The door to the flat swings open and Eggsy glances away from the telly long enough to see Roxy. They’ve been flat mates for a little over a year, a benefit of working in the same place and actually getting along.
“No Tilde?” He asks.
Roxy sets her dance bag down and flops on the sofa with her feet in his lap, face smushed into the cushions. Her makeup is going to stain them if she doesn’t move soon. As if reading his mind Roxy rolls over. Absently, Eggsy starts rubbing one of her feet, he knows the heels are murder.
“She came by just before closing so she could see me dance but she had to go back to hers. Early client meeting tomorrow.”
Makes sense then. Lately Tilde has been spending more time in their flat than in her own. And if Eggsy is honest he’s been spending more time in bed with Roxy and Tilde than in his own. At this point it would just make sense for Tilde to move in, so she wouldn’t have to run back and forth from her girlfriend’s flat and her own every time she has to take clients to see venues. Plus the help with rent is nothing to sneeze at.
Roxy shifts a bit so her head is propped up on the arm of the sofa, “Any chance you’d be willing to cover my shift on Saturday? Mother had graciously invited me for family dinner. God forbid grandmothers dearest find out their Oxford educated granddaughter takes her clothes off for money.”
“They still don’t know that you got sacked from that assistant position?”
“Nope. It’s hardly my fault that he didn’t take his fingers being broken lightly, and that once you have a reputation for standing up for harassment your philosophy degree is practically useless. Stupid vanity degree.” Roxy grumbles.
Eggsy knows where this rant is going. He’s heard it enough times. Apparently Roxy wanted to go in for a theater degree but her mother had informed her that theater was not appropriate and would ‘never help you find a husband’. After a threat of disownment, Roxy settled on philosophy. She’s probably the most brilliant woman Eggsy has met but she never wanted to be in her mother’s world. She was much happier dancing at Kingsman.
“It is however my uncle James’s fault for introducing me to Black Widow when I was six and then enrolling me in ballet and judo.” Roxy finishes
“Are you bartending or dancing on Saturday?”
That draws Eggsy’s attention away from the Telly properly. Roxy is grimacing apologetically.
“Rox you know I ain’t a dancer anymore.”
“You were cleared for dancing again a year ago.” She reminds him.
“Yeah well I told Harry and Merlin I ain’t ready. And they agreed.”
“We all know they’d bend over backwards for you but they also have to keep their club up and running. If I don’t have anyone to cover me Saturday then they’re going to lose clients.”
“Ask Amelia then.”
“Amelia has covered me twice in a row. I can’t ask her again.” Roxy complains.
“I ain’t dancing Rox. Get fucking Charlie to cover you or even Gazelle.”
“I said no Rox! Fuck.” Eggsy shouts and shoves her feet off his lap.
Roxy sits up, arms crossed. She has that stubborn look on her face that usually spells trouble for Eggsy.
“It isn’t fair, Eggsy. I know you’re still freaked but all of us got hired as dancers first and bartenders second. But because Harry and Merlin think of you as their son, they let you monopolize the bar and that is cutting back hours for people who need them.”
“Fuck off. Dancers make way more than I do. Don’t try to guilt me because you might be inconvenienced on Saturday.”
He pushes off the sofa, brainless show about designer wedding cakes all but forgotten on the telly. He crosses the living room, and lets his bedroom door slam. Maybe it’s childish but he wants Roxy to know how pissed he is.
He curls up on his bed and stares blankly at the water-stained wall. The thing is, he knows she is partially right. The dancers at Kingsman got lucky, Harry and Merlin hired them as employees and not outside contractors. So everyone got trained to bartend and cashier for cover charges to make sure they maximized hours. Eggsy has been monopolizing the bar which means that is one person missing out on that spot. He wasn’t lying though when he said freeing up dancing hours meant more money for the others, dancers make bank in tips. Ever since he stopped dancing making rent has been a lot harder.
Sometime later his door creaks open and Roxy slips into his room. Her hair is damp from the shower and she is still over warm from the hot water when she crawls into bed behind him. She rests her head on his shoulder and they lay there in silence for a few moments.
“Gazelle said she’d cover for me.” Roxy says softly.
Eggsy recognizes it for the apology that it is, “Sorry I shouted,” he says back.
“Sorry I pushed,” Roxy admits, “I was upset about saturday. I get that you’re not ready to go back and might never be. I just remember how much you liked dancing you always seemed so happy doing it.”
He wishes Roxy wasn’t always so fucking right all the time. He does miss the thrill of being acrobatic. Before Dean finally met that accident with the underground, parkour had been Eggsy’s release. The feeling of flying, of accomplishing incredible feats. It was freeing. Dancing didn’t give him quite the same sensation but it came close enough and was millions of times safer than leaping rooftop to rooftop in London. Daisy needed her big brother.
The extra money was nice too but more than anything he misses pushing himself.
The audience approval came second as well. For him their reaction just meant he’d succeeded in pushing himself the way he wanted. The act was what was important to him. But then… he shakes his head a bit. No point in dwelling in the past.
He squeezes Roxy’s arm where she’s draped it across his side, “I miss it sometimes, and I do feel bad about always being on bar. I’ll make Harry give me cover charge for the next few weeks.”
Roxy kisses his cheek, “I promise to try to not take my anxiety about my mother out on you in future.”
Eggsy nods and shuffles a bit so he’s laying in a more comfortable position, “You staying or going to your room?”
“I’ll stay if that’s okay.”
Eggsy doesn’t answer, just sits up and pulls the covers over them.
Opening shifts at Kingsman were worse than almost working cover charges. The place is empty until six but Harry insists on opening at four just in case someone wants to pre-book seats. However the janitorial staff doesn’t come in until five which means the person working gets stuck standing in an empty burlesque club in the middle of the afternoon with nothing to do. In his time working opening, Eggsy has only ever made one sale and the man got arrested for money laundering before even making it to the club.
Eggsy unlocks the back door to Kingsman and wanders through opening the windows to air it out. Weekends are always the busiest which means by monday there is a distinct smell of alcohol and sweat that lingers. It used to be worse before Merlin added an air purifier to the ventilation system. Bless that man’s handiness.
Eggsy unlocks the tablet they use for sales and plugs it into the register. With that done he takes stock of the bar. Digby closed the night before so the dark wooden top is polished to the point of gleaming, same with the brass edge the runs the length. Bloke is a prick but he always leaves his work area spotless.
He does a quick inventory of the bottles on the matching shelves behind him. Tequila is running low which is a first. He makes note of everything Harry will need to order and heads into the back again to leave it on his desk.
With nothing else to do he decides to prep the stage for Elmer. He’s a million years old but Harry insists on employing him out of some kind of family loyalty, and Merlin has learned to pick his battles when it comes to his husband. But it does mean that when Jenny opens up her schedule, the poor man struggles to clean the stage. It will take him half an hour just to vacuum up all the body glitter left over by Jenny. Which means it will take him even longer to get around to disinfecting the booths.
He grabs the dry mop from back stage and starts sweeping up. The fight against body glitter is a losing one but he starts to form a little pile towards the front of the stage. He makes a mental note to tell Merlin that the stage floor needs sanding again. A lot of the performances are in bare feet and splinters would suck.
As he works his way towards the center of the stage, his shoulder brushes against the pole. Most days he just ignores it. It sits innocuously on the stage. The metal isn’t even shiny enough to glitter in stage lights during performances, and during the afternoon opening there aren’t any performances to draw his attention to it.
Right now though it’s hard to ignore. He almost never hops up on stage and it’s been ages since he was on the stage and anywhere close to the pole. His tiff with Roxy comes back to him and he finds himself wondering if he is ever going to get back out there.
If the answer is no then the right thing would be to find another job and quit so Harry can hire someone that fits better. But fuck. Eggsy loves Kingsman. Even though Charlie and his posse are probably the worst people to have ever walked the earth, the rest is great. Security is fast to kick out the assholes that harass the dancers, and Merlin always backs up their decision without offering the customer any refunds. They pay extremely well because Merlin has a coding contract on the side and Harry comes from old money. So they only keep enough for themselves to keep their account level, the rest is poured back into the club. Eggsy knows if he tried to go anywhere else he would not find a manager who actively encourages unionization if he does a shit job.
Maybe he’s remembering his panic worse than it was. He never used to be scared of anything when Dean was around, so maybe he’s just behaving like a chicken shit now because Harry and Merlin insist on babying him. It would be great to make them proud again.
Maybe one little lift wouldn’t hurt. He takes a small, shuffling, step forward and tentatively wraps his hand around the pole. Taking a step closer proves to be mistake. He yanks his hand back like he’s been burned.
In a second the stage lights are up. He’s grinning, saucy and cocky. The announcer's voice is distorted, sounding like the adults from the Charlie Brown cartoons. The music thrums under Eggsy’s skin.
He steps around the pole, rolling his hips and having fun with it. After a few moments he mounts the pole, swinging himself around.
There’s something wrong. The pole doesn’t feel right. Eggsy can’t get a good enough grip on it. He has too much momentum to stop. He needs to dismount, his hands are slipping. He’s airborne. He can’t stop his descent.
A stabbing pain rockets through his knee. His head hits the floor with a crack. The music is still playing but people are shouting. Roxy’s face is swimming in front of his eyes.
Eggsy staggers away and has to sit down on the edge of the stage to catch his breath. He still feels the phantom pain in his knee. A grade two ACL tear, and a mild concussion.
The doctors at the clinic told him it was lucky he hadn’t fractured anything but if he ever wanted to dance again he’d need surgery. After a surgery that scared Daisy even today, and months of physical therapy he’d been cleared for his old lifestyle but by then the scare had settled in, and he wasn’t able to bring himself back to even pole-free dancing. It’s embarrassing to have insisted on surgery only for there to be no point.
His hands are shaking. The remembered fear is still making its way through his body. He takes grounding breaths for what feels like ages but realistically might only be a few minutes. He is still shaking when he finally hops off the stage. He’s never been more relieved to see frail old Elmer when the man finally totters in.