is so generic that it makes Eggsy cringe a little inside. It would do the trick if a person got invited here and wasn’t suspicious of everything, but all Eggsy can do is take in how things don’t all quite line up.
Not that it matters that none of the faces in the picture frames match up, anyways. They probably weren’t expecting anyone to be brought back here that didn’t need to be.
Harry turns the corner into the kitchen, stepping aside when he’s just through the entryway. Eggsy’s brow furrows, but then a blur is crashing into him and he’s stumbling backwards into the wall, arms around Roxy, who’s shaking a little. “I take it Roxy didn’t make it onto the Olympic team of her own merits?” Eggsy asks, earning him a hard poke to the side accompanied by a muffled, Fuck you, spoken into his shoulder.
Harry grabs the mug on the counter, taking a sip from it, glasses nowhere to be seen. Merlin is seated at the kitchen table, the two computer screens in front of him a wall in between himself and Eggsy. His voice is only slightly muffled by the makeshift barrier when he speaks. “Yes and no,” he says. “Roxy is on the team so that we could have an in, but as you well know she can more than hold her own.”
“An in for what?” Eggsy asks, breathing laboured, and he finally has to shove at Roxy’s shoulders. “Fuck, Rox, I’m going to crack a rib again.”
“Don’t care,” she says.
“We need him in one piece and competition-ready, Roxy,” Harry says, taking another sip of his tea, and Eggsy feels Roxy frown but she still takes a step back.
“You going to tell me what for?” Eggsy asks, rolling his shoulders out. “Or are you just going to keep talking me in circles?”
Harry nods towards the table that Merlin is camped out at, surrounded by three empty chairs. “Have a seat, Eggsy.”
“I’d rather stay standing, if it’s all the same to you.” Eggsy’s been sitting too long today, and there’s all this nervous energy that’s travelling through his veins and making him antsy. He wishes he could do a handstand or five to clear his head, and Harry would probably let him if he asks, but he’s not going anywhere until he gets his answers.
Something about the look on Harry’s face makes Merlin snort again, but Eggsy can’t parse out exactly what it is. Harry sighs and sets his cup on the counter and then says, easy as you like, “Merlin and I knew your father. He sacrificed his life to save our own.”
Eggsy blinks. “Maybe I will take that chair,” he says, and Roxy is silently guiding him to the closest before he can do anything embarrassing like fall over. He’d suspected that Harry knew his dad—how could he not, if he was the one who sprung him out of jail—but hearing it…finally getting to the meat of it, not just dancing around questions no one knows the answers to…
Roxy sets a mug at his elbow; coffee, just the way that he likes it, and squeezes his shoulder before sitting down in another empty chair. Eggsy holds it immediately for want to do something with his hands, because even though he’s sitting he still needs to keep busy somehow.
Harry remains standing. He’s contemplating his mug, which Eggsy is just fine with because he’s not sure he could handle a healthy dose of Harry Hart’s scrutiny right now.
“He was not in the marines, as was believed. He was training to become a Kingsman, and while on a training mission he caught something I missed. Something that would’ve cost the lives of every man present.”
“So, he was like a spy?” Eggsy asks. He takes a drink when Harry doesn’t answer right away; the coffee is the perfect temperature, made just the way he likes it, and it helps to settle him. Ground him.
“Training,” Harry says, “but yes.”
“So you lot are all—”
“Merlin and I are. Roxy is a relation to another agent, and as we needed someone of her age and talents to get an in, she was recruited for this mission.”
Eggsy’s brow pinches, and he takes another drink. “I suppose you’re not allowed to tell me what the mission is?”
Harry shrugs, and it’s as much of an answer as any. Merlin says, “We can’t tell you much, lad, but we can tell you that it’s to do with the threat that’s been made against the O2 arena.”
“So Foster knows?”
“Only that,” Harry says. At the raised eyebrow Eggsy throws at him, he elaborates. “Foster and I have a shared history. I’ve met him on a mission before and as such he knows the nature of my true employment, so when I appeared under the illusion of being Roxy’s trainer he saw right through it, as I figured he might.”
Eggsy resists the urge to tap his foot against the ground, settling for bouncing his knee instead. “You wanted him to? To know that something was up. You could’ve sent any other spy in, surely.”
“Agent,” Harry corrects, setting his mug on the counter and his lips quirk into a small smile, “but yes. It was decided that it would be better to send someone in that Foster was already familiar with. The threat is legitimate, and we needed a way to get to the into the behind-the-scenes area of the O2, as it were. Having Foster on our side to assure people that I am who I say I am has been greatly beneficial.”
Eggsy nods, mulling that over, but before he can even think of another question Merlin hums and says, “Harry, Arthur’s pinged you. Wants you to go to the shop.”
Harry’s expression is so neutral, all the time, that even the tick of his lips turning slightly downward strikes Eggsy as hard as a severe frown would. “Did he say what for?”
“Forwarded the details to your glasses.”
Harry’s hand twitches upward, in the direction where Eggsy can see the glasses peeking out of his breast pocket. “I’m sorry, Eggsy,” he says, and he actually sounds apologetic, “but I’m afraid the rest of this conversation will have to be put on hold.”
There’s more? Eggsy’s surprised that he’s gotten this much out of them. “That’s alright,” Eggsy says. “I’m guessing I’m staying here tonight?”
Harry finishes off his tea and sets his mug on the counter. “You would be correct.”
“You think I could get some food?”
A laugh rumbles out of Merlin, and even Roxy’s smiling. Harry says, “Of course. Merlin and Roxy will handle it, as well as any other questions you may have.”
“Brilliant. Thanks, guv.”
“Don’t call me guv,” Harry says as he steps away from the counter, and Eggsy waves him away. Harry steps out of the kitchen and into the hallway, and the silence that ensues as Harry prepares to go back out into the London night isn’t awkward. Eggsy’s actually feeling kind of drowsy; if he weren’t so fucking hungry, he’d probably go to wherever his designated room is and pass out right now.
“Eggsy,” Harry says, snapping Eggsy out of his thoughts, and Eggsy looks up to where he’s reappeared in the kitchen doorway, hesitating.
“Yeah?” Eggsy asks when he’s not immediately forthcoming. Harry’s not quite—bashful, but there’s something in his demeanour that’s so vastly different from the easy confidence the man usually puts out. He’s got his glasses back on, suit covered by a trench coat and umbrella hanging casually from one hand.
“I’d hoped to have never gotten a call from that number,” Harry eventually says quietly, “but I don’t regret answering. Enjoy your evening.”
This week has been a *week*, y'all, but if I didn't hammer this out now then you wouldn't be getting anything until like, late next week and that is too long in between updates, for me. You were supposed to get this on Thursday, no word of a lie, but then it kept getting longer and longer and I couldn't get out of this chapter without Harry explaining. Y'know
Also, I've been a little antsy to write Merlin, if you couldn't tell
(Merlin is always my favourite. I watched TGC with my mom last night and my heart was hurting at the opening bagpipes lordy)
(also also, I apologize if this chapter is crap but it GOT OUT OF HAND and I love you all very much)
This is how the evening should probably go:
Merlin finishes up his work for the day, whatever the fuck it is—the bloke’s got three screens at his disposal, Eggsy doesn’t know much about what it is that Merlin’s doing, but it must be important. Roxy orders takeaway, probably, more familiar with the nearby restaurants than Eggsy is. Eggsy calls his mother and actually gets an answer, and she’s okay if feeling a little sick.
Roxy and Eggsy curl up on opposite ends of the couch, toes touching, as they tuck into the takeaway. Merlin mutters something about health benefits but it’s a token protest more than anything because he eats like he hasn’t had a proper meal in twenty-four hours. They watch the telly quietly for a bit, and then Eggsy and Roxy go to bed at a self-respectable time because they have practice to be at early the next morning because, super-secret spy mission or not, the Olympics are in under a week.
It’s how the evening should go. It’s probably how Harry intended the evening to go, even though Eggsy suspects the man’s got a mischievous streak a mile wide. They’ve all got parts to play, even if Eggsy’s not too sure where he fits in this if he fits in it at all, and food and a good night’s sleep has never steered him wrong.
This is how the evening actually goes:
Merlin’s work is never done, but he pauses it well enough when plied away by takeaway and scotch. Roxy does order the takeaway, but Eggsy compels her to order half the menu even if they don’t have a hope of eating it all because what’s a super-secret spy organization got all that money for, if not to spend?
“Research and development,” Merlin answers petulantly, but he still hands over the card. Roxy throws him a beautiful smile, one that’s probably slain the hearts and wills of lesser men. Eggsy pours him another scotch.
Eggsy and Roxy do end up sitting on the couch, but they don’t settle at opposite ends of the couch with their toes touching like nervous teenagers; Roxy settles on the end, and Eggsy sits in the middle, tucked as close as he can but not so close that he’s an inconvenience while they’re eating. When Merlin comes to join them Eggsy pats the cushion beside him in a welcoming sort of way, because Eggsy might be from the estates but he can manage a basic sort of cordial, and Merlin blinks at him before taking a seat in the armchair, sipping his scotch.
“Cold, guv,” Eggsy says.
Merlin rolls his eyes, looking all the world like he doesn’t get paid enough for this. “I don’t need to see your food, Eggsy.”
They do turn on the telly, idly flipping through the channels until they land on a news report. Merlin watches it avidly as Eggsy goes up for seconds. It’s all very normal, honestly, even if Eggsy doesn’t know why a bloke of Merlin’s profession would want to watch the news like a bloke of Merlin’s age when he probably knows so much more than the news reports. Merlin’s clearly a tech guy of some sort; perhaps concocting cover stories are part of Merlin’s responsibilities. Eggsy imagines it as he scoops more food onto his plate: a night like tonight, Merlin all on his own, glass of scotch at his elbow as he cackles over his cover stories—
He misses his plate at the emphatic, “Those fuckers,” that comes from the living room halfway through the daydream, food landing square on the counter. Eggsy maneuvers it back onto the spoon the best as he can, dumping it onto his plate—this is a secret spy organization owned safe house, the counter is probably passably clean—and meandering back into the living room.
Eggsy takes a moment to marvel at the scene. Roxy’s laughing into her hand, trying to hide her smile with her sleeve as her plate balances perilously on the arm of the couch. There’s a balled up napkin on the floor in front of the telly, like it was thrown. On the armchair, an angry Scotsman has a vein in his forehead that looks like it’s about two seconds away from bursting as he takes comfort in his scotch.
Eggsy’s eyes pass over the TV for clues, but he highly doubts it’s the sunshine in the forecast that’s got Merlin so worked up. “What happened?” he asks as he sits back down, Roxy immediately tucking her toes under his thigh again.
Neither of them answer immediately; Eggsy gives Roxy a confused look, and she just shrugs and waves a fork at Merlin. Merlin, who doesn’t quite look like he’s trying to cause the television to spontaneously combust with the power of his mind alone, but still has about ten curse words on the tip of his tongue.
“Merlin,” Eggsy says, “perhaps you should talk about it, yeah? Talking about it makes everything better. Y’shouldn’t be bottling up all those nasty feelings.”
“Not when it’s those arseholes at MI6 taking credit for my work,” Merlin mutters.
Eggsy raises an eyebrow. “I didn’t realize you were allowed to take credit for your work.”
“I’m not,” Merlin says, “and normally I don’t mind; I’m an anonymous contractor, or something of the sort. But for them to just outright claim it, like it was their bloody idea—”
Eggsy says, “Can’t you just hack ‘em or something? Make them pay that way?” Because he suspects Merlin couldn’t give a shit if credit is given at all, so long as MI6 isn’t lying through their teeth about it.
“I did that last time,” Merlin replies, no shame or regret to be found, and Eggsy’s not even fucking surprised this is a regular occurrence. “I’ve been told that if I react that way again, I’ll have to go down a screen for a month.”
“A screen? That it?”
Merlin levels him with a glare that would fell a lesser man.
“Okay,” Eggsy amends, “not just a screen. But seriously, mate, of all the things to be concerned about—”
Something on Merlin’s face changes, anger abruptly melting away, and Eggsy cuts himself off before he even registers that Merlin’s raised a hand. Eggsy eats some more of his food so that his mouth is not just awkwardly hanging open, and Merlin turns up at the volume.
“…urge the public that the reports are unsubstantiated, and that the authorities are looking into the threats as we speak. We repeat, reports of planned attacks at Olympic venues are being investigated, and the public is urged to remain calm.”
“Venues?” Roxy says when Merlin takes another sip of scotch, assuming that it’s safe to talk. “As in, more than one?”
“Not as far as we’re aware,” Merlin says, but his brow is furrowing. “We have all the venues under surveillance, of course, but the O2 was the only one with a communicated threat.”
“Do you think that’s what Harry and Arthur are talking about right now?”
“Maybe,” Merlin says, but there’s a pinch to his eyes that suggests he’s not convinced. He sighs, taking his glasses off for a second so that he can well and proper rub his forehead, and then he pushes up from the armchair. “I’ve got to get back to work, see if this can’t be contained. A panicked public is not a good public. And Eggsy?”
Eggsy’s eyes snap to him. “Yeah?"
“You don’t know anything. You just found out.”
“What are you—”
But then Eggsy’s mobile goes off, ringtone sounding from wherever it’s been stashed in the kitchen. Harry probably wasn’t going to give it back to him at all until tomorrow, but Merlin must’ve established it wasn’t a threat because he goes to get it. Before he hands it over, he looks Eggsy right in the eye. “I’m serious, lad.”
Eggsy says, “What’s said in this house stays here. Harry said so, and I agreed. I’m not going to blow this for you, guv.”
Merlin nods, shoulders releasing some of the tension that Eggsy didn’t even realize they had been holding. The mobile goes off again, and Merlin hands it over before the ringtone can even finish its song before disappearing back into the kitchen. Roxy squeezes his shoulder in solidarity before she too disappears, maybe to—debrief or something, fuck if he knows.
It’s just him and his mobile. Him and—he glances at the screen—Jamal.
He answers. “Hey—”
“Have you seen the fucking news?” Jamal demands.
Eggsy clears his throat. “I just found out, mate. Look, I’m sure it’s fine.”
Jamal rants on about how it’s nowhere near fucking fine, and Eggsy lets him, thinking too much about how the lie had been easy on his tongue.
There’s millions of reasons Eggsy shouldn’t be sneaking out of a spy safe house, he’s sure.
It’s not that he doesn’t want to stay—he does, desperately. He hadn’t been awake when Harry had crept in last night but there’s four pairs of shoes by the door now instead of three, and Eggsy thinks that he’d enjoy breakfast with Harry and Roxy and Merlin before practice. He thinks that he’d enjoy it quite a bit, and had been tempted to roll over and go back to sleep until Roxy would take it upon herself to wake him up, but when he’d checked his mobile to see the time it had confronted him with a picture of Daisy.
He can’t get used to this, because as much as he enjoys spending time with them, as much as he wants to know more, this isn’t his real life. This is a slice, and soon enough the Olympics will be over and the threat will be vanquished and Harry and Roxy and Merlin will disappear out of his life forever.
He’s used to people disappearing. It’s just more difficult when they get close. And now that Eggsy’s used the medal, used his one chance, there’s no way he’ll be able to see them again after this.
So he sneaks out. It’s laughably easy. He leaves a few notes in the kitchen, just so that they don’t panic too much—let’s them know that he’s fine, just nipped out to go and train early. One at Merlin’s station, one at the coffeemaker, one artfully arranged on Harry’s umbrella.
Admittedly, six-thirty in the morning is a bit too early for practice, but Eggsy’s got all this nervous energy and maybe practicing will settle it. Maybe the smell of chalk will soothe his rough edges.
He’s hoping, anyways.
The door locks itself shut behind him. It sounds final. Eggsy looks at the house for a moment, wishing and hoping, but when a light upstairs turns on like it knows he gets going to where the internet said the nearest tube station was. He’s not done anything wrong, he just—he can’t be here. Last night was too good. He needs space.
It takes more line hopping than normal to get to his last station, and Eggsy uses the time to fire off messages to his mum and Ryan and Jamal and assuring them he’s still alive. None of them text back, and Eggsy swallows down the panic that starts to bubble up; it’s not even seven in the morning yet. They’re probably just not awake. They’re not awake, but they’re safe, because he has no reason to think that Ryan and Jamal aren’t alright, and Harry said that his mum would be taken care of.
He texts Mrs. Blakely, who is up, because Daisy is a small child with no respect for any concept of time. Mrs. Blakely hardly minds, and Eggsy tells her he’ll let her know later if she needs to keep Daisy another night.
She’d be okay with it, Eggsy knows. Maybe it would be for the best if she just held onto Daisy until after Eggsy was done competing. She wouldn’t mind, but something ugly twists in Eggsy’s chest because fuck if he doesn’t feel terrible. Mrs. Blakely is just a little old lady who happened to befriend the Unwins when they moved to the estates. She didn’t ask for this shit.
Eggsy takes a deep breath, adjusting the strap of his bag on his shoulder. It’s fine. Everything’s fine.
Except it’s not.
Foster’s gym is not an easy thing to break into. Eggsy’s never done it before, but he knows the mechanics of the lock and he knows how to deactivate the alarm system, not that there’s anything in here regular robbers would care about. The lock almost gives him a little bit of trouble, but he persuades it to open, and his hands dance across the alarm system to turn it off. He locks the door behind him because he doesn’t want to be caught unawares, but he leaves the alarm system off. Foster probably got a notification or something as soon as the door popped open due to activity out of the ordinary. Eggsy figures he won’t go very long without being confronted.
For now, until the moment of his reckoning, he leaves the lights off, kicks off his shoes, and collapses onto the nearest mat. He’s not going to sleep, but the chalk and sweat smell lulls him into a place that’s a lot like rest.
I totally intended on updating last week, but then Life Happened (TM). Also, I see my previous guesstimate of being finished by the new year and revise it to the end of January. I've still got quite a few short stories to finish, but I also want to get this done before I start working on my Big Bang story.
Thanks, as always, for your support and your patience. You guys are the real MVPs. Happy Holidays!
Foster keeps him waiting.
Eggsy’s not surprised. He tries not to let it bother him, tries to be content with laying on the mat and counting sheep and breathing, but his fingers are starting to twitch with impatience. He supposes that Foster wouldn’t just rush out of his flat at first notice, that he probably has something along the lines of a morning routine, but apparently somebody breaking into his gym doesn’t rate very high on Foster’s list of important things.
Eggsy’s phone doesn’t ring. He resists the impulse to check the time. He doesn’t know how long he’s been laying down for, but it’s still fucking early, and Foster won’t let anyone else beat him to the gym when he knows that Eggsy is waiting for him.
Fear tries to sneak up on him in the wait, even as Eggsy tries to push it away. Foster would be well within his rights to bench Eggsy with the knowledge that he has of the situation right now, charges miraculously dropped or not. A banned substance was found on his person. Eggsy could be doping. Foster could sit him, for the sake of having absolutely no scrutiny cast on the team that he brings with him to the Olympics. It might be easier than trying to explain to the rest of the team how Eggsy is free with nary a charge pressed against him.
Eggsy could still be shit out of luck, Harry Hart bailing his arse out of jail or not.
Deep breaths. He relishes in the stretch of his ribcage, the strain of his lungs as he holds the breath, the relief to be found in the release. He’s fine, for now. It’ll all be fine. Somehow.
The door clicks, someone unlocking it. Eggsy tenses, but he doesn’t move as it swings open. He relaxes again when he hears Foster go, “Yeah, I got him. He’s fine. A little berk, but still fine.”
A pause in conversation, fabric slipping against fabric as Foster shrugs his jacket off. “Yes, I know. I know. He’s not going anywhere, damn it—”
Foster huffs when whoever he’s talking to interrupts him, and Eggsy can feel him roll his eyes. “I’ll see you later,” he says, and Eggsy feels the mat that he’s on dip as Foster steps on it. “No, seriously, I’m hanging up now. Yes. I—goodbye, Harry, for fuck’s sake.”
Eggsy imagines that he can hear the tone signalling the end of the call, knows that if Foster had a landline he’d be slamming the receiver down. Eggsy doesn’t so much as twitch as his coach approaches him, though his eyebrows raise in surprise when Foster lays down beside him.
A moment in silence passes.
Foster says, “I know you’re not sleeping, you little shit.”
“I could’ve been sleeping, though,” Eggsy points out, eyes still closed, though he feels the tension leak out of him. If Foster’s swearing at him, then he’s figured something out. Then, maybe, everything will be alright. He won’t be kicked off the team. He’ll still be able to compete. “Where would you be if you woke up your star athlete after a terrible night of rest?”
Foster swats blindly at Eggsy’s arm, landing a glancing blow on his right bicep. “That terrible night of rest isn’t my fault now, is it?”
“Good morning to you too, guv,” Eggsy says.
“You owe me a bottle of brandy for that.”
Eggsy’s brow furrows. “For what?”
“Dealing with a panicked Harry Hart,” Foster replies, sounding all the world like he’s used to dealing with a panicked Harry, even if he doesn’t like to do it. Like it’s old hat, at this point. “Why on earth did you think leaving a spy safe house without letting the spies know was a good idea, you arsepick? Please, walk me through it.”
“I left them like, three notes!”
Foster snorts, like he’s not surprised. “They might be spies, but that doesn’t mean they’re infallible. All they knew is that you’re gone. Of course, as soon as I received an alert saying that someone was in the gym, I knew where you were, but fuck, Eggsy, you just got out of jail after someone planted drugs on your person. I don’t blame him for worrying.”
Eggsy grunts, finally opening his eyes and tilting his head so that he can see Foster’s profile. Foster looks unflappable as he contemplates the ceiling, like this is just an ordinary start to an ordinary day before an ordinary practice.
Guilt twists up Eggsy’s throat, trying to choke him. He feels like an imposter, like yesterday was the universe trying to correct itself and get him out of a position he was never meant to be in to begin with. How dare he try to rise above his station, his upbringing? How could he ever think that he could leave the estates behind? Especially with Dean in the picture, fuck, regardless of the shite that he’s pulling with Eggsy’s mum he can’t be around Daisy, he just can’t, Eggsy won’t let him—
“Eggsy,” Foster says softly, and Eggsy wipes a palm across his face as he looks away. Tears are threatening to fall at the corner of his eyes, but Eggsy does not break easily.
“What are you going to tell them?” Eggsy asks, clearing his throat.
The mat shifts as Foster shrugs, unbothered. “I was going to leave that to you, to be honest.”
“Least you can do is tell them the truth, Eggsy,” he replies, like it truly is that easy.
“I don’t have any proof of the truth, though.”
“Do you think your teammates care about you?”
Eggsy’s protests dry up on his tongue. He and his teammates have been training together for months now. They’re not necessarily friends, not in the way that he and Jamal and Ryan are, but for all that gymnastics is an individual sport they are frighteningly close. It’s an intimacy brought on by virtue of training in the same close quarters, every day, with the same goals in mind. Of seeing each other at their worst and best and most ridiculous and everything in between.
It’s an intimacy brought on by knowing what everyone is like, without knowing specific details. Knowing who they are, even though you don’t have why they’re like that.
“I don’t want them to think any different of me,” Eggsy says, dodging the questions, because his teammates do care about him. They know that he’s from the estates but it’s in that vague, disconnected sort of way. Something about him that doesn’t become him, except for when his accent gets a little too thick or he has to care for Daisy. They rib him well enough for it, keeping it light, but something like this—somebody intentionally slipping drugs onto his person in an effort to sabotage him, and fuck him if that doesn’t sound ridiculous—well, that’s real. That’s deep. That’s heavy.
That’s an interruption to this normal that they’ve managed to establish.
Foster looks at his watch, then pushes himself up off the mat with a groan. Eggsy snorts. “You’re getting old, guv.”
“Still a damn sight better than you,” Foster shoots back. The mat dips as he walks in the direction of his office, casually tossing over his shoulder, “You’ve got about half an hour to figure out what you’re going to say before people start showing up. And Eggsy?”
Eggsy shivers against the nerves that have flooded his system. He lifts his head off the mat so that he can look Foster in the eye—well, as well as he can, from the ground. “Yeah, Foster?”
He says it with as much casual cockiness as he can muster, masking his fear as well as he can, but Foster gives him a look that cuts right through it. A look that says he knows more about Eggsy’s position than Eggsy thinks.
“You don’t have to be afraid of them,” Foster says softly, something a lot like understanding in his eyes, and Eggsy lets his head fall back against the mat as Foster walks away.
Remarkably, it’s easier to break the news to his teammates than it is to face Harry.
Not that it makes the actual saying of the words any less heart wrenching. The birds continue their warm-up while pretending that nothing is strange except for a few glances that they throw at him, Roxy excluded, while Foster corrals Eggsy’s teammates around him underneath the high bar. Foster doesn’t say a word in explanation after that; he learns against one of the poles, waving a hand at Eggsy before crossing his arms across his chest.
Eggsy clears his throat. His teammates are patiently staring at him, waiting for him to get his act together, and even though he thought he had it all together the words are getting tangled up in his head. There’s so much shit that he hides from them, and he’s not exactly itching to break open his chest so that he can see where his heart is hurting—
But then Peter cocks an eyebrow at him, daring him. Eggsy has a bit of a reputation, in that he’s never been able to back down from a dare or a bet, for better or for worse. It has resulted in his greatest triumphs and his greatest humiliations, but even when he knows it’s probably going to end badly for him he doesn’t back down. He doesn’t back down because that way, if it doesn’t work out well for him, at least he can say that he tried.
Peter knows this full well, because Eggsy was once talking about doing giants and how it was probably his favourite part of the high bar. “I could do them all fucking afternoon,” he believes his actual words were, and Peter had tilted his head and cocked his eyebrow exactly the way that he’s doing now and said, “You can, can you?”
Foster had been off working with James on floor, and Eggsy had felt his chest swell, and between one blink and the next he was caught in a “Who Can Do The Most Giants In A Row Without Dying” competition with Peter. To this day Eggsy doesn’t know how the fuck they got away with it for so long without Foster noticing, but he had gone first and Peter had gone second and Foster had stormed over four giants before Peter could beat Eggsy’s number.
(Not that Eggsy was worried, mind you; Peter’s form had been loosening, and one of the stipulations had been that the giants were no less than perfect. Danny was their unbiased judge, and the one keeping count.)
The point is: Eggsy can’t back down from a bet or a dare, and Peter knows, and knows what the fuck that raised eyebrow does to Eggsy, and the story is spilling out of him before he can even register the first words. And it all comes out. How his mum’s been working long and irregularly scheduled shifts so he’s been having to figure out Daisy’s care, how Daisy’s been having problems with it, how Dean’s around now and he’s new and he’s putting the moves on Eggsy’s mum, and he’s also conveniently the estates’ newest drug lord and he slipped the drugs into Eggsy’s pocket when Eggsy went to confront him.
He doesn’t explain how he got out of jail, how the charges were dropped, just says that they were. He can feel Harry’s eyes boring into him from whichever wall he’s leaning against, just waiting for his turn, and Eggsy’s not exactly itching to increase his ire. Harry hasn’t told him what is and isn’t okay to say, so Eggsy says nothing. It’s the least he can do, after yesterday.
There’s stunned silence for a moment after he finishes, and part of that is just his teammates processing—it has to be, even Foster looks a little stunned, and he knew more than the rest of them—but then the silence drags. It drags on, and Eggsy’s heart fucking sinks.
They’re not going to believe him.
He’ll leave, if he has to. He’s here for him, because it’s the only chance he’ll get, but if he’s too much of a distraction, if his teammates can’t get over it, then he won’t make Foster make the choice, he’ll just leave—
But then Tom says, “Fucking hell, Eggsy.”
Eggsy blinks, briefly diverted from his panic. “What?”
James shifts from one foot to the other, unable to get his words together. Peter clears his throat. “We didn’t know.”
Eggsy shrugs. “I never told, did I? Weren’t your fault.”
“Still,” Peter says, injecting a world full of meaning into the word, and Eggsy bites the inside of his cheek.
“It’s normal for me, I guess,” Eggsy says. “Look, I’m really sorry about yesterday—”
“It’s done and over,” Peter says.
Foster claps suddenly, startling them. “Brilliantly put, Peter. Now, if you lot won’t mind—go warm up.”
And that’s how it goes. They go warm up, racing each other around the floor to get their blood pumping, and then it goes on like any other day. Nobody brings it up for the rest of the practice, Eggsy works the fuck out of his parallel bar routine, and everything is more or less normal. He’s so used to Harry looking at him that even that almost manages to fade into the background, except Eggsy know that Harry still has something to say to him.
Foster must’ve learned his “how to torture people” tips from Harry, though, because Harry makes Eggsy wait, and then when Harry finally pulls him aside when he’s on his way to the vault (which he’s not going to complain about), he just crosses his arms over his chest and looks Eggsy in the eye and says nothing.
It drives him fucking crazy.
He tilts his chin up in defiance. Harry is looking for an apology. Eggsy says, “I left three notes.”
“You should’ve waited until someone was awake,” Harry says, voice thin. “Do you have any idea what it’s like to wake up and not find someone where you left them?”
“Three notes!” Eggsy says, his voice ticking upwards in pitch. “You’re a fucking—”
Harry’s eyes flash dangerously and his lips thin impossibly more, and Eggsy remembers, and nobody is looking at them but that doesn’t mean people can’t hear them, so he quickly reroutes the thought.
“—trainer, attention to detail is supposed to be your thing.”
And—well, at least, Harry looks a little abashed at that. He clears his throat, tries a different approach. “You understand why I was—”
“Panicked?” Eggsy asks, eyebrow raised.
“Concerned,” Harry says, not giving him an inch, like even looking abashed in the first place was too much of a concession. His voice drops and he dips his head forward. “You’re an Olympic athlete and the Games are less than a week away, you were brought in on what’s happening, and what with everything that happened yesterday—you can’t blame us for potentially thinking the worst.”
Eggsy has no idea what Harry has seen in his career as a spy, but he hopes to ask, someday, so long as Harry doesn’t disappear after the Olympics are open. What he does know is that Harry was there when Eggsy’s dad died, that Eggsy’s dad died so that Harry and the others could live, which means that Harry would’ve seen it.
Would’ve seen the worst that could happen.
“Yes, Harry,” Eggsy says, “I understand.”
Harry nods, and his shoulders don’t quite slump with relief but they definitely relax.
“Three fucking notes, though, Harry.”
Harry takes a step back and says, “Merlin wouldn’t have been able to decipher your scrawl regardless.”
“Fuck you, Harry,” Eggsy says, but he’s smiling. “Fuck you.”
Harry nods. He’s not smiling, but his eyes are warm. “I best not keep you for much longer,” he says. “Foster is giving me grace, but you do have to train.”
Vault. Right. “I fucking hate vault.”
“Run along, Eggsy.”
Eggsy rolls his eyes, but he continues on his way. At least until he remembers that Harry had left yesterday, and Eggsy would kind of like to learn what he can, what Harry is able to tell, but he has to pick up Daisy and figure out what the fuck is up with his mum—
He’s half turned around, but Harry beats him to it. “Later, Eggsy,” he says.
Later. He can do later.
So long as he survives vault, first.
I'm just always going to apologize for the time in between updates. I am The Worst (TM).
(we are also entirely at the point in drafting where every word feels like pulling teeth and I am convinced they are all crap and I'm sorry)
There might be two chapters left! Maybe!
(I love you guys. There are so many of you. Thank you always for being patient with me)
The journey back to the estates takes a little bit longer than it normally does. Eggsy’s a slightly burning bundle of limbs by the time he steps off the train at his final stop, ready to walk the rest of the way, because Foster hadn’t gone easy on him despite the trauma of the days previous. Eggsy wouldn’t have wanted him to have gone easy on him, to give anyone with any lingering doubts that he didn’t rightfully earn his place on the team, but still. He plans to use his joints and his muscles for the rest of his life, yeah? He has plans for them beyond the Olympics that involve the use of his limbs, plans like “living a semi-normal life”.
He doesn’t mean to be so twitchy as he approaches Mrs. Blakely’s flat, but he can’t help but feel as if he’s being watched.
It’s nothing more than nerves, Eggsy tries to tell himself when he startles so hard at a cat knocking over a garbage bin he almost falls over. If Harry has access to the strings that can get Eggsy out of jail, it means that Eggsy shouldn’t be worried about walking in the area that he grew up in. And well, if something does happen—the card that Harry had pressed into his hand before Eggsy left the gym is burning a hole in his pocket. They hadn’t had much time to talk, Eggsy leaving just as Roxy started ironing out the wrinkles in her bar routine, but the look in Harry’s eye had been enough.
Eggsy’s not alone.
He leans hard against the wall next to Mrs. Blakely’s door, rubbing a tired hand over his face. Takes a moment for himself to just relax, and breathe, and put himself back together before he has to be all smiles for Daisy.
He has no clue what’s waiting for him back at the flat. He still hasn’t heard from his mum, though Harry or Merlin or someone surely would’ve told him if something was amiss. No news is good news, and he has to believe that there’ll be nothing out of the ordinary when he gets home. That his mum’ll be asleep in bed, that everything will be clean, and that Dean will no longer be a problem.
Eggsy takes a deep breath, tilts his head so that his face can fully take in the sunshine, and knocks on the door. He’s not kept waiting long. He barely has enough time to register the door flying open before Daisy’s shriek of, “Eggsy!” reaches his ears and she’s jumping into his arms. Mrs. Blakely is stood off to the side, amused, as Eggsy brings his sister up and holds her tight, one hand at the back of her head as her little hands clutch at the back of his shirt.
“Hey, flower,” Eggsy says gently, burying his nose into her hair and breathing. “Were you good for Mrs. Blakely?”
Daisy doesn’t answer, face firmly buried in the crook of his neck, but he didn’t expect her to, either. Mrs. Blakely smiles fondly at him. “After she spoke to you, everything was right as rain,” Mrs. Blakely says. “She didn’t put up a fuss.”
“Brilliant. I’m sorry, again—”
“You don’t have to be,” Mrs. Blakely says, interrupting him with a kind smile and a gleam in her eye. “It’s alright, Eggsy. Have you thought about what you’ll be doing with her when you move into the Village?”
Eggsy blinks at her. “Village?”
“The Olympic Village, lad.”
Right. The Olympic Village. Where he’ll be staying as he competes in the Olympics in less than a week, where he’ll lay his head down to rest after the torch is lit until he’s done his part. Foster had spoken to them about it ages ago now—Eggsy remembers the conversation, barely, in that he’d nodded along when he was supposed to and signed a piece of paper in regard to it because there’s nothing Foster loves quite as much as getting his athletes to sign papers and contracts and things.
Sometimes his real life feels so divorced from his Olympic life that he forgets that the choices he makes in one has impact on the other, and vice versa. Staying in the Olympic Village is all well and good for Olympic Athlete Eggsy, but for Estates Eggsy, who still hasn’t seen his mother and still knows she won’t be able to look after Daisy, depending on what her work schedule is and—other things—
“I couldn’t ask,” Eggsy says.
“Good thing you don’t have to,” Mrs. Blakely says, like that’s all there is to it. Like it’s that clear cut, Daisy staying with her for a few days. Maybe a week, depending on how the preliminaries go.
“Besides, we had a good time last night, didn’t we, Daisy?”
Daisy nods against his shoulder before Eggsy can cut this off, turning her head so that she can smile at Mrs. Blakely. Eggsy’s determination starts to crumble, but they already don’t pay Mrs. Blakely to begin with, there’s no way that he could ask her to take on such a large responsibility with no compensation. “Mrs. Blakely, really, it’s alright. I’ll figure it out.”
“You don’t need to,” Mrs. Blakely says. “It already has been.”
“You shouldn’t have to be worrying about your sister when you’ll already be worrying about competing and doing your best, Eggsy,” Mrs. Blakely says, and Eggsy could protest some more but the door has been shut in his face. He’s spent his whole life figuring out what fights are losing battles, and he unequivocally knows that this is one of them.
“Yeah, alright,” Eggsy says, scrunching his nose up to try to keep away the reluctant smile that wants to sneak onto his face.
“When do you go to the Village?”
“I’m not—sure,” Eggsy says, because he truly wasn’t paying attention. “Two nights from now? Maybe three? I think Foster wants us in there before the Opening Ceremonies, and in time to be able practice getting from there to the O2. I’ll let you know when I know?”
“That would be lovely.”
Eggsy shuffles from foot to foot, wondering if his relief shows on his face as much as he thinks it does. “Thanks, Mrs. Blakely.”
“Anytime, Eggsy,” Mrs. Blakely replies, “even if you weren’t an Olympic athlete.”
She gives him a cheeky wink, and his smile breaks out. Daisy’s still quiet in his arms, not quite asleep but more than content to sit quietly, so Eggsy gives Mrs. Blakely a nod that communicates the hug he wishes he could give her.
Mrs. Blakely smiles like she knows. Hell, after all this time, maybe she does.
Eggsy bounces his sister on his hip as he struggles to unlock the door to their flat. The sun is still la few hours from setting but the light is tinting everything golden. Eggsy’s not superstitious enough to think that the message of golden is for him, a sign of things to come, because if he did then he wouldn’t let himself pretend the clouds aren’t there.
The clouds are rolling in, though, one of the most dependable characters in London weather, and Eggsy ignores him. He’s already seen the worst of his clouds—it should be golden for him, from him on out.
The flat is dead silent when they walk in, the lights off and the blinds closed. Immediately after Eggsy nudges the door shut with his foot Daisy starts squirming, so he sets her down and kneels so that he’s at eye level before she can run off. It takes a moment for her to look right at him, but when she does Eggsy raises a single finger to his lips. Daisy, understanding, copies the motion, and she’s a mostly silent little ninja as she makes a mad dash for her room.
The air conditioning unit shudders into action as Eggsy toes off his shoes. The door to his mum’s room is shut, and he’s not too sure what he’ll find on the other side. If he’ll like what he finds on the other side. If there is anything to find.
He won’t be able to keep Daisy away from it long, though, and it’s better to know what he’s dealing with than to have his baby sister stumble upon…something.
Eggsy sets his gym bag down and walks quietly in his socked feet to his mum’s door. He knocks once, quietly. “Mum?” he asks.
He bites his lip as he waits, rocking back slightly on his heels, and enough time passes that he doubts. The shadow sneaks up sudden and oppressive, rolling the anxiety down his spine like rain, but before he can dig his phone out of his pocket and call Harry his mum says, “Eggsy?”
Her voice is paper thin and exhausted. Eggsy rolls his shoulders back, taking a deep breath. “Can I come in?”
“Is the baby with you?”
“She’s in her room.”
A beat. “Alright, then.”
Eggsy opens the door as quietly as he can, hoping that Daisy doesn’t decide that now is when other noises in the flat are relevant to her interests. He closes the door most of the way behind him, leaving it cracked open just in case, but stands so that it’ll hit his back if Daisy tries to open it.
The light that comes in from the crack is just enough to dimly light the room, a single beam of it running diagonal over one of the bottom corners of the bed. He can barely make out the lump of his mother beneath the covers, curled up into a ball. She’s not facing him. Neither of them speak even though there’s so much to say, and the words balloon up in his chest.
This isn’t the life that she intended for him, for them.
It’s not the life that she intended for herself, either.
But surely it’s not all bad, is it? Surely she hasn’t made mistakes or decisions that have moved the future she once dreamed of firmly out of reach. She might not be able to have it with Eggsy’s dad, but it’s still there, still possible.
She just has to see it.
“Mum,” Eggsy says, “Dean—”
“I know, Eggsy,” she whispers. “I know.”
“He’s a load of shite,” Eggsy says anyways, because holding in negative emotions is not good.
His mum shifts under the covers. Her back is still to him. “I just—he seemed so nice, Eggsy. And with working so much, and looking after Daisy, and you being gone—it gets lonely, sometimes.”
Eggsy swallows against the lump in his throat. “It’ll get better, Mum.”
“How can you be so sure?”
He’s not, not really. He knows that his mum is worth more, can do more, but that only goes so far if she doesn’t believe it for herself. More than that, there’s inherent risk involved, and if she decides it’s a risk not worth taking—well, Eggsy can’t fault her for that. Not after all that she’s already been through.
He’s going to be competing in the Olympics, though. Despite the chances of him even getting there, despite Dean doing his best to ruin them—he’s going to be competing in the Olympics. And if a chav from the estates can compete in the Olympics, if he can be a medal favourite on the parallel bars against some of the world’s best, then his mum can do anything.
“Because,” Eggsy says finally, “if I’m not sure of that, then I’m not sure that Daisy can get out of here, yeah? If things don’t get better, then there’s not much more for her then what we see around us. Then I won’t succeed at the Olympics—never mind what the fuck I’m going to do after they’re over. Then you’ll never find love or happiness again, and you’ll work yourself to death. And honestly? I’m not okay with any of those options. So it’s got to get better, you get me?”
When his mum doesn’t say anything, he finally moves away from the door to gingerly sit on the very edge of her bed. He puts a hand on her shoulder, putting everything he feels into the gesture. “There’s shades of brilliance on the horizon, Mum. Just hold on a little bit longer, yeah?”
Her shoulders hitch, and Eggsy hears a barely there sniff. “But what if—”
“Can’t focus on the what if’s, Mum,” Eggsy says. “If I did, I’d never do a fucking vault ever again.”
She laughs, a heavy sound. “And we can’t have that, can we?”
“I wish we could,” Eggsy says, “but Foster says that my body is good at it despite what my brain might think.”
A slim hand reaches out of the blankets to lie on top of his where it’s still perched on her shoulder. She rubs her thumb over his fingers, and after a few minutes of that she turns so that she’s laying on her back. “What am I going to do, Eggsy?”
“Stay away from Dean fucking Baker is a start.”
His mouth twists. “You know you have to, Mum.”
Her face is still in the shadows, but Eggsy imagines he can see the furrow of her brow, the twist of her mouth. “I know, love,” she finally says, “but I don’t know how, he’s everywhere—”
And it’s only going to get worse, now that he’s firmly got his claws into this neighbourhood. “Let me worry about Dean,” he says. “You just worry about working and taking care of yourself. Daisy’s going to stay with Mrs. Blakely when I’m at the Village, so you don’t have to worry about her. I’m sure that she’d love for you to visit, but you need some time off too, Mum.”
“I do,” she agrees. “But Eggsy, what are you going to do about Dean? He—”
“Let me worry about Dean,” Eggsy repeats. He might have used up his one favour, but he can’t see Harry denying him another. Not if his family’s safety is at risk.
The bedroom door pushes open suddenly, and Daisy pauses at the sombre atmosphere before she decides that the two adults looking at her is as big of an invitation as she going to get. She runs to the bed, and Eggsy helps her climb up, and Daisy wastes no time crawling over his lap to get to their mum. She immediately settles beside her, laying down with her head on her shoulder, and babbling all about what she and Mrs. Blakely had done as their mum smiles at her with so much love her face can barely contain it.
This is why he does it, Eggsy thinks. This is why his mum does it, too. For moments like this, and hopes of them in the future.
And it will be enough to carry them through.
I've recently had a major case of Life(TM), but I'm never gonna forget about you. Even when the words don't want to cooperate. This chapter took FOREVER, and it was because I couldn't unpuzzle that opening scene, so I started writing other parts, and then I *thought* it was going to be super long, but a scene break happened at a nice place.
All that to say that you shouldn't be waiting *two weeks* for the next update (I am so sorry)
Thankful for all of your support and comments and kudos, always
Between eating and sleeping and training and thinking about how he’s competing in the Olympics in under a week—not just marching in the Opening Ceremonies before Queen and country, but legitimately chalking up his hands as he glares down the parallel bars before a global audience—and Foster glaring at him and telling Eggsy he’s not working hard enough whenever the thought crosses his face, the time flies by.
Jamal and Ryan pardon his distraction whenever they hang out, simply smirking at him whenever he comes back to them after staring out the window a little too long. They go out a couple of nights before Eggsy moves into the Olympic Village, his mum swearing she’ll stay at home with Daisy.
“If you’re sure,” Eggsy says, hesitating at the door, and his mum smiles, jostling Daisy on her hip.
“We’re going to have a proper girl’s night, aren’t we, Daisy?” she asks, and Daisy nods, smiling wide around her fist as she tries to eat it.
Ryan tugs on Eggsy’s sleeve like he’s five. “Come on, mate, let’s go.”
“Yeah, yeah, alright,” Eggsy says, walking out. “Lock the door behind me?”
They’re still trying to navigate this strange place, trying to wrangle control of whatever retribution Dean decides is necessary for getting in the way of a relationship with Michelle. Eggsy worries, and worries more when he thinks about his upcoming stay at the Olympic Village, as far from the estates as he can be. There is no easy answer to Dean, not when the police don’t care about another drug lord in this part of London so long as he doesn’t bite off more than he can chew—all Eggsy can do is compete and then get them the fuck out of here, trusting that Harry will somehow be watching them while he’s away.
Even though Harry has more important things on his radar, like preventing a terrorist attack—
Ryan tugs on his sleeve again, and Eggsy nods at his mum, shutting the door behind him. He doesn’t move until he hears the lock click. It won’t be much to keep Dean away, not if he truly wants to get at them, but it’ll at least buy her some time.
He’s not angling to drink a lot tonight, and Jamal and Ryan don’t seem like they want to either, but they still head down to the Black Prince out of habit. Jamal moseys in first to make sure that Dean and his lot aren’t present, then waves Ryan and Eggsy in when he gets the all clear. It’s hardly a busy night—for a Tuesday, it can actually be said that it’s quite busy with the six patrons present—but that’s just fine for Eggsy. The less people he has to worry about, the more that he can relax and just enough being with his friends.
Until the door opens, and Ryan freezes in the middle of the story of the week that has Jamal rolling his eyes like he’s heard it before, and Eggsy knows.
He doesn’t turn, doesn’t look. He’s not alone, and he wouldn’t say he’s afraid, he’s just—cautious.
His mobile feels heavy in his pocket. Eggsy hadn’t just put Harry’s number into his contacts, he has him on speed dial. Number seven, like he’s lucky or something, and Eggsy doesn’t let himself get embarrassed at the justification because Harry’s never going to find out.
“Oi! Muggsy! Just the lad I was looking for.”
Harry’s never going to find out because Eggsy will be dead.
He doesn’t know how close they are, but he nods at Jamal and Ryan. Ryan’s practically chomping at the bit, wanting to say something but knowing it won’t go over well, and Jamal has this quiet sort of fury in his eyes. “Go on,” Eggsy says quietly, hyperaware of the loud footsteps making their way over. “Go on, get, I’ll cover you and call you later, yeah?”
Ryan nods reluctantly, sliding out of the booth. Jamal hesitates, grief and worry managing to trickle into his expression, and Eggsy remembers.
Jamal lost his cousin. Drug deal gone bad.
The bar has emptied out of the few other patrons that had been present, like a pint on a Tuesday isn’t worth a turf war or whatever the fuck they reckon is about to happen. “I’ll be fine, Jamal,” Eggsy says, and it almost sounds convincing. “Trust me.”
“I do trust you,” Jamal mutters, “it’s him I don’t.”
And Eggsy understands, he truly does, but he’s not about to let his best mates get tangled up in his drama. It’s bad enough that Harry’s involved, even though he has access to all of his super secret spy shit. Harry can defend himself. Eggsy’s seen Ryan try to throw a punch—it’s not pretty.
Eggsy gives Jamal a pointed look, footsteps approaching ominously behind him, and Jamal glares at him but he goes. Eggsy stands too, facing the man who would’ve ruined his mum if the cards hadn’t fallen as they did, and puffs his chest up when he sees Dean eying up his mates as they make their way to the door. Trying to decide if they’re worth keeping around. Eggsy says, braver than he feels, “Your issue is with them, not me.”
Dean tilts his head but nods at him, keeping his distance. A thug stands at each shoulder, but Eggsy’s more worried about the one that’s sprawled in the seat directly to Eggsy’s left, flicking a knife open and closed again.
“You’ve given me a spot of trouble,” Dean says when they’re out the door. “I really liked your mum, you know.”
“Well, she didn’t fucking like you.”
“Still brave?” Dean asks. “I don’t know who I spoke to the other day, but they can’t protect you forever. Y’get me?”
Eggsy’s back stiffens with a confidence that isn’t entirely fake. He might not know what all Harry and Merlin and whoever they work for are capable of, but they’re about to take on a mass bombing attempt. More than that, he knows Harry. He knows Merlin. He knows Roxy. “If you’re so sure of that, then keep trying to cozy up to my mum,” Eggsy says, tilting his chin up. “See how fast it goes badly for you.”
The one to Eggsy’s left straightens in his seat, but Dean holds up a hand, eyes on Eggsy. “Watch your back, Muggsy.”
Eggsy smirks and opens his mouth, but Harry’s disembodied voice somehow beats him to it, and Eggsy could cry for how good he sounds. “Actually, Mr. Baker, you would do well to watch yours.”
Eggsy’s not going to ask how Harry’s disembodied voice knew, or how it’s even playing in this dingy bar, somehow louder than the music. Not now, at least. He’s not out of the woods yet, not so long as knife goon keeps flicking it open and shut again.
Dean sputters indignantly, and while Eggsy enjoys the sight he doesn’t fancy getting sliced to ribbons because Harry embarrassed their boss. Not that Eggsy thinks that Harry would let them, but Eggsy’s not exactly wanting to afford them the chance, yeah? So before they can corner him, Eggsy smiles, tips his hat at them, and half runs out the door. He doesn’t need to go far—there’s a black taxi outside, Roxy leaning against it. “Need a lift?” she asks, because she’s an angel.
“I feel like you already know,” Eggsy says.
“You can drive?”
Roxy snorts, opening the back passenger door for him before going to the driver’s side, also getting in the back. “I do,” she says as she buckles up, “but not one of these. I’m not allowed to yet.”
“Then how on earth—”
He gets his answer before he can finish his question, though. The cab pulls away from the curb, driverless, and Eggsy glances at Roxy. “Really?” he asks, and Roxy shrugs but a pleased smile teases at the corners of her mouth all the same.
His mobile vibrates, and Eggsy doesn’t say anything before slipping it out of his pocket.
Jamal: I’ve got the cops ready to dial, just say the word
Eggsy: I’m fine
Jamal: any old person who had your phone could fucking say that
Eggsy rolls his eyes but doesn’t blame Jamal, just takes a selfie and sends it. Jamal, of course, focuses on the important things when he replies.
Jamal: who’s the bird?
Eggsy: a friend
Jamal: I ain’t ever seen that friend
Eggsy: she’s on the team too
Jamal: and have you been hanging out all extra-curricular like? you’ve got the Olympics to think about
Eggsy: we both do. we’re friends. I’ll talk to you tomorrow.
Jamal: I’m telling ryan
Eggsy: good NIGHT jamal
He slips his mobile back into his pocket, ignoring it when it rings and rings again. Eggsy has no qualms with sending him to voicemail, not when more fascinating things ae happening. “So where are we going tonight, Rox?” he asks her. “A club? Back to the house?”
“The cab is taking you home,” she says.
That doesn’t sound exciting at all. “Aw, Rox, come on—”
“I’m not the one in charge of where it’s going,” Roxy interrupts smoothly. “That would be Harry. And if you think I can make him do anything he doesn’t want to do, then you would be very wrong.”
They bicker all the way back to the estates, and Roxy kisses him on the cheek before he gets out the cab. “We’ll see you tomorrow, Eggsy,” she says, and Eggsy likes the sound of that promise. The thought of seeing them tomorrow. They might disappear as soon as the Games are over, for all he knows, so Eggsy will take what he can get.
Practice is much of the same the next day; routines that Eggsy could do in his sleep, wry looks exchanged with Harry, sassing Foster, trying not to be too bewildered at what Roxy can accomplish on beam.
There’s a twist today, though; before Eggsy can transition to vault, the only apparatus he has left, Foster conscripts him to help carry a couple of large boxes from his office to the gym floor. They’re suspiciously light, and Foster really didn’t need the help, but without looking Eggsy just knows.
“Foster,” he says slowly as he tries to navigate Foster’s messy office with a box blocking half his view, “are these—”
“If you don’t hurry up, I will shut the door in your face and you will have to work out how to get out all on your own with no help.”
“Fuck you,” Eggsy says, but the door starts to creak like it’s closing and he panics. “Wait, no, I was kidding Foster, come on, I’m coming.”
It’s not an apology, but Foster takes it as the one it’s meant to be, and he waits patiently as he keeps the door propped open with a foot. The floor isn’t too far away, and Eggsy doesn’t drop the box like he wants to. It’s light, and there’s nothing breakable in it, but he knows exactly what’s in here and he’d never treat it that way.
Foster looks at Eggsy as Eggsy fidgets, unable to keep still, and then a smile breaks wide on his face. “Alright, you lot!” he calls. “I’ve got a present for you!”
Tom arrives first. “Aw, Foster,” he preens, “you shouldn’t have, my birthday’s not for another couple months—”
“Shut up and sit down, Tom,” Foster replies serenely, and Tom smiles as he does. It doesn’t take much longer for everyone else to get here, even the girls. Roxy seats herself beside Eggsy, leaning into his shoulder a bit in greeting, and Harry takes a spot a little behind Foster and the other coaches. Foster claps once and clears his throat, not that he needed to do it; everyone’s attention is unerringly on him, desperate to know what’s in the boxes.
“In under a week,” Foster begins, because he’s a cinematic fucker if nothing else, “you’ll be representing your country in the largest gymnastics competition of your lives. Now, I’ve done my best to try and knock it into your head that this is just another competition, but it doesn’t change the fact that you’ll be wearing the British flag on you instead of your regular uniforms, and the powers that be have decided to kip you up and make sure you look damn good as you kick arse.”
Peter is practically vibrating with anticipation on Eggsy’s other side. “So those are our uniforms, then,” he says, nodding at the boxes.
“Uniforms,” Foster says, “and your Opening Ceremony tracksuit.”
Eggsy’s chest tightens for the briefest second. Opening Ceremony tracksuit, because he’s going to be marching in the Opening Ceremony. Of the Olympic Games. In his home country.
“Fuck,” Eggsy mutters his breath as it all hits him at once, and Foster’s smile turns shark-like as he opens up the boxes. Eggsy wants to crane his neck to see, but there’s not a point, not when he knows that his patience will be rewarded. Foster keeps them on the edge before having pity, pulling out the men’s uniform, and Eggsy leans back on his hands.
It’s red and white and gorgeous, the Union Jack standing proud in the middle of the chest. There’s one of those in there for me, he thinks. One of those is mine.
Foster hands it carefully to Harry, who holds it by the shoulders. He steps back for a moment as Roxy’s coach pulls out one of their leos, very blue in contrary to Eggsy’s red, and he nudges her with a shoulder when her breath hitches.
Their Opening Ceremony outfits are devoid of any colour at all—just white, with golden accents. “A promise of things to come, yeah?” Foster says pointedly, and Eggsy knows he’s not the only one who nods.
They’ll be golden.
“Brilliant,” Foster says. “We’ll hand them out properly at the end of practice, but we wanted to give you a taste right now. Get back to work—we’re almost at the finish line, and I won’t have you losing out now.”
Every time I think we're getting close to the end, this story gets longer and I just
Hope you guys aren't complaining, honestly
(though I don't think you are)
Jamal: why are you doing this in the group chat you wanker
Ryan: Because this is for you too, arsehole, if Eggsy would just
Jamal: ok seriously where is he
Ryan: Like, he’s been ignoring us all day
Ryan: I didn’t hallucinate him saying Foster gave him the day off today right?
Jamal: no u didn’t, but he told us that right before that roxy bird whisked him out of the club so
Ryan: (Do you think they have a thing?)
Jamal: he’d tell us if it was a thing
Ryan: Yes yes yes
Ryan: Are you sure?
Jamal: yes Ryan
Eggsy: Have some fucking chill Ryan
Ryan: Where the hell’ve you been bruv
Ryan: It’s your LAST DAY OF FREEDOM
Eggsy: I’m not going to jail Ry
Jamal: yeah you already did that bit didn’t you
Eggsy: fuck off
Ryan: No. It’s your last day of freedom
Ryan: Assuming you’re free
Ryan: You are free, right?
Eggsy: I’ve got to finish packing, but other than that, yeah
Jamal: wtf do you have to pack if you forget something you can literally visit home
Eggsy: Fuck you, I have new friends now
Ryan: WAIT EGGSY NO PLZ
Ryan: I cannot believe he’d do this to a bruv
Jamal: he’s literally done this before ryan
Eggsy’s halfway in his closet, doing his best to hold his head out as he sticks his arms blindly in, digging towards to the back for a shirt that he swears he hung up that frames his pecs just right. Not that he needs to worry about framing his pecs when he’s in the Olympic village—Foster released an updated list yesterday of banned activities until after competition is over, and ‘sexual activity or any other extraneous physical exertion’ is on it, to the dismay of Peter (and subsequent jokes made at his expense)—but it’s still a comfortable shirt all the same. He could just leave it here and get it later, Ryan’s right, but Eggsy would sooner joyfully do a vault than admit Ryan’s right about something like this.
Eventually, he has to swallow his pride and stick his head in too, mindful of the random shit he’s got on his closet floor. He’s been busy, alright? There’s been no time to sort out his closet with everything that’s been going on. There wasn’t enough time to sort out his closet when all he had to worry about was training for the Olympics.
He finds the shirt, eventually. Not fast enough to realize that the thumping sound he’d been hearing for the past five minutes is someone knocking on his flat’s door with increasing urgency. He checks his mobile, just to see if he’s missed anything important, but all it is is Ryan and Jamal being themselves so he’s not sure who to expect on the other side of the door.
“Just one second!” he calls as he disentangles himself from his closet, though he’s not sure if the person will be able to hear him over the sound of their knocking, and he tosses his shirt on his open bag before dashing from his room to the front door. He’s the only one home right now; his mum is at work, and he’d dropped Daisy off at Mrs. Blakely’s earlier, so he doesn’t check to see who it is before he opens the door.
There’s a moment, as the door swings open under the weight of whoever’s on the other side of it, where Eggsy realizes the potentially stupid decision he’s made. All worry is wiped away when Jamal and Ryan fall to a heap at his feet, blinking up at him.
“Hey,” Ryan says.
Eggsy raises an eyebrow. Jamal says, “Don’t look at me, it was his idea.”
Ryan shoves at him. “Fuck off, you were the one who suggested he might be in trouble.”
“I did not, you arsehole, you’re the one who came across a news report blowing the potential threat out of proportion and called me up because you’d decided that Eggsy was kidnapped—”
Eggsy sighs and helps his friends up. “You can’t believe everything you read on the internet, Ryan,” he says.
“I don’t!” Ryan says. “It’s just a little extra caution, innit? Making sure you get to the Olympics in one piece so that you can compete.”
“The threat isn’t even that bad,” Eggsy says with a security he doesn’t feel, because while he might not know much about the threat, only what Harry and Merlin and Roxy have let slip, he’s sure that it’s more substantial and credible than the news is giving it credit for.
Ryan grumbles something but Jamal elbows him in the side, and the grumbling tapers off. They set up camp in front of the telly as Eggsy finishes up packing, playing a game console that he hasn’t had the time to since he started training. He moves into the Olympic village tomorrow and starts competing sooner than he wants to think about, and gratefulness washes over him. He gets to have this moment of normalcy, this moment of before, for however long.
Eggsy leaves his bag by the door when he’s finished packing and collapses on the couch in between his two best friends, not bothering to pick up a controller. Watching suits his fancy just fine, right now, and Ryan is getting a well-deserved arse-kicking and Eggsy’s not about to jeopardize that.
“When do you leave again?” Jamal asks.
“Have to be at the gym tomorrow morning at like, eight a.m. or some shit like that.”
“That’s pretty normal though, isn’t it?”
Ryan swears loudly as his character dies again. Eggsy smirks, patting him comfortingly on the knee, and says, “Yeah, but this is different, innit it? Like, this is—this is it. I’m not going to practice. I’m going to the fucking Olympics.”
He’s had months and months and months to get used to the idea, has stared at his uniform for five minutes twice a day every day since he got it, but now that he’s stood on the doorstep of his biggest opportunity the nerves are whirling through him again. Ryan dies again, and Jamal wraps an arm around Eggsy’s shoulder to squeeze him in the time it takes Ryan’s character to respawn. “You are,” Jamal confirms, “and it’s terrifying as shit, but you’re going to do fantastic.”
“How do you know?”
It’s something that Eggsy mostly keeps to himself, playing close to his chest, but it’s a very real fear. That they were wrong to take a chance on him, that all the training in the world isn’t going to make a difference, that when everything is said and done he’ll still end up here.
Here isn’t so bad, when he’s with his friends, but Eggsy can’t shake the feeling that if he stays in the Estates long enough it’ll eat him alive.
Jamal, though, with a wide smile, says, “Because you’re too good to cock it up, yeah?”
Eggsy smiles small, and shrugs, and he still doesn’t quite believe him but maybe he could learn to.
The next morning, it’s not his alarm that wakes him up. His entire body tightens in panic for a moment at the press of lips against his temple, but then he takes a breath and his mum’s perfume wafts to him and helps draw him from his sleep. “Hm?” he says, brain reluctant to make the words go, as early morning sunlight makes his bedroom hazy.
“I made you breakfast,” his mum whispers like a secret against his temple.
Eggsy stretches, taking care not to hit his mum in the face with one of his arms. “Y’didn’t have to do that,” he mutters, words still slightly slurring from sleep. “Y’gotta sleep.”
“I wanted to,” his mum replies, like it’s really that simple. Maybe it is. It’s been a long time since she’s made him breakfast, but…maybe the shit with Dean reminded her of Eggsy. Of what’s really important.
Eggsy groans, pulling his spare pillow over his face, and his mum laughs at him. “Why,” he says as she pulls it away.
“Because I know how much you like waiting for as long as possible.”
“It’s very rarely my actual choice,” Eggsy says, because it’s not, it’s because he has to drop Daisy off or sort something out or the train is running late, but his mum’s face tightens with sorrow and Eggsy doesn’t want to fucking go there the day that he heads to the Olympic Village.
They still have their shit to work out, stuff to work through, but they’ll make it through the other side.
“What did you make?” Eggsy asks, desperate for any sort of distraction, and the question snaps his mum from her thoughts as a wry smile crosses her face.
“Why don’t you come and see, yeah?”
She leaves him to get ready for the day, gently closing the door behind her like there’s still a baby around to be disturbed, but it still takes Eggsy five minutes to drag his arse out of bed and another five minutes after that to get dressed. By the time he emerges from his room his mum’s sat at the kitchen table with a perfect sightline to his door, eyebrow raised like she’s judging every single minute it took to take him to get ready.
He’s not going to apologize, though, not when he realizes what his mum’s gone and made him for breakfast.
“I didn’t realize you knew how to make a full English, Mum,” he says, sliding into his seat, eager to eat now.
She slaps gently at his arm as he starts to load up his plate. “Excuse you,” she says, “I’ve been cooking since before you were born.”
“But a full English? I don’t even know when the last time you made one of these was.”
He tucks in even as his stomach starts to roll with nerves (he leaves today today today), and ignores how his mum watches him fondly as he stuffs his face. It’s a mum thing, isn’t it? To look at their kids like they hung the moon as they do their best impression of a pig eating slops. Because the way that Eggsy is going at his plate—it’s isn’t polite, nor is it graceful. He’s hungry, and she knows what he’s like. Eggsy doesn’t eat to impress anyone.
Then his mum says, “I do.”
“You do what?” he asks, but his mouth is half-full so it just comes out as a bunch of indiscernible syllables. His mum levels a look at him, and Eggsy rolls his eyes but swallows before saying, again, “You do what?”
She nods approvingly, but her smile is a little sad when she says, “I remember the last time I made a full English.”
He hesitates, for a moment, but the memory seems so poignant that he says, “When was it?” as he scoops more food onto his fork.
“Before your dad left for his military training.”
The way that she says it makes Eggsy think that she doesn’t believe it, that there’s something in her that knows his dad’s death wasn’t just a military training accident. There’s a brief moment when he realizes that he hasn’t told her that he’s reconnected with Harry, or about how much he knows about the threats to the O2, but then it occurs to him that maybe she doesn’t know about the threats at all so he clears his throat. “Yeah?”
His mum exhales shakily. “Yeah,” she says. “You were pickier then than you are now. Refused to eat any veggies, even when your dad tried to show you how cool they were.”
Eggsy snorts. “Veggies don’t have to be cool to be delicious.”
“Yes, but you were convinced that they couldn’t be delicious. So he’d eat your veggies and slip you more bacon, even as I glared at him the entire time.”
She smiles at the memory, eyes far away, and Eggsy continues eating when it’s clear that she’s not in any rush to continue. Just as he starts loading up his second plate, she says, “It was his idea, you know? You in gymnastics. He was always going to put you in it, said that it would develop you some useful life skills.”
It’s Eggsy’s turn to take a shuddering breath, now, touched that she’s sharing this memory with him. “Yeah?” he asks, voice thick, and his mum smiles as she grips one of his hands in hers.
“Yes,” she says. “And Eggsy, he’d be proud of you. I know he would be. Whether you win or not, he’d be proud of you for pushing through.”
Eggsy’s fork holding hand is shaking too much to balance the heaping amount of foods that he wants to put on it, so he puts it down in favour of holding his mum’s other hand. The time ticks down slowly, and if Eggsy’s late to the gym then Foster’s going to have his arse, but he doesn’t care. He doesn’t know if he’s had a moment as important as this one recently, gently holding his mum’s hands as they bask in the early morning light filtering through the windows.
*peeks out from around a corner*
I'm so sorry for dropping the ball on this, everyone. Since the last update, I've mostly finished a novel rewrite, had a really busy February, started a second job in March, and had to get a new computer because my old computer decided it wanted to try a little bit of coffee (and no one was more disappointed in me than myself).
So, I'm sorry, and I hope you're still here, and we WILL SEE THIS FIC THROUGH TO THE END.
When Eggsy bursts through the gym doors nobody is there yet. The entire building is dark, and it’s quieter than he’s ever heard it, and he checks his mobile again just to make sure he hasn’t missed a change in plans.
Nothing new. Just the time displayed condemningly up at him—8.06.
It’s kind of numb, the feeling that spreads through him. He knew he shouldn’t have had that second plate, regardless of how relieved he was that his mum was acting kind of normal (and how surprised he was at how good the food was). “Shit.”
His mind mocks him, playing an echo of Foster’s laugh for his ears and his ears alone. Except it’s not a memory of Foster’s laugh that he hears; Eggsy strains his ears, kicks off his shoes, and tiptoes across the floor to where some of the extra tumbling mats are piled in the corner. It’s an oddly specific arrangement now that he’s noticed it, and as he approaches it on tiptoes while avoiding the squeakier parts of the floor the snickering gets louder. The relief that pulses through his chest is almost embarrassingly strong.
He doesn’t mind them being total arses so long as he’s not literally been left behind.
Eggsy’s no stranger to building forts with gym mats. It’s something he’d wager they’d all done at one point or another before their training got serious, and even after, whenever the training got too much and they just wanted to avoid all responsibility for a bit. He’d never claim to be a master at it, but being from the Estates doesn’t make him stupid, and he’s had time to take in the structural integrity on his slow walk over. He knows exactly where to push to make it all come tumbling down.
He presses. The mats fall. He lies down on top for good measure as his teammates and coach’s laughter turns to swears.
Foster is the first to dig himself out. “You’re a cheeky little fuck, Unwin.”
Eggsy crosses his arms behind his head. “You just gonna leave your athletes buried like that? What the fuck is the Queen going to think if you show up at the Men’s Artistic Finals with no team?”
“The Queen is not going to be watching the Men’s Artistic Finals,” Foster says dryly, “and besides, they’re capable young men, they can dig themselves out.”
Peter’s head pops through a hole in the mats. “You have insider knowledge as to what the Queen likes to watch at the Olympics? Foster, you’ve been holding out.”
Somewhere near where Peter’s left foot might be, Tom says, “What did you have to do to get that, Foster?”
Foster makes eye contact with Eggsy, and the two of them get off the mat, Eggsy digging in his elbows and knees more than perhaps is strictly necessary. Foster goes to one end of the large mat still leaning against the wall and Eggsy does to the other, and without speaking they simultaneously tip the mattress onto the pile.
Eggsy’s teammates immediately start to groan, but he pays them no mind. They’ve suffered worse things in practice than another mat on them. He nods to Foster. “So where are the girls?”
“They already left,” he replies. “We’ll be meeting them at the Village.”
Eggsy hums, but he tries not to let his disappointment show on his face. Foster can read him like a book if he’s not careful, a habit brought on by years of training with the man, and Eggsy’s not eager to be interrogated in a way that Foster can only manage. He’d wanted to talk to Harry before they left, before he was swept into the manic that is going to be the opening ceremonies and putting on finishing touches for actual competition, but there’ll be time.
By the time his teammates have emerged from beneath the mats, Eggsy and Foster have taken everyone’s bags from Foster’s office and loaded them into the minibus that Foster hid in an adjoining parking lot. There’s a scuffle over who gets to sit in the front seat that Eggsy avoids; he climbs into the back of the minibus while Peter sticks his finger into one of Tom’s ears and they fall half into the open door to the front seat.
Danny crawls in after Eggsy. “Wild that it’s here, isn’t it?” he mutters as their teammates groan. “That everything we’ve worked towards is less than a week away. That this time next week, it’ll be half over.”
Eggsy nudges him lightly in the side. “Don’t get all introspective on me now, bruv. Still got a few medals to win before it’s all done.”
“Do you think there’s anything to those threats? Like, do you think they’ll actually prevent us from competing?”
“Nah,” Eggsy says. “I don’t think there’s anything to them.”
“And if there is?”
Eggsy thinks of Roxy’s effortless beam routine, how Merlin seems to have eyes everywhere and fingers in every pie that he needs, Harry’s easy and quiet confidence. “They’ll get it sorted,” Eggsy says. Danny’s brow furrows at Eggsy’s certainty, but before he can ask after it there’s a thunk and a muffled, “Ow,” that has Foster laughing even as he lectures.
“Doors are hard, you fuckers,” he says fondly to the heap of Eggsy’s teammates that have fallen to the ground. “Just for that, no one gets the front seat.”
Danny laughs, and Eggsy follows his lead, and even though his heart is pounding in his chest his breathing stays steady.
Eggsy’s not bold enough to say that he knows all of London, that he’s familiar with every nook and cranny and could tell any passing tourists where the best pubs are. He knows the estates like the back of his hand and he is passable at guiding people around the highlights, though his knowledge of late is a little rusty due to his life being taken over by training.
Still, looking out the windows at the city looming over him as Foster bargains with the traffic around them, trying to get them to move faster, Eggsy can’t help but think that he’s never seen the city like this before.
Which is—well, true. He’s usually on the tube.
“Hey Foster,” he calls out when there’s a lull in the pleading voice of his coach, “have I ever told you about my idea for an Olympians-only tube line?”
His teammates snicker, and Foster spares him enough thought to say, “It’s a little too late for that now, isn’t it, Unwin?”
Eggsy doesn’t give in to the impulse to give Foster a two-fingured salute, if only because he think that Foster may stroke out and Eggsy’s not too sure how well he’ll compete if he’s too busy thinking about how he killed his coach.
It’s a miracle that Foster manages to get them to the Olympic Village with little fanfare or getting into a fistfight with a cab driver. There’s a little bit of confusion sorting out their room assignments, and as Foster sorts it out Eggsy looks around at the area he’ll be living in for the next little bit, the area of London cordoned off for people from all corners of the world. Not that hearing voices speak in different languages is different from regular London, necessarily, but there’s something almost mystical about the Village. Part of it might be the flags waving gently in the wind, the laughter coursing through the streets, how even Eggsy’s teammates are using the time during the wait to take as many pictures as possible. Part of it might be how it’s a sunny day.
Eggsy doesn’t know, either way, but there’s a warm ball centered in his chest that’s only growing. He’s here.
He ends up sharing a room with Peter, which, as he shoves his bag under the bed and lays face first on his mattress, is probably what Foster took so long trying to change. Eggsy and Peter get on just fine, but the competitive streak between them is a mile wide and it can be triggered by any little thing. Foster never puts them in the same room when he’s the one making room assignments.
“I guess this is their way of showing Foster who’s in charge,” Peter says dryly from his bed, and Eggsy snorts.
“It’s almost like they kept notes from the last time they dealt with him,” Eggsy says.
“He was just an athlete then.”
“You say that like it made him easier to deal with, bruv. I think Foster’s mellowed out in his old age.”
“He’s enough of a firecracker now,” Peter retorts. “You think he was somehow worse?”
Eggsy’s not looking at Peter, which means that he doesn’t have to try and resist the Daring Eyebrow of Doom. “We’ll look up YouTube videos later and see who’s right, yeah?”
“Deal,” Peter says. There’s a moment of silence, long enough that Eggsy wonders if he’s got time for a nap before they go for lunch, when Peter says, “Hey, where’s my welcome note?”
Eggsy’s brow furrows. “Your what?”
“Did you look before you laid down, Eggsy, or do you just rest your head anywhere you please?”
“If Foster was anything like you, then he’s gotten worse.”
“There’s a piece of paper under your cheek, Eggsy, fuck.”
Eggsy rolls onto his side, opening his mouth to tell Peter to get his head checked because who the fuck would put a piece of paper on his bed, but as he rolls the paper that’s stuck to his cheek rolls with him. Eggsy never said that he was completely awake, okay?
Eggsy gently unsticks the note from his cheek, squinting as he reads it.
I trust this finds you well. Would you be so kind as to join me for lunch? Please respond.
“So?” Peter asks as Eggsy slips his phone from his pocket. “What is it? Who’s it from?”
“I don’t know, bruv,” Eggsy replies. He flips through the contacts until he finds the number Harry had given him. “Probably just a prank or a note from a fan or something.”
Eggsy: u know, u could’ve just texted me to begin with
“Who’re you texting then?”
“My mates. They’ll find this hilarious.”
“I don’t,” Peter says, and even in spite of all that Eggsy is doing to downplay it the level panic in Peter’s voice is quickly increasing. “Eggsy, there’s been a threat made against the arena we’re going to be competing in, and there’s a mystery note left on your bed? That can’t be fucking good.”
Harry: That’s hardly an acceptable way to invite someone out for lunch.
Eggsy: a lot more easy to explain, tho
“Peter, mate, it’s just a joke.”
“If you don’t tell Foster—”
For fuck’s sake. Eggsy rolls off his bed, pulling his shoes off, note in one hand and phone in the other. “Yeah,” he says, trying not to let annoyance leak into his voice, “you’re probably right. I’ll go and turn this into security, alright? Let them know.”
If that’s what Eggsy intended to actually do, he’s sure it wouldn’t actually be as easy as finding a guard and giving them a note. Still, it appeases Peter. “Sounds good.”
Eggsy pulls on his favourite snapback, shrugging his shoulders so that his jacket fits more comfortably. “Don’t tell Foster, yeah? I’m sure security will tell him if it’s something to worry about, and he doesn’t need another thing to worry about. The man’s health is precarious enough as it is after this morning.”
Peter gives him a lazy salute. “Sure thing.”
“If I’m not back right away,” Eggsy says, quickly texting Harry (Eggsy: you’ve got my roommate convinced that the threats are targeting me), “it’s because I’m exploring, alright? There’s a lot to see.”
“If you don’t show up in time for practice, I’m telling Foster everything.”
“Do whatever the fuck you want, bruv. He doesn’t need to know right now, yeah?”
“Yeah,” Peter says.
Eggsy waves, not that Peter sees because his eyes are closed, hunkering down for the nap that Eggsy had been looking forward to having. When Eggsy is in the hallway, door shut safely behind him, he checks his phone.
Harry: I trust you made your excuses?
Eggsy: jfc Harry you don’t just ‘make excuses’ when someone thinks that the Enemy At Large is out to kill you
Eggsy: is an early lunch okay?
Harry: Meet me at this location at your earliest convenience.
Harry sends an address that loads onto Eggsy’s map app as soon as he taps it. It’s a little café not far from here—surprisingly open, for the conversation that Eggsy wants ot have. Maybe Harry thinks that an open location will dissuade him. Or it’s a kind of test?
But no, that’s wishful thinking.
Eggsy: will do, guv
He slips his phone back into his pocket before he can read Harry’s inevitable complaint and starts walking.
The café’s a quaint little place off the beaten path, and Harry’s sat out front at one of the tables in a cordoned off area. He’s wearing a grey suit, cup of tea still steaming in front of him and a glass of water in front of the empty seat for Eggsy, and he nods at the seat across from him when Eggsy approaches. “I took the liberty of ordering for you,” Harry says as Eggsy sits. “No allergies, correct?”
“I didn’t realize that super-secret resources were meant for finding out if I have allergies,” Eggsy says, grinning at Harry, because fuck if it isn’t amazing that he gets even a glimpse of this life.
Harry sighs. “Eggsy, it would hardly do for you to have a severe allergic reaction the week that you’re to compete.”
“Whatever you say, Harry.” Eggsy takes a sip of water, and it’s perfectly cool, refreshing on a day that’s slowly heating up. “No allergies.”
They talk idly while waiting for the food to arrive, and when it does Eggsy twists his hands together in his lap until Harry nods his head with a small smile on his face, an invitation to tuck in.
The first bite is heaven, and, well, there’s no time like the present.”
“So why’d you need Roxy involved, anyways?” Eggsy asks as he tries to shove food into his mouth as politely as possible. “Couldn’t you have…gotten the job done in a different way?”
“We needed to be able to get access to very specific places,” Harry replies carefully. “Our security expert will be overseeing from the house and assisting when necessary, but that’s not the same as having someone present, as it were. We’ve narrowed down possible locations for where there may be an issue, but no one that we’ve spoken to has divulged specifics.”
Eggys nods, sliding his glass across the table, passing it from one hand to the other as it makes a trail of condensation on the tabletop. “It probably wouldn’t be good for random people to stumble upon something unpleasant on their way to the loo, yeah?”
“No, Eggsy, it wouldn’t.”
“What’s the plan?”
Harry raises an eyebrow at him, but an indulgent smile teases at the corners of his mouth. “Eggsy.”
Eggsy shrugs, looking at his mug, but he can’t even feign innocence that well. “It wouldn’t hurt to know, would it?”
“You have to focus on competing,” Harry says.
“You think I’m going to be able to focus on competing when you’re running around foiling…shenanigans and whatever?”
“Yes,” Harry says. “I rather think you will.”
“Foster’ll have your arse if you don’t.”
Eggsy breaks at that, laughing, but the sound tangles with a groan as he leans his head on the table. “Fuck, don’t remind me. Foster is insufferable during regular competitions, never mind the fucking Olympics.”
“You’ll do well, Eggsy,” Harry says, taking a careful sip of his tea. “You’ll make him proud.”
“Yeah?” There’s an uptick of hope in his voice, but Eggsy can’t quite bring himself to hate it. He wants to do well, because doing well is his ticket out—but he grew up on the estates, with an absent mother. People taking pride in him is such a foreign concept. Something that he knows he strives for, even if he doesn’t want to admit it out loud.
“Yes,” Harry says, a gleam in his eye like he knows. “I daresay you’ll make us all proud.”
*peeks out around a corner*
He gets to practice late, but before Peter can tell Foster that he thinks Eggsy’s been kidnapped for ransom. That’s not to say that Peter isn’t rolling his eyes at Eggsy and glaring whenever he thinks he has even a hint of Eggsy’s attention, but that’s nowhere near the top twenty things that Eggsy is concerned about. Peter will glare himself out, or roll his eyes so hard they pop out of his skull, and then that will be the end of that.
Foster saunters over as Eggsy’s finishing up his stretching. “You’re late, Unwin.”
Eggsy bends forward, touching his toes, relishing in the stretch of his lower back and thighs. “Really?”
“You know you are, you cheeky little shit.” Foster’s hiding a grin behind his coffee, though, so Eggsy’s not going to take it too seriously.
“And you probably knew that I was out with Harry, yeah? Regardless of the heart attack he tried to give Peter.”
“He tried to give Peter a heart attack?” Foster asks, doubtful, but his lack of surprise at Harry’s involvement confirms that Harry at least told Foster he was taking Eggsy and making excuses if he was back late, and it’s the little things. Especially when the little things have the potential to turn into extra conditioning if the excuse isn’t good enough.
Eggsy nods, pushing himself up to his feet when Foster doesn’t take his offered hand to help. “He left a note on my bed,” Eggsy says. “Couldn’t just text me, no, had to leave a handwritten note on my pillow. Peter thought that I was going to get kidnapped as soon as I walked out the door or something as ridiculous.”
Foster snorts. “Harry has always been a gentleman.”
“And a gentleman should text, is my point, instead of letting my roommate think I’m about to be murdered. Especially a gentleman of his…calibre.”
“Harry has also always been a little shit.” Foster doesn’t do anything as undignified as jump when somebody behind Eggsy eats mat hard, just takes another sip of his coffee and sighs. “Less than a week,” he mutters. “Less than a week and I’m vacationing to Gibraltar.”
“Like you have the money for that,” Eggsy says.
“You can start on vault today, Eggsy,” Foster beams, sauntering away, and Eggsy keeps his groan to himself until Foster is well out of earshot. Eggsy got out of coming back late thanks to Harry, but he’s not about to push his luck.
Well, not right now.
The day of the Opening Ceremonies feels like a dream.
Well, a dream for the most part. There are a few nightmarish moments, like Danny pinching the last few sausages at breakfast, Foster finally having his holy fuck this is the Olympics breakdown and mainlining coffee because it’s the only socially acceptable vice for nine in the morning, and Roxy is always getting apologetically whisked away just as Eggsy tries to settle in and have a good talk with her. He’s not seen Harry at all since the lunch at the café, and Merlin is nothing but an omnipotent presence that Eggsy is sure is spying on him all the time.
That’s probably his overactive imagination talking, but he is restless in only the way that someone who knows too much can be. Somebody who knows too much, and is waiting for the moment when it will all be taken away.
Eggsy shakes his head slightly, rolling back his shoulders like that will help the bright white of his Opening Ceremonies outfit sit better on his shoulders. He looks sharp, a picture perfect British gymnast with broad shoulders and a smoothly shaven jaw, but Eggsy almost doesn’t recognize the man that’s looking back at him in the mirror. The entire day has flown by, leading to this moment. Foster will be around to collect them in no time at all—probably just as Peter wants his own time with the mirror—and then they will be off to the Opening Ceremonies.
It’s more than that. This entire year has flown by. Ever since last year’s Worlds ended, it’s all been leading to this moment. This moment when he marches into an arena full of people, parading before the Queen and her country and the world. The moment where he starts to compete, seeing if he can wedge open the door that will open to a different sort of “rest of his life”.
Peter comes up behind him, poking him in the side and nudging him out of the way. He’s brushing at his hair, frowning slightly, and Eggsy rolls his eyes even as he stays standing. It’s a track suit, true, but he doesn’t want to crease it too much before he ends up on international television. “Your hair looks fine, Peter,” Eggsy says.
“Like you’ve got room to talk,” Peter scoffs, “you were stood in front of this for an hour.”
“Was not and you know it.”
“The front of the mirror is not the place to have a crisis, Eggsy. You’re an Olympic gymnast.”
“I was not having a fucking crisis—”
Except he was, but he’s saved from defending himself from a sharp knock on the door. “Boys!” Foster says. “Time to get going!”
His caffeine high must be wearing down; his voice isn’t as shaky as it was this morning. Eggsy opens the door and Peter squawks, like he’s in the nude or something. Eggsy whitles lowly at the sight of their coach, wearing the exact same distinguished tracksuit as they are. “Foster, mate, I don’t know if I’ve ever seen you so polished.”
“You’re already on the team, Unwin, you don’t have to flatter me.”
“Did you pluck your eyebrows?” Eggsy asks, genuinely curious. The smirk rolls onto his face, unable to help it. “Hoping for a close up, are you? Wanting to impress the Queen?”
“We’re leaving in ten minutes, with or without you,” Foster replies dryly, refusing to rise to the bait even as Peter abandons the mirror to try and get a glimpse.
“Will the girls be travelling with us, too?” Eggsy says as he tries to hold Peter back. It takes a little bit of effort, holding the door open enough that he and Foster can have a decent conversation while at the same time making sure his teammate doesn’t have the room to jump over him. “Or are we going to be meeting them there?”
Foster raises one of his meticulously perfect eyebrows. Eggsy has no idea when he snuck out to get them done or if he just got someone close to do them, but they look great. Eggsy might be fine doing bars with a rip, but getting the eyebrows done is a different sort of monster. “Why, Eggsy?” Foster asks. “Are you missing someone?”
“Just wondering,” Eggsy says, because even though there’s nothing between him and Roxy there’s no way in hell he’s going to give Foster that kind of ammo. Yeah, sure, he misses her, and he genuinely enjoys her company, but he can also feel the time clock that’s ticking down to when he’ll never see her again. Foster might be looking forward to Gibraltar; Eggsy feels like, for all that his life is going to change if he does well, it’s still not going to be exactly what it’s meant to be. “Ten minutes, you said?”
“Make it five, now, and if you’re late then tomorrow’s practice is going to be fun for everyone so think of your teammates, Unwin.”
“I’m already ready to go!” Eggsy protests, but Foster just turns and cackles his way down the hall.
This is it.
It just keeps sinking in. On the way down to the minibus, beating Foster to it for all of his talk about how they were leaving in five minutes. They’re all nervous as they shuffle into their seats, though they’d never admit it. Eggsy looks out the window but he’s not seeing anything, because they’re on their way to the Opening Ceremonies.
Of the Olympics.
This is it.
There are people already lining the streets, congregating, dressed in their best Team GB garb. Do they know that members of the very same team that they won’t be able to take their eyes off of for the foreseeable future? A constant awareness until the first medals come in, and continuing on through it. Always wondering how the athletes are doing, who will be the next to win eternal glory. Daisy’s too young to care much, though Eggsy’s sure Mrs. Blakely will be doing her best to have Daisy pay attention whenever he’ll be competing. And his mum—well, hopefully she’ll keep her word.
The world he’s stepping into isn’t Eggsy’s world, and the feeling is even worse than it was during Worlds. It’s easy enough to ignore when he’s training, but when he’s competing, when the crowd cheers and rises to his feet for him—
Eggsy’s never felt as out of place as he does right now.
The thought swims in circles around him, occupying all of his attention, and luckily for Eggsy nobody seems to be in much of a talkative mood. When they arrive they join the stream of athletes heading towards the arena, and after that Eggsy doesn’t have to think much what with all of the volunteers directing them to where they need to go. He has the presence of mind to snap a picture and send it to Jamal and Ryan on the fly, and that settles him a bit even though he puts his phone back into his pocket before he can see any sort of reply.
A small hand slips into his elbow, slowing Eggsy’s stride a bit. He doesn’t mind—there could be only one person that would be doing it, and he settles even further. “Merlin says you’re carrying all of your tension in your shoulders,” Roxy mutters. She’s wearing the glasses that Eggsy knows she doesn’t need again, the glasses that give Merlin eyes and ears.
Eggsy smirks, tilting his head to hers. “Merlin looking at my shoulders a lot, is he?”
Roxy bites her lip, like she wants to laugh but she’s holding it in for Merlin’s sake. If Eggsy listens hard enough over the din of the crowd and hundreds of people from different countries, Eggsy imagines that he can hear Merlin’s protests. “I’m not saying anything,” she wisely says to Merlin, presumably, and briefly squeezes Eggsy’s arm tighter. “You doing alright, Eggs?”
“I’ve got a pretty girl on my arm, walking to the Opening Ceremony of the Olympics. I’m fucking aces, love.”
Roxy’s smile spreads wider, and Eggsy lets it distract him from the cloud that’s looming over him.
I would like you all to know that this wasn't supposed to go over 25k, never mind reach 50k, and I am so thankful for your continued support. We'll see this small-idea-turned-small-behemoth through to the end.
It’s stiflingly hot in the area where they have the athletes gather. The only consolation that Eggsy has is that his team—Team GB, representing all of Great Britain, take that anyone who thought he couldn’t make it—walks out into the arena first. There are perks to being the host nation that extend beyond not needing to travel far at all, and if you’d told Eggsy when he was twelve and first really starting on this crazy gymnastics journey that he’d be competing in his hometown Olympics he’d never believe it. His wildest dreams would take him there, perhaps, but he’d never actually think he had a shot.
His dad might’ve, though. In the din of an antsy group of high performance athletes waiting to just get on with it, Eggsy remembers the weight of his dad’s hand on his shoulder, the warmth of his smile. His dad had thought he could do anything if he put his mind to it, and the weight of the Kingsman medal against his chest reminds him of that. It’s useless now that he’s called in his favour, but that doesn’t mean it still doesn’t have worth.
Roxy’s hand is clammy in his. “Where are Harry and Merlin?” he asks as loudly as he dares.
There’s a brief hesitation, one that Eggsy expected—he’s not a part of this, for all that he knows about it, so any answers that he gets will be censored. “Merlin is getting familiar with the security techs,” she finally says. “Harry is a part of the Queen’s guard.”
“They’re not expecting anything to come tonight, for all that it would be easier to…do it in one fell swoop. Still—”
“Is he talking to you?"
Roxy nods, smile playing at her lips even as she doesn’t say anything. Eggsy squeezes her hand tight, ducks closer to her ear, and says, “Hi, Harry.”
A brief pause. “He says that you’re supposed to be acting like you don’t know he exists.”
“He also says hi.”
The warmth that spreads through his chest makes Eggsy squeeze Roxy’s hand again, just so that the energy has some sort of outlet as a smile breaks across his face that has nothing to do with the fact that they’re about to march in to the Opening Ceremonies, and Roxy’s smile in return says she knows.
Volunteers corral them into some sort of order, making sure that there’s a distinct separation between the teams. At the Closing Ceremonies there will be no such separation, they’ll all march in in one fell swoop, but right now it’s important that they’re all separated. It’s like presenting themselves to the judges for competition, except they’re not presenting themselves to judges—they’re presenting themselves to whatever higher power there may or may not be and Lizzy herself and the entire fucking world.
The noise of the crowd where they’re hidden away in the hallways is nothing compared to the roar that washes over them when they step out. Eggsy gets chills at how the roar doesn’t subside, and he’s overwhelmed by exactly how many people are in the stands. “Fucking hell,” he whispers, as it crashes over him, again, how big of a deal this is.
This isn’t a dream.
This is real life.
This is Eggsy’s life.
Roxy, as discreetly as she can, points out where the Queen’s box is as they walk in a loop around the stadium. The lights are bright enough and the crowd large enough that he can’t pick anybody out from the crowd, never mind the Queen of England, but there is a gap where there seems to be less people so Eggsy imagines that she’s up there.
He wonders if this is the closest he’s ever been to her, or if he was closer still at age nine, pressing his face between the bars of the fence outside of Buckingham Palace, the Union Jack waving high and proudly in the sky.
When they finish their lap, they’re directed to prime seats in the stands—only the best for the home team. The rest of the Opening Ceremonies pass in a blur, and Eggsy really hopes his mum is taping it so that he can watch it from start to finish when he’s not busy trying to imprint every little detail into his memory with no success. When it’s all said and done and the flame is lit and the Queen has been escorted away, his mobile vibrates with a text.
He opens it, all he’s doing is waiting for the slow exodus from the stands to get to his row and he’s hoping it’s a text from Harry anyways.
It’s not from Harry, though. It makes sense, even as it makes Eggsy’s nose wrinkle—the night only ends when the Queen is safely ensconced at Buckingham. No, the text is from Foster, in a group chat to him and his teammates.
Foster: Have a gentle sort of party tonight, lads. 0600 wake up tomorrow. It’s competition day.
There was never a hope of Eggsy sleeping well, if he’s being honest.
His tossing and turning had woken himself up for good at four, well before Foster’s imposed wake up time of six. He’d tried rolling over and going back to sleep about half a dozen different ways, until Peter and mumbled, “Are you visualizing your floor routine when you’re supposed to be fucking sleeping, Unwin?” and Eggsy had stayed painfully still until his alarm went off. Not being able to sleep isn’t an excuse to keep his teammate up. Not on the day of qualifying.
It's early yet, still only half-five, but his fingers itch with need for something to do and it doesn’t matter when he texts Daisy, so long as he does it. Daisy’s in no danger of forgetting him, and who knows if she’ll be paying attention when he’s on the telly, but he still wants her to know that he’s thinking of her.
Not that it matters, at all, because she won’t be remembering this anyways.
It’s the principle of the matter. In Daisy’s short life, Eggsy has made a point of telling her that he loves her before he competes. He told her when he had to kiss her newborn forehead before heading to a qualifier for Worlds, he told her when she was blowing spit bubbles at him before worlds, and he pressed a kiss on her hand and squeezed her tight before each competition this year. He’d given her the biggest hug that he’d ever given when he dropped her off at Mrs. Blakely’s, but that’s not the same as telling her that he loves her. Eggsy’s never been particularly superstitious, but the Olympics deserve a little bit of superstition.
Sending the text takes all of two minutes, maybe, including trying to find the perfect light for a selfie to send.
Eggsy’s never been good at waiting.
He pulls on his track pants and tiptoes out of the room, quietly shutting the door behind him, and heads down to the common room. Danny is already there, sunk into the couch so far that he’s half of the way to becoming a part of it, clutching an illegal cup of coffee. Eggsy collapses next to him carefully, a surprise but a carefully executed surprise so that Danny doesn’t slosh his coffee around. His planning goes to shit when Danny sloshes his coffee around anyways. “Didn’t anyone ever tell you not to sneak up on people?” he grumbles but makes room for Eggsy all the same.
Eggsy tips his head back, closing his eyes. “Yeah, but then they put me in a sport that taught me how to walk all careful-footed. Besides, the Olympics are a parallel universe anyways. Normal universe rules go out the window.”
“Fuck you, Eggsy.”
“Didn’t sleep too well, either?”
A long, obvious slurp of coffee is the only reply he gets.
“Me neither,” Eggsy says, “and I’m not even doing the full rotation. Going out for all-around is a lot of work.”
Danny shuffles. It might've been a shrug. “Somebody’s got to do it.”
“Better you than me. I’m useless on rings.”
That drags a laugh out, soothing in its familiarity, and they could almost be relaxing on the couch in Foster’s office. Foster’s couch has been home to many of Eggsy’s naps ever since he started training with the man, and as the team had solidified it had been home to many heart to hearts, as well. Foster’s house is a place of refuge and safety; ironic, maybe, since it’s in his office, but Foster’s never been for tearing someone a new arsehole in private when he can do it in public. Says that the shame helps reinforce the lesson.
“I’m just worried,” Danny says eventually.
“You ever visualize every single possible way something could go wrong in your head?”
“Mostly when I first started watching my baby sister alone, bruv.”
“Never in gym?”
“Only on vault.”
Danny laughs again, but it’s a little more strained this time. “Just. What if I do shitty?”
Eggsy frowns, and he turns his head so he can look at Danny without actually lifting his head. “Have you been reading news reports again? You know you’re not supposed to go near those before a competition.”
“Couldn’t help it,” Danny mutters into his coffee. “I just needed to—see.”
“You know they’re shite, though, yeah?” Eggsy presses. “All the training in the world doesn’t matter on the day of. It’s just a shitload of luck and—how the fuck does Foster put it, mental fortitude?—that gets you the gold. I know that they want you to think that you’re competing against everyone else, but you’re competing against yourself, bruv.”
Danny doesn’t sound convinced. Eggsy says, “You know you’re the best of us, yeah?”
“Except on parallel bars,” Danny mutters.
“Of fucking course. That’s me, innit?”
Danny snorts even though he must’ve known the coffee was coming, and Eggsy gently nudges him. “Don’t let your brain take you out of it yet. So long as you haven’t snapped a limb, you’ve got as much of a chance at it as the rest of them.”
Being on the floor—
On the floor for the Olympics, getting ready to do the best performance he can muster in the qualifying round, trying to a medal, warming up—
Eggsy pinches himself.
“Leave the kink at home, Eggsy,” Peter says as he jogs past.
“I am at home, Peter,” Eggsy shoots back, but he’s already halfway round to the other side of the floor. Eggsy takes deep breaths, doing a few more stretches for his hamstrings, quads, and calves before focusing on his arms, back, and shoulders. His competition isn’t as torso heavy as the all-arounds will be—only competing on four events have perks like that—but his shoulders are going to have quite the day today.
Because he’s at the Olympics. Literally here. His identification badge is stuffed safely at the bottom of his bag, buried under his Olympic tracksuit. His Olympic gymsuit pinches unfamiliarly at the backs of his knees and under his arms, because it’s a new suit. He’s not used to the fit yet. A new suit, for a new Olympics—
He pinches himself again. Foster says, “Save the breakdown for later, Unwin,” from where he’s helping Tom work on a leg muscle on the side of the floor, and Eggsy shakes himself a little bit and lets himself get on with it.
The crowds are slowly filling in the stands. It seems like a pretty favourable split with a distinctly Team GB flavour spread throughout. There are flags being draped over railings, and Eggsy can imagine the face paint and the outfits. If Worlds were any indication, they must have quite the characters in the crowd. Not that it matters to Eggsy any, because he shouldn’t be focussing on the crowds, he should be focussing on the Olympics.
Before he can pinch himself one more time, his eyes catch on Harry.
Harry, who really has no reason to be here. Not this close to the action. The girls compete tomorrow, and Harry has no responsibility for his team—unless he’s here because of the threats. Fucking hell, Eggsy had forgotten all about him, but with Harry stood over there just by the march in area, dressed to the nines in his suit and with his glasses perched on his nose, it’s all that Eggsy can think about. He’d forgotten, but it’s impossible to shove to the side when it’s brought ot the front of his mind like that. He’s not even going to be able to compete. He’s going to die first.
Harry catches his eye, and, like he knows, subtly shakes his head once. If Harry’s not there for a mission, though, then he must be there—for Eggsy.
He’s there to support Eggsy, looking at Eggsy like he believes in him, like he’s worth something, and Eggsy has never been readier to take on the world.
My notes literally read, "and a cruel competition chapter cut off*~*~*~*~*," but never fear, Eggsy will get his moment in the international spotlight next chapter :)