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They Were Roommates

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Eggsy drags himself up the final flight of stairs to his walk-up. Every time he makes this climb after a shoot, he always asks himself why he puts himself through this. He could live somewhere cheaper than the heart of London. Sure, the commute would be longer, but he might have a garden-level apartment. He might be able to fall asleep without hearing the siren sounds of ambulances. And he definitely might not have –

“Hey Eggsy!” Tequila perks up from his slump on the ratty old couch they’d salvaged from someone’s kerb in Mayfair. “Want to do lines with me?”

roommates.

Eggsy stares at the white powder on the equally disreputable coffee table with definite antipathy. “I want to sleep,” he says. “I don’t care if you get high, mate, but if you wake me up I’ll shiv you and leave you for the birds, feel me?”

“Ah. Bad shoot,” Tequila says wisely.

Eggsy scrubs his hands over his face. “Fuck, yeah.” Eggsy tries not to judge – a porn star really has no room to judge – but he just doesn’t understand the appeal of fur suits. And when he has to be the one in the fur suit, sweltering in the heat of a London summer because fuck if Stateman Erotic Enterprises Ltd.’s penny-pinching producer was going to pay for aircon or even a fucking fan – well, Eggsy feels like has something of a right to judge at that point. And his judgement is that furry porn should only be made in the winter.

“Over now?”

“Over now,” Eggsy confirms. He shucks his trainers, leaving them carelessly by the entryway mixed in among Tequila’s loafers and – uh oh. “Ginger Ale not home?” Her sparkly, strappy sandals are nowhere to seen. “If she gets back while I’m asleep, I’m holding you responsible for keeping her quiet.”

Tequila laughs so hard he knocks the coffee table and has to reshape his lines. “No one’s responsible for Ginger Ale but Ginger Ale,” he says.

“I need new roommates,” Eggsy says to the wall. “Roommates who aren’t porn stars. Roommates who have real names.”

“Whatever you say, Eggsy,” Tequila drawls.

“Fuck off.” Eggsy sighs a defeated sigh and headed back to his room. “I’m going to bed.”

“Want some company?”

Eggsy hesitates. He’s exhausted and probably smells awful from the fur suit, but it’s tempting. People who think porn stars had the best jobs in the world were nuts. Porn shoots mean long hours of getting hard and staying hard – it was a one-way ticket to Blueballsville, population you. It was a problem that Eggsy and his roommates had long ago solved among themselves, and usually after a shoot Eggsy would be all up for it. Today, though…

“I can suck you off in the shower,” Tequila offers.

“Sold,” Eggsy says fervently.


The smell of cooking bacon is what finally rouses Eggsy from his post-shoot coma, and he stumbles out into the kitchenette in search of it. There it is, salty, fatty, meaty goodness, fresh off the hot plate and left cooling on a paper towel. “Thank God,” Eggsy groans, reaching for a tempting rasher.

A flick of a towel drives him back. He yelps, cradling his stinging hand.

What’s my name?” his tormentor demands.

“Thank you, Ginger Ale,” Eggsy says meekly.

Ginger Ale nods regal approval and turns back to the hot plate. Eggsy, thus permitted, grabs the rasher and stuffs it in his mouth. “Oh,” he groans, sagging back against the wall as delicious goodness hits his tongue. “That’s good.”

“Don’t let Chester King hear you make that sound, he’ll realize you’ve been faking it on camera all these years,” Ginger Ale says.

“Fuck King,” Eggsy says. “He’s the one who had me stuffed in that fur suit for twelve hours trying to get the come shot just right.”

“He’s also the one who pays us,” Ginger Ale reminds him.

“And so well,” Eggsy says mockingly. “Just look at the lap of luxury in which we live.” The sweep of his hand takes in the tiny kitchenette and the only slightly less tiny living room almost entirely dominated by its ratty couch and large TV on the wall. The lino is peeling, the sink drips, and the bathroom down the hall is barely big enough to turn around in. There are only two bedrooms, which matters less than an outsider would think: Stateman Ltd. films around the clock, and it’s rare that all three of them are home at the same time, much less trying to sleep.

As for the other things they do, the double in the larger bedroom works well enough and whoever needs actual sleep – as Eggsy had done – crashes on the twin in what Eggsy is convinced had used to be a closet, before the landlord had got greedy.

“You could always go work at Maccy D’s,” Ginger Ale says sweetly. “You’d end up living somewhere no better than this, but forty-five minutes away on the tube.”

“Whose side are you on?” Eggsy sticks his head in the fridge. “Oh, thank Tequila.” There’s beer. Eggsy pulls it out and opens it against the counter. Speaking of – “Is Tequila at work?” He squints at the clock. 3 A.M.

“Yeah, he’s filming the next one for that plumber series.”

“Does anyone still watch that stuff?” Eggsy can’t fathom it. All porn is pretty artificial, but the ‘ma’am, I’m here to fix your pipes’ routine had been old when Eggsy had snuck downstairs to see his mum watching it twenty years ago.

Ginger Ale shrugs and pulls toast off the hob. “King wouldn’t film it if it didn’t sell.” She hands Eggsy a piece and says, “There, I’ve fed you. It’s my good deed for the month.”

“Thank you,” Eggsy says again, shoving the toast in his mouth and chewing gratefully. He’ll end up ordering a takeaway in a few hours when the local joints open, but for now the toast and bacon is enough to quiet the grumbling in his stomach.

Ginger Ale, in the middle of buttering her own toast, stops and cocks her head to the side. “Is that your mobile ringing?”

Eggsy pats at his pockets. “Ah, shit.” He’s left it somewhere – probably in the pockets of last night’s jeans. Which he’d left in the bathroom. Which Ginger Ale is going to give him shit about, if she finds out, so he scoots quickly down the narrow hallway to grab them out. Except they’re not there. Eggsy groans and dives for the laundry bin, cursing.

“You shouldn’t leave your dirty clothes around in the common areas!” Ginger Ale shouts.

“You’re not my mum!” Eggsy shouts back. He shoves Ginger Ale’s dirty underwear aside, finally uncovering last night’s jeans, and fishes his mobile out of them. By now, of course, he’s missed the call, but just as the voicemail notification pops up it vibrates in his hands and starts ringing again.

Ginger Ale sticks her head around the corner from the kitchenette. “Why is your ringtone Tonight I’m Fucking You?” she asks.

“Because Tequila knows my passcode,” Eggsy sighs. Last time it had been Baby’s Got Back. He flips the phone open, waves at Ginger Ale to be quiet, and says, “Hello?”

“About damn time, Unwin,” the caller grouses. Eggsy stifles a second sigh. It’s Merlin, Statesman’s talent manager. He’s a perpetually pissed-off Scotsman who seems utterly immune to the charms of everyone who works at Statesman. And now he says, “You were supposed to be here half an hour ago.”

“Er, what?” Eggsy fumbles with his old jeans to pull out the folded-up piece of paper jammed in the back pocket – his weekly shooting schedule. “Nah, mate, we just wrapped Not-So-Little Fuzzy, I’ve got nothing else till Sunday.” And that’s only a walk-on – he’ll be Frat Boy #7, which will be the same number of seconds of screen time he’s likely to get. Not that he’s really dying to be the star of Sorority Girls Gone Wild XXXIV, but money is money and he’s already going to be hard up for the next month’s rent. Hopefully Tequila will float him for a blowjob…

“What’s your schedule code?” Merlin demands.

Eggsy squinted at the upper right hand corner. “Week 27, schedule rev 6.”

“We’re on rev 7. Weren’t you at the studio yesterday? Someone should have given you the updates.”

“Well, no one did, bruh.”

“What’s that?” Merlin says menacingly. “You don’t need the role after all?”

Eggsy’s growling stomach and yawningly empty bank account disagree. “No one did, sir,” Eggsy backtracks. Merlin hates being called anything other than his name or sir. Eggsy usually remembers that unless he’s deliberately trying to antagonize the other man; right now he’s not trying, though it seems to happen sometimes without his conscious intent.

There’s an indistinct grumbling over the line, but Merlin, thankfully, lets it pass. “Who was the PA for Fuzzy?”

“Hesketh.”

“That little arsehole. Fine. Well, get your arse in here. They’re still prepping the set, so I’ll overlook your lateness this time.”

My lateness – ” Eggsy begins, outraged.

Now!” Merlin snaps, and hangs up.

Eggsy pulls the phone away from his ear and stares at it. Call ended. Well, no shit.

“Was that Stateman?” Ginger Ale appears in the hallway, holding a beer of her own. Or, wait. Eggsy squints.

“Is that my beer?”

Ginger Ale shrugs. “You’re not drinking it.”

This is, unfortunately, the truth. “Yes, it was Stateman. Do you have the rev 7 schedule?”

“Got it tonight.”

“Can I see it?”

Ginger Ale waves towards the living room, which Eggsy knows is permission to go through her purse. The schedule is right on top anyway, and sure enough, Eggsy is listed for a shoot from 2:30am through noon, on something called The Golden Cockring. Eggsy’s poor cock twitches. He just knows he’s going to be the one who ends up wearing it. Worse, the production is already booked in for the rest of this week: he may be wearing a golden ring every night from now till Saturday. And then into next week. On the plus side, it means rent is looking like less of a problem. Which means he can blow Tequila for fun instead of money. Win-win, except for the cockring part.

“You heading out, then?” Ginger Ale says from behind him. “Cause I’m going to take a nap, unless you’re free.”

“Sorry, love,” Eggsy sighs, giving her a kiss. “Duty calls. You’ll have to make do without my magnificent dong for a while.”

“Pity,” she murmurs. “Well, Tequila should be home soon.”


Eggsy is not the one wearing the golden cockring. He is the one putting it on someone else – Whiskey Jack, poor man – while trying to look as menacing as he possibly can. He’s in the role of the Overbearing Dom in this production. Eggsy is giving it his best, but he’d hardly got a RADA education, and he has the dismayed conviction that his best is about as intimidating as his childhood pet dog JB barking at squirrels while on walkies.

Whiskey Jack is hardly doing better as the swooning twink; a less convincing portrayal of a young uni boy being led down a path to his deepest desires is hard to imagine. Merlin is looking more and more thunderous with each take. The poor harassed director is sneaking him nervous glances as they line up again for another go. The fluffers are trying to become one with the floor, and the lighting guys are hiding behind the floods. To say it’s not going well is an understatement.

“This,” a posh voice says disdainfully, “is not going well.”

Eggsy blinks out of character and looks up, along with does Whiskey Jack, both fluffers, Merlin, the director, and the half of the lighting crew who haven’t successfully snuck out the back door to smoke ciggies. Chester King has appeared on the set, a rarity of itself – especially at fuck o’clock in the morning, which is how long this shoot has run to – but he’s not the one who had spoken. It’s another posh gentleman, who, unlike Chester King, is fit as fuck. But looking at the set as if it’s something scraped off the bottom of his shoe, which rather ruins the mood.

“Now, Mr. Hart, if you’ll just come this way,” King tries. He’s almost simpering. What’s going on?

“I will not,” Hart says sharply. “Mr. King, you’ve asked me for a rather substantial investment, and if this is typical of the type of films you produce, I can see why your financial straits are so dire. I will not move another step, nor consider investing a single cent, until this production is brought up to my standards.”

Eggsy’s eyes nearly bug out of his head; he has to strangle the almost uncontrollable urge to giggle. He’s never heard anyone talk to King that way before. It’s amazing. If Eggsy had known there was someone else posh enough to put King in his place, he would’ve tried to find the sooner. Not that someone like that would’ve given ten seconds to an orphan chav turned porn star, but a bloke can dream. Especially about those shoulders, God in heaven. Or those eyes. Eggsy’s a porn star in a stable triad, not blind.

Then the rest of what Hart had said penetrates, and Eggsy’s rather childish glee at seeing King get a much needed set-down evaporates abruptly. Dire financial straits? Eggsy knows what that means: it means the studio’s dead broke, that’s what it means, and they’re all about to be working at Maccy D’s. Unless this posh bloke or someone else like him invests.

“If you have any suggestions,” King blusters, “I’d certainly be glad to hear them.”

“Why? Are you the director?” Hart raises a cool eyebrow, then turns to gaze over the set. “You there,” he says peremptorily.

Whisky Jack stares at him. He sits up and points to his chest. “Me?”

“Yes, you. Take that thing off at once.”

Whiskey Jack blinks. He’s utterly naked in this scene. “Um – take off what?”

Eggsy gets it first. “The cock ring,” he says.

“Oh!” Jack fumbles it off – easy enough, since none of them are remotely hard anymore. For someone heading a porn studio, it’s amazing how much of a buzzkill Chester King actually is. “Um, okay?” He holds it up, seemingly for Hart’s approval.

Hart snaps his fingers. “Sanitize, please.”

The props manager leaps forward at once, knowing her cue. She’s got a second, identical cockring, which she hands Whiskey in exchange for the used one. “We’ll have this one sanitized for the next take, sir,” she says, whisking it away.

“Very good,” Hart says approvingly. “I see there are some people here who know their jobs. Now, you two, switch places.” He waves at Eggsy. “Anyone with eyes can see that he needs to be the ingénue. Who’s got the shooting script?”

The next half an hour is a whirl of bewilderment. Eggsy finds himself suddenly flat on his back, ring on his cock and hands bound by scarves, a naïve college boy being teased and tormented by an upperclassman. Whiskey Jack is doing a much better job of looming menacingly than Eggsy ever could. Hart had pulled a black marker from his suit pocket and struck out half of the sex scenes and replaced them with, of all things, dialogue. Then Hart had shuffled them all – actors, lighting, props – to another set done up to look like a college room and started shouting directions from the sidelines. The plot, which had previously been a rather thin excuse to start showing close-ups of various genitalia, suddenly achieves some semblance of cohesion. It’s still barely up to the level of a supermarket bodice-ripper, but it exists, and when Eggsy’s character finally ends up succumbing to his inner lust and giving himself to the dominant older boy, he’s surprised to find he hardly even needs a fluffer.

Huh.

“All right, that will do for today,” Hart is saying as they cut for the last time. “Ms. Morton, have you got that revised schedule?”

“Right here, Mr. Hart.” Roxy, this production’s PA (and thankfully a far more competent one than Charlie Hesketh), appears with a stack of printouts and begins handing them to cast and crew. Eggsy takes one, bemused. Week 27 rev 8, it says. When on earth had this happened? While coordinating set design and doing script rewrites, Hart had also been mucking about with the shooting schedule? How fucking big is his investment going to be?

Hart claps his hands for attention. “You’ll all notice a sixteen-hour break for script rewrites and set construction,” he says, beaming over the assembled cast and crew impartially. “I expect to see you back and ready to work tomorrow. Thank you, and don’t forget to get at least six hours of sleep and two square meals.”

And now he’s giving a fuck about their nutrition. Who is this guy?

Eggsy shuffles home of the studio feeling like he’s been hit by a whirlwind. Tequila accosts him as soon as he gets in the front door. “What on earth happened?” he demands. “I was next door doing Plumber XIII, and it sounded like your stage was under construction while you were on it! And apparently there’s a new suit running the joint?”

“Harold Reginald Hart the Third,” Eggsy says, because of course Roxy had peeked and gossip had taken care of the rest. “He was supposed to be some posh guy with a lot of money and not a lot of common sense. King was trying to get him to invest in the studio. Thought if he saw actors at work he’d, I dunno, get so hot and bothered he had to do it.”

Tequila winces in sympathy. “Outsiders at work syndrome, huh?”

Eggsy flops on the couch next to him. Usually nothing kills the mood faster, but – “Actually, it was weird. It was like Hart had worked porn before. He started giving orders – he rewrote the shooting script, actually – ”

“Wait, he what?”

“Swear down! He swapped mine and Whiskey’s roles, and took out the fifth anal scene for plot, of all things.”

Tequila laughs. “We work in porn, there’s no plot.”

“Well there is now. And I have to say…” Eggsy wriggles around, giving Tequila a come-hither grin. “It actually kind of worked for me.”

“You don’t say,” Tequila grins back. He leans over, putting a hand on Eggsy’s dick and his tongue down Eggsy’s throat. When he had got done thoroughly counting Eggsy’s tonsils, he says, “Why don’t you tell me more?”


The Golden Cockring shoots straight to the top, pun intended, becoming Statesman Ltd.’s best-selling porn video of all time within a month of its release. Physical sales are brisk, and digital downloads peak. “People aren’t even pirating it,” Eggsy says in shock, staring down at his royalty check. “They’re actually buying it. What the actual fuck?”

“I guess they like it?” Ginger Ale says.

“I… guess?”

“Back up the truck,” Tequila says. “I’m still confused on how you’re getting royalties. We don’t get royalties. We’re in-house talent. We get our pay. Chester King gets the big bucks.”

“Well, this ain’t a Chester King production no more,” Eggsy says. “This here is under the auspices of the newest member of Stateman’s board of directors – Mr. Harry Hart.”

“Oh hoh, he got on the board?” Ginger Ale is nodding approval. “Guess he’s not just a well-tailored suit.”

“You should’ve heard him the other day at the studio,” Eggsy says. “Straight up told King he was an idiot and running the place to the ground. King challenged him, in front of the other directors, to show he could do any better.”

“But royalties?”

Eggsy shrugs. “Hart said people work better when they’ve got a stake in the outcome. He had special contracts drawn up for everyone working on The Golden Cockring. Even the fluffers are getting, like, a tenth of a percent.”

“Well, looks like Hart was right.” Tequila casts another admiring look at Eggsy’s check, then throws his hands in the air and spins in celebration. “You’re a star now, Eggsy!”

“I’m not worrying about rent for the next few months, and that’s for certain.” Eggsy tucks the check away, still bemused. “And I guess takeaway’s on me tonight.”

“Fucking swell,” Tequila beams. “I want a curry. Oh, and garlic naan! And maybe a cola, since you’re buying – ”

“Forget takeaway,” Ginger Ale says, sliding a hand down Eggsy’s pants and batting her eyelashes at him theatrically. “Darling, what sexual acts do I need to perform to get onto your next production?”

“Oi now,” Eggsy says. “It’s not my production, it’s Hart’s production. I just happened to be on set the day he walked through. That’s all.”

“Yes,” Ginger Ale agrees. “And now, because of that, you’re – what did the article say?”

Tequila picks up the latest copy of the British Video News, England’s leading (and only) trade magazine for the adult video industry. “‘Newcomer ‘Eggsy’ Unwin is rapidly becoming the brightest star in the erotic firmament’,” he reads, “‘sure to be the darling and the delight of audiences in decades to come – particularly if he continues to star in such excellent vehicles for his unique mixture of innocence and sensuality.’”

“There!” Ginger Ale says. “There’s no doubt you’ll be getting the next plum role going around. And when Hart asks you who your costar should be, you’re going to say ‘Ginger Ale’.”

“I really don’t think that’s going to happen,” Eggsy tries. He means that he doesn’t think that Mr. Hart is going to ask his opinion on his future co-stars. Ginger Ale takes it differently. She’s still got her hands down his pants, and she takes the opportunity to stroke his dick.

“Oh, darling,” Ginger Ale purrs. “Don’t worry. By the time you’re done screaming my name, you won’t even remember anyone else exists.”


Eggsy is limping when he gets to the studio the next day. Mr. Hart, who always seems to be on hand these days, frowns at him when he sees him. “Mr. Unwin, please,” Hart says severely. “Your extracurriculars are your business, but please don’t let them interfere with mine.”

“What?” Eggsy says before he can think. “You can’t come up with a plot for why someone might be limping?”

Mr. Hart’s eyes narrow. Eggsy nearly swallows his tongue. Then he realizes that those eyes are narrowed, not in offense, but in consideration. Oh fuck –

The twelve-part miniseries The Rent Boy comes out two months later and shatters The Golden Cockring’s record in its first week, which is coincidentally how long it takes Eggsy to stop limping after shooting on it wraps. There had been no need for Mr. Hart to invite anyone’s advice on who Eggsy’s co-star should be: during the course of filming, Eggsy gets fucked on camera by literally every member of Stateman’s stable, starting with Tequila and ending with Ginger Ale wielding the props department’s largest dildo.

“Once upon a time we’d have filmed something like this over the period of several months, and released it in installments,” Mr. Hart had said almost paternally after Eggsy had limped off the stage following the scene where his latest john (played by Whiskey Jack) puts him over the hood of his car and pounds him hard enough to leave a dent. “But Netflix has come and the world has changed; now our viewers want to be able to binge-watch, and we’re going to give them what they want. Aren’t we?”

“Yes, sir, Mr. Hart, sir,” Eggsy had said, because otherwise God only knows what sadistic new film idea Mr. Hart would have come up with next, and taken himself home for a long soak, grody and rarely-cleaned apartment tub be damned.

“If he keeps paying you like this, we can hire someone to clean the tub,” Tequila says when Eggsy complains about the state of the bathroom afterwards. He’s looking at Eggsy’s latest royalty check. “Hell, I’ll retire from porn and become your live-in maid.”

“Are you going to wear the little uniform?”

Tequila sashays over with the liquid roll of his hips that had made earned him his porn nickname in the first place. “If you pay me, baby, I’ll do whatever you want.”

That makes Eggsy grin. “Whatever I want, hmm?” He crooks a finger, and Tequila slides onto his lap with the grace of a career stripper. “Let me see…”

But Eggsy’s forbearance with regard to Mr. Hart doesn’t actually seem to have won him any points; he arrives at work the next day in response to a call from Merlin to be handed a new script. “The Slutty Service,” he reads, flipping through the pages Roxy had just given him. There are a lot of them. And a surprising number contain directions that have nothing to do with whose dick is going where and when. “Oh no…”

“Oh yes,” the familiar voice of Mr. Hart says, coming from the door. Eggsy jumps and spins, pages spilling everywhere. “You’ve grown quite popular, boy. One might even call you the star of the studio. We’re going to capitalize on your visibility.”

“This is a movie,” Eggsy says, futiley scrambling to pick up the scattered script pages. “A movie with sex. Those don’t work! Do you not remember Showgirls?”

“It’s going to work this time.”

“What makes you so sure?”

Mr. Hart’s grin is frankly terrifying. “Do you know who’s buying your films, Eggsy?”

“No,” Eggsy says slowly.

“Miss Morton?”

Roxy is perched on the edge of Merlin’s desk, for which retribution will surely be swift and dire should Merlin catch her. But her grin says she doesn’t care about that at all. “Women,” Roxy says.

Mr. Hart nods. “The porn market is historically male. Women are an untapped field. But women are buying your films. That’s an entirely new market; an entirely new line of revenue.” Mr. Hart emphasizes his point, tapping his hand against his palm. “I intend to capture that market.”

“By making a porn movie?”

“Do you know what women want in their porn?”

Eggsy knows a trap when he spots one, but he can’t help saying, “Sex?”

Roxy laughs. She does it kindly, and she hides her mouth behind her hand, but she’s laughing at him. Eggsy flushes. “Well, that is generally what people expect in their porn!”

“Yes, naturally they want sex in their porn,” Mr. Hart concedes. “But they also want more than sex. And you are going to give it to them.”

Eggsy holds up the few remaining pages of script that he’s managed to recollect from being scattered at his feet. “Women want to see me wear a suit?” he demands. “They want to see me cuddle my sex partner’s puppy? Cook him breakfast? They want me to – ” he squinted at the page. “ – buy curtains?”

“Oh, Mr. Unwin, my dear, dear, moneymaking boy,” Mr. Hart purrs. “They are going to pay handsomely to see you buy curtains.”


The Slutty Service takes longer to film than any other production Eggsy has ever worked on. The plot begins with Eggsy and his fictional roommate – Tequila, also his real-life roommate – as they move in together after university. True to Mr. Hart’s words, the film opens with them at the local store arguing over curtains.

“Excuse me,” Ginger Ale’s character says, coming over with a customer service smile and a nametag pinned to her low-cut blouse. “Do you gentleman need any help?”

There follows what should have been a cliché’d two-boys-fight-over-girl plot, one that Eggsy has seen a million times before, except that the two boys are already sleeping with each other, so it turns into sort of an emotional struggle where Eggsy’s and Tequila’s character each tries to figure out how to get the girl while still keeping the boy. Everyone sleeps with everyone at various points in the movie, Eggsy wears a suit to his character’s job’s Christmas party, Tequila’s character adopts a puppy, Ginger Ale’s character turns out to enjoy wearing a hat and suspenders and giving orders in her off-time, and in the end, everyone achieves a happy polyamorous relationship.

Eggsy sits there after the preview screening and just shakes his head. He’s not sure what he’s just watched. He’s not sure what his life has even become. He’s a porn star. Right?

“Did I just watch a movie about our life?” Tequila asks from Eggsy’s left. He sounds at least as shell-shocked as Eggsy does.

“We don’t have a dog,” Ginger Ale says faintly from Eggsy’s right.

“I… that is not as comforting as you probably meant it to be.”

“My job doesn’t have a Christmas party that requires a suit,” Eggsy says.

“It does now,” Mr. Hart says from the row behind them. “Next Thursday, 8pm sharp. We’ll have the movie poster ready for unveiling by then. I expect to see all three of my new stars there.”

“I don’t have a suit,” Tequila says. “None of us have suits.”

Mr. Hart shrugs. “I think you’ll find your boss will give you an advance on your wages,” he says, already moving off.

Ginger Ale stares at his retreating back. “Chester King? Give us an advance?” She laughs. “That’ll be the day!”

Merlin, passing behind them, stops when he hears this. “Chester King? So you haven’t heard?”

The three of them exchange glances. “Heard what?” Tequila said.

“King’s out,” Merlin says gleefully. “Hart ousted him. The board of directors wanted a new approach. Between the size of the investment Hart put in, and the way Hart has turned the company around with his new approach to making films…” He grins, a truly terrifying sight. “I understand the vote was unanimous.”

Merlin moves on, leaving three stunned actors behind him. Tequila recovers first. “Well I’ll be damned,” he says, beaming. “Let’s go get that advance, then!”

“As long as you can pay rent next month,” Ginger Ale says.

Tequila throws an arm around her shoulder; when Eggsy stands up, he does the same to him. He kisses Ginger Ale, then turns to do the same to Eggsy. “Didn’t you hear?” he grins. “The future’s looking bright.”

a triptych of Eggsy, Ginger Ale, and Tequila, each in an individual portrait looking seductively at the camera, with a background of free-floating hearts over the entire image