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After We Became Acquainted

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“Hello? Uncle?” Percival noticed Roxy waving her hand in front of his face, he sat up straight and smiled at her.

“You are early!” he said cheerfully. She had been working nights, picking up shifts, poking at cold cases, and they hadn’t seen each other in three weeks. She looked tired, but still had that fire in her eyes that all young officers seemed to carry. “Let me get you a coffee.” He looked down, and saw that she already had one, and a muffin.

Both the coffee and muffin were half done. “Did you wolf those down in line?”

“No, I’ve been sitting with you for ten minutes.” She took another bite of her muffin, a sip of coffee. “I was going to see how long it would take you to notice me, but it was becoming apparent it might eat up all my time. Bad case?”

He looked at his own coffee, and wondered when he had finished it. “No,” he told her absentmindedly, and went to get a refill. Percival came back, “Work is work, boring but they pay me well.”

“And your volunteering?”

“Much better, I actually placed a young man at the tailor shop I frequent. His mother and sister were guests at the shelter and he needed work that would...understand that he had a bit of a history.”

Roxy gave him her stoic officer of the law face. She had been practicing it since she was six and had seen U.N.I.T in an old episode of Doctor Who. She was heartbroken when she found out alien global defense was not a viable career path. She had thoughts of the military but instead chose police officer. He had been relieved at that decision the thought of her in combat horrified him. He couldn’t handle his daughter going so far away. Goddaughter, he always reminded himself when his thoughts slipped. But he had loved her more than her father ever had.

“What sort of history?” she asked, and brought him back to the conversation at hand. His mind was wandering too much today.

“He is my client, sort of,” Percival had to amend, “So I’m not going to grass to the filth.” He managed to keep a straight face as he said that, but a smile broke out when she choked on her coffee. “Too much?”

She nodded at him. “But it tells me enough. And the tailor shop, just took your word he wouldn’t bleed them dry? You believe that he won’t bleed them dry?” Roxy shook her head. “You have too much faith in humanity.”

“No, I have very little faith in humanity, and an incredible amount in individuals. In Eggsy.” Percival watched her pause. “Oh, no,” he sighed. He watched her eyes glaze over. Photographic memories were bullshit, but she had as close as you got. And her hobby was reading other police reports on her day off.

He wondered if he should buy her an escort, or if she’d arrest him for that.

“Eggsy, Eggsy. Unwin. Runs for Baker. Was brought in for grand auto, but charges were dropped since the person was Baker’s third and said it was all in good fun. They tried to turn him, but he wouldn’t. Minor record, but always got off with community service at most. Clever with an enormous chip on his shoulder. And a problem with authority.”

“Your mind terrifies me,” he replied sincerely.

“You are the one who taught me how to remember.”

“He is a good lad,” Percival replied, and ignored her snort, “he has the potential to be a good lad. He just needs someone to see it in him, and I think Harry will.”

“Harry.”

“The tailor who hired him. Harry Hart became the owner of Kingsman Tailors when his partner passed away a bit ago.”

“May his memory be a blessing,” Roxy automatically said.

Percival shook his head. “They congratulated the widower.”

“Ah,” Roxy nodded. “And the tailor trusted you enough to hire him.”

“He did. I helped him out a couple years ago. With a personal matter.” Percival liked to think maybe he helped Harry when he had provided that information about support for abused spouses. Harry never left Chester, but he had seemed better. Percival was hesitant to ask to bring up bad memories. “But tell me how you are. How is your girlfriend?”

“Moved back to America.”

“I’m sorry, my dear.”

Roxy shrugged. “She didn’t like my hours anyways.”

He didn’t like her hours, but knew better than to mention them. “Come to temple this weekend with me?” Roxy wasn’t Jewish, but she had always found temple with him more calming than her mother’s high Anglican church.

“If I don’t pull an extra shift, that would be nice.” Roxy finished her coffee. “And might skip. The guy working this weekend never shuts up about the devil, and how his minions are walking among us.”

Percival laughed, “Good thing the devil isn’t real, isn’t it?”

She grinned at him, and kissed his cheek. “See you Saturday.”

Percival finished his coffee, and glanced at the counter. He’d bring Harry some biscotti, just as a thank you for taking a chance on Eggsy.

****************************************

“And it really is working out well?” Percival asked as Harry was fitting a waistcoat on him. It was purple. He hated it. But Harry looked so happy, that he couldn’t say anything. He just stood there and let it be fit to him.

“It is. Eggsy is a gift,” Harry replied easily around the pins in his mouth. “Now, I know you hate this, but I need you to trust me.”

“I don’t hate it,” Percival’s protest was weak.

“Is that the tone you use in court? Are all your clients found guilty?”

“I’m actually seldom in court. I mostly write contracts.”

“Except when you give legal advice at the shelter.”

“Except then. I don’t hate the purple,” Percival tried, “but I don’t understand why? I’m not a purple sort of man.”

“I don’t think you properly see what sort of man you are,” Harry said as he adjusted the shoulders.

“What do you see?” Percival had to ask. Harry looked at him oddly sometimes, like he was trying to figure him out. LIke he wanted to understand Percival.

It was fair, Percival stared as well, though it was mostly because Harry was quite beautiful to look at. But the man had suffered years of abuse and trauma. And Percival was paying him for a service. It all added up to not being able to ask the man out.

He dreamed though. Of them at the coffee shop together, Harry with a latte and the biscotti and them talking about first date things. Favourite movies, the music you should never admit that you actually like. Maybe their hands would brush. Percival would walk him back to the shop, a first kiss.

Percival dreamed of Harry far too much. Harry finished pinning, and the shape of the waistcoat was attractive, but still the dark purple felt far too bold.

“Trust me,” Harry said as he went to the jacket hanging on the wall. A smoky grey, with an incredibly faint line. He held it out and Percival slid into it. He realized the line in it was purple and oh. “See?” Harry was clearly responding to the stunned look on Percival’s face. “I know what I am doing.”

“You are very skilled at your craft,” Percival was solemn and sincere, and he’d like to believe Harry’s hands lingered on his shoulders out of pleasure, not because he was adjusting fabric. “Mr. Hart.”

“Harry, you know that,” Harry moved to the cuffs, pinning them up a tiny fraction.

“Harry, have you been well?” It was polite to ask after someone’s health, and he liked to listen to Harry talk.

“I have. Had a bit of a cold a bit ago, but that passed quickly enough with some fresh air and exercise.” Harry went to the other cuff. “An old friend of Chester’s stopped by, I had forgotten about him. Didn’t even recognize him. It was the smell of his aftershave that made me realize who he was.”

“I’m sorry. That must have brought up bad memories. Are you alright?” Percival ached to cup his cheek, to let him know he wasn’t alone. That Percival would like nothing more than to look out for him. “I know a wonderful psychologist that deals with ptsd.”

“I am fine, I promise. It was interesting. He apologized. He was the first of Chester’s group to apologize to me.”

“Had he hurt you?” Percival made sure to keep his voice neutral. Harry clearly wanted to talk about this, and if he indicated how much he’d like to go out and punch a man who was likely above 70, it would go poorly.

“No. He had watched when Chester...shared me, but never participated. Didn’t like the risks that would come with the rewards. He was one of the smarter ones.” Harry stepped back and nodded. “That looks quite well on you. I should have it ready in a week.” He moved behind Percival, and eased the jacket off. He stayed there behind Percival, and Percival thought perhaps Harry was hiding. “I rejected his apology. I suppose that makes me a bad person.”

“No, people can ask for forgiveness but that does not mean we are required to give it.” Percival did not turn to look at Harry, knew that would end the conversation. “How long were you hurt?”

“Longer than I care to admit.”

“Then fuck his apology. He saw a fellow human being torn apart, treated cruelly, and he did nothing? Fuck any forgiveness for him.”

Harry laughed a bit at that. “Demons will feast well on his soul.”

“If that comforts you,” Percival agreed. “You were right about the purple.”

“Of course I was,” Harry smiled at him. “I’m always right when it comes to dressing you. You’d hide your beauty, I choose to accent it.”

“I am a plain man, Harry,” Percival said. “Any panache I have is all your work.”

“You are wrong,” Harry replied and left.

******************************

Roxy was on his couch, snoring, and he was reading a contract that was the most Byzantine thing he had ever seen. It had either been written by a genius or idiot. Roxy grew restless on the couch and began talking in her sleep. A nightmare he realized, and went over and gently nudged her. He didn’t duck quick enough, and her first caught his lip.

“Bugger,” he groaned. It was going to swell.

She woke up, and scrambled up the couch. “Fuck, fuck, fuck. I hate dreams.”

“I know you do.” He sat on the couch and pulled her close. He sang her Numi Numi as he had done when he had babysat her when she was young. He had never had a strong voice, it was thin and a little off-key but she relaxed against him, memory combating terror. “Bad case?” he asked when she was calm.

“Yeah,” was all she would say. “You used to give me a small dram of milk and a biscuit.”

Percival got up, and returned with a shot of whisky and a biscuit. “There you go.”

She downed the whisky and nibbled on the cookie. “Why are you bleeding?” she asked when she properly looked at him. “Did I do that?”

“My mistake. I forgot the black belt.”

“I’m sorry.”

“There is nothing to forgive,” he promised her. “Though if you are spending the night. The guest room will be more comfortable.”

“You don’t mind?”

“Never."

“Thank you, Daddy,” she said quietly.

He didn’t respond to that, they both knew godfather and father were very different. But in moments like this, they were close enough. “I love you, my dear.”

“Sing the song again?”

“You want your ears that assaulted?”

“It makes me happy.”

Percival would do anything in his power to make Roxy happy.

*****************************************

“I will murder the culprit,” Harry said. “I will give them knew meanings for the word pain, and the demon that they go to in the pit? They cannot comprehend what awaits them.”

Percival looked around the shop in confusion. “Was that a modern adaptation of Shakespeare? Or another play?”

“You were injured. By a fist most likely. And that is just...that is just a no. I will force them to stare into the void and only when they understand how infinitely useless their existence is will I give them the mercy of plucking out their eyes and feeding them to them.”

“That is very specific, and oddly poetic,” Percival said. “It was an accident.”

Harry went very still. “Saying that was on your website recommendation checklist.” He stepped forward. “Just speak their name, and I will take care of the rest.”

Percival’s heart skipped a beat at that declaration. He should be appalled, but it was oddly sweet coming from a man who never fought anything more dangerous than a bolt of fabric. “It was not an ‘accident’, it was an accident. I woke someone from a nightmare whose flight or fight instinct is all fight.”

“Your girlfriend?” Harry asked, and Percival thought he sounded just a touch too casual. Pretending he didn’t care about the answer.

“Goddaughter. I’m gay,” Percival added.

“I’m bisexual, if we are sharing. Though I mostly prefer men these days.”

“Interesting,” was all Percival managed to say.

“It is, isn’t it?” Harry’s finger brushed his swollen lip. It was an achingly gentle touch, and Percival knew he’d be feeling it for days. “Your jacket and waistcoat are ready.”

“Wonderful,” Percival said, and neither man moved, just stayed there, staring, Harry’s finger on his lip.

“Oh bugger, what stupid magic froze you two? Harry, I swear, what did you -” Eggsy cursed as he came into the room and looked at them.

Harry stepped back. “Eggsy, retrieve Percival’s order please. Excuse me, I do have another client waiting.”

“Of course,” Percival agreed.

“It’s not another client. It’s Merlin,” Eggsy said. “He don’t pay you fuck all for what you make him. Best friend privileges.”

“He is still waiting, so again excuse me.” Harry hurried away and Percival waited while Eggsy fetched the plain black suit that Percival had requested a couple months ago, but with Ascot coming, Harry had been swamped and Percival hadn’t minded the wait. Eggsy handed it over, and Percival paid. He hoped maybe Harry would pop his head of the change room, but it seemed he wouldn’t.

Harry had made it clear though, that he cared about Percival.

Maybe asking him out would not be too untoward after all.

******************************************

They left temple, Roxy’s arm in his. “Mother is annoyed I’ve been coming here more with you.”

“Your mother is annoyed at everything. It is her great pleasure in life to be annoyed.”

“True, that and the botox. And me. I heard again that my little play acting at officer needed to end and I needed to find a husband.”

“You are a lesbian.” Roxy had been out since she was sixteen and when her parents had yelled and screamed and kicked her out until she came to her senses, he had taken her in. Fences were mended, but he had never forgiven them for that.

But then he had never forgiven them for many things.

“Yes, but that wouldn’t stop me from marrying a man.”

“I think the gentleman might object?” Percival said.

“Details, details. I am of course cut out of the will, again, if I don’t resign.” Roxy leaned her head against his shoulder. “I told her, I didn’t need her money. I am being promoted to Sergeant. I'll be able to afford name brand ramen now.”

Percival stopped them and hugged her tight in the middle of the street. “My love, I am so proud of you.”

“You’ll come to the ceremony?”

“Nothing could stop me. I’ll even have a new suit made for the occasion. And now we must acquire ice cream to celebrate.” He checked his phone and found a shop not too far away.

“Lot of new suits the last few years,” she said. “Checking on that boy?”

“Eggsy, he has been there 18 months, at least, and is beloved by Harry.”

“Do you wish you were beloved by Harry?”

“It is annoying how well you see me,” he huffed. “I perhaps have a small...crush on my tailor.”

“You generally are not the crush sort.”

“He is a remarkable man.”

“So ask him out.” They went into the shop, and looked at the options. They both picked two scoops in a cup. When they sat down, she gave him her you want to confess all your secrets to me stare. “Are you scared to?”

“It would be inappropriate for me to ask him out. For several reasons, which I will not go into right now.”

“Very well,” she said, and talked about the case that sealed the deal on her promotion. He took a photo of her, because she looked almost ethereal in the ice cream shop light. He then took another because she stuck out her tongue at him. “Ask him out.”

“One day, perhaps,” Percival agreed, mostly to appease her.

*****************************************

Two months later he was in the shop because he had lost his favourite pair of cuff links on a business trip. He brought Harry a latte and biscotti.

“I always enjoy our coffee dates,” Harry said to him, and Percival felt the flush that rose on his cheeks. “Now let me tell you about this wool I have coming in. You need to trust me.”

Harry had called the coffees he brought in a date.

Percival looked at Harry with all the emotions the man evoked in him, but Harry was busy picking out some cuff links for him. “I trust you, Harry,” he said, the words carrying a weight that meant more than a trust that the wool would suit him.