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into the wails of your windfight

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I know the parts of your past that haunt you the most
are the days you weren’t being yourself,
and I know that’s why most of your past haunts you.
There were so many who found you out,
and they were right.
You were good.

So un-
numb.

Healing Herman Hesse, Buddy Wakefield

 

***

 

There is a moment — a brief, heart-clenching moment — between the second that Valentine pulls a gun on Harry and when the shot rings out over the video feed that Eggsy actually thinks that Harry’s going to get out of there alive. He just watched him slaughter close to a hundred people in real time, after all, so it stands to reason that Harry finding some way to take out Valentine’s henchman and then beating the fucker into the ground isn’t entirely outside the realm of possibility. He’s Harry, for crying out loud. Expecting anything less than that of the man would be insulting him.

Except Harry gets shot in the face, and yeah, Eggsy thinks he probably should have expected that instead, but a wave of cold rushes him anyway when the feed flips up to the sky and fades to static. He slams the laptop shut and he sits back in Harry’s chair and his heart won’t stop pounding. Harry.

Harry.

Later, after he’s saved the whole wide world and is standing over a dying Valentine, he wants to say for Harry or some other cheesy shite like that, but reconsiders. This isn’t that kind of movie, and even if Valentine’s going to take it to the grave, Eggsy doesn’t feel a pressing need to hint at what Harry really meant to him, especially with Merlin listening in.

He has that shag afterwards to throw Merlin off his trail anyway, and she’s no Harry Hart but the Crown Princess of Sweden is pretty much the best game he’s ever going to get by way of women, and nobody catches on, so it’s fair game.

The weeks that follow are the calmest Eggsy has ever had. Apart from coming to terms with Arthur and the chilling fact that no less than two other Kingsmen were in on Valentine’s insane plan with him, there’s not much clean-up work for Kingsman to muddy their hands with; the remaining world governments are already on the task, and Eggsy’s not an official Kingsman yet, so nobody seems too interested in touching him for the moment. Merlin sets him up for a residence in the city, a posh, three-storey landing with rooms that remind Eggsy too much of Harry’s old place, but his mum breaks down in tears and hugs him tighter than she has in years when she steps inside the house, so he supposes it’ll do. The important part is that his mum and baby sister are going to be safe from Dean and his thugs, all of whom Eggsy is going to kick the living shit out of again if they so much as come within fifty metres of his family, rules of engagement be damned.

But other than that, everything is calm, unnervingly so. Eggsy tries not to get too used to it.

A month later, he’s summoned back to HQ to be commissioned properly, with Roxy — no, Lancelot, he’s really going to have to get used to that — and the other remaining Kingsmen present. When Merlin looks at him and calls him Galahad, Eggsy almost looks over his shoulder for Harry and immediately wants to kick himself for it. He turns the motion of his head into a nod and swallows around the sudden lump in his throat instead, but the slip doesn’t go unnoticed.

Merlin says, “Eggsy, we’re not expecting you to be him, you understand that?”

Eggsy does understand — he’s always been his own man, had to have been after his dad died, thanks very much — but that’s not the point. The point is that this — the house, Kingsman, everything — is all because of Harry, and Eggsy never thanked him properly for it, and that… that’s pretty fucked up, isn’t it, because it’s not like he didn’t get the chance, they’d known each other for months before Valentine put a bullet in Harry’s skull. Hell, the day they met Eggsy didn’t even say thanks for getting me out of prison, or buy him a drink, which any decent bloke would’ve had the sense to do, though to be fair the idea might have occurred to him if Harry hadn’t decided to go full-out Jack Bauer on everyone present in the pub then.

“He would’ve been be proud of you,” Merlin adds with a smile, which doesn’t make Eggsy feel that much better, but he smiles back anyway.

So they move on. For how close they got, the world hasn’t ended yet but there are always people in it who would like to change that, and the Kingsmen are always relevant in ensuring that doesn’t happen. It takes years of his new life, but Eggsy finds himself warming to the whole spy business, save the odd gunshot wound and almost getting killed on bad days. He still does remember Harry at times, and he thinks that’s allowed. Whatever baggage he chooses not to leave behind isn’t enough to slow him down out in the field, which is all anyone ever cares about in Kingsman, and if he lets himself get picked up by the occasional older gentleman for a casual shag every once in a while — because that’s apparently a thing that happens when you hang about gentlemen’s clubs for long enough — then nobody has to know about it, and it’s good, it’s all good.

Which is why, of course, Harry has to go and ruin everything by turning up alive.

 

***

 

This is five years after.

Eggsy’s freerunning over the Sarajevo skyline as quickly as he can, roof shingles under his Oxfords slippery from the snow, and he’s trying to focus on not losing his footing rather than the angry voices and gunshots trailing after him. The intel in his jacket pocket, a particularly bulky hard drive, smacks against his chest whenever he jumps from roof to roof or whirls around to return fire. It’s plain ridiculous, because it’s nearly 2020 and terrorist cells shouldn’t be keeping their bomb schematics in 100-gigabyte hard disks the size of a wallet, but there’s not much that can be done about that, and the bruises he’s sure he has will be worth saving the Republic of San Marino, wherever that might be, when he completes the mission.

If he completes the mission.

When a cover spot presents itself in the form of a tall water tank, Eggsy ducks behind it to get out of the enemy’s line of sight. Cursing under his breath, he empties the clip in his gun from his cover spot and slams in another; by the information in the mission dossier he’d been expecting the company of a dozen men, maybe two. Not an entire mercenary squadron fitted to the teeth with more Glocks and semi-automatics he’s seen outside of an actual arms cache.

“Merlin,” Eggsy yells over the chaos, waiting for an opening so he can bolt from his hiding place and scout out a new one. Two more men burst out from a roof access in front of him and catch a bullet to the chest each from Eggsy’s already-jumpy trigger finger. “Merlin, fuck, I need to get out of here, now.

“The rendezvous point’s two kilometres northwest of your location,” Merlin reports through the intercom. “Will you be able to make it there?”

Fresh gunfire rains down around him, rattling into the water tank and kicking up brick dust in the walls flanking him. “Negative,” Eggsy grunts. He already has a bullet lodged in his shoulder despite the ballistics-resistant weave of his suit, and by the way it’s aching something fierce he suspects it’s gone deeper than the initial impact suggested. “These guys aren’t even giving me space to breathe.”

“How long can you hold out for?”

“Can’t,” Eggsy starts to say, and it’s all he has time for because one of the men firing on him brings a fucking rocket launcher into the fight, something he finds out when the water tank explodes into steam and twisted metal without warning and the resulting shockwave throws him painfully to the floor. Ears ringing, vision blurring, it’s all he can do to shake himself conscious again and drag himself to temporary safety.

“Galahad? Galahad! What was that? Do you read me?”

“Yea,” Eggsy coughs, shakes his head again to clear it. He’s certain the tingling along the back of his neck is one hell of a flash burn developing, and his shoulder is now throbbing worse than ever. “I mean, roger. I read you.”

“Can you hold out, Galahad? Yes or no?”

The shouting through the smoke grows clearer still amid a fragile lull in the shooting. When Eggsy can finally breathe properly again, he springs up on the balls of his feet and sends off a couple more rounds in the general direction of the voices, provoking another cadence of retaliatory gunfire. “Negative,” Eggsy says, and makes a run for it with his head held low, more bullets whizzing over him. “If you’re going to do something clever, now would be a good time, Merlin!”

Another rocket whistles through the air and blows up a satellite dish not ten metres from where Eggsy was two seconds ago. He twists his body to avoid shrapnel and dodge-rolls behind an air vent, picking himself up and fleeing before that gets blasted to smithereens as well. “Merlin,” Eggsy bellows to the sky as he runs, “Merlin, mate, I think this might be it for me. I know I’ve said it loads before, but. For real this time. I’m fucked.”

Merlin says nothing at first before he replies, with something tight in his voice, “I’m sending in backup.” Another pause, then, “Hold on, Eggsy. Help’s on the way.”

Eggsy is about to ask what Merlin means by that — it’s almost unheard of to have backup in Kingsman these days, they’re stretched too thin as it is — when he feels the dull slam of another bullet in his lower back; this time his suit holds, but the brief shock nearly knocks him over. He turns to fire back, runs to the edge of the roof through the pain, and leaps over the parapet to the adjacent building.

There’s more yelling and gunfire as he breaks his landing in the snow, but the bad guy with the rocket launcher seems to have run out of ammo, which Eggsy is thanking the powers that be for until his foot punches straight through the rotted wood of the roof he’s sprinting over, and then he’s free-falling for all of five seconds before he slams flat against concrete, hard enough to black out his vision for a second, and his glasses clatter away into a dark corner. Old memories of a parachute-free skydive come second to the pain of several cracked bones, and for the greater part of a minute he’s too stunned from the fall to stand up but registers the sound of a door bursting open and heavy footfalls around him.

Eggsy looks up, and suddenly it’s like being pinned down in Valentine’s mountain bunker all over again, except this time he’s fairly certain that these men don’t have explosives implanted in their heads and it’s not like he can radio Merlin for help this time round. There are ten of them, which wouldn’t ordinarily be a problem if Eggsy’s whole body wasn’t out for the count. A command is given in Serbian, and then every gun in the room is levelled at him. He grits his teeth and hangs on to what’s probably his last breath, secure in the knowledge that he’s going down fighting, and prays that it won’t hurt too much when it does happen.

Before they can pump Eggsy full of bullets, however, an explosion blows in through a boarded-up window, rocking the room and filling it with smoke. By pure instinct, Eggsy rolls out of the way and into the wall, wincing from the effort and scanning about wildly for the source of the blast. A shadow of a figure vaults inside through the totalled window, and suddenly mercenaries are flying around the room like rag dolls amid shouting, bodily thuds, and the noise of a silenced pistol discharging over and over again.

In a matter of seconds, there are less than half the number of people standing who had stormed the room at the beginning. Several of the mercenaries close in around the figure, but there’s a shotgun-like boom and they’re flung back across the room, dark red patches spreading across their chests. One lands next to Eggsy in a slump and doesn’t move. He’s joined swiftly by two more with matching injuries to their heads and necks. A rapid exchange of gunfire later, the last mercenary keels to the floor, bleeding from the bullet hole between his eyes, before the smoke clears sufficiently for Eggsy to make out the person walking up to him with a pistol in one hand and an umbrella hanging off the other.

Face specked with blood, Harry dusts himself off, pushes his glasses up and holsters his gun. He looks down at Eggsy with a tiny grin curving his mouth and says, almost amusedly, “All right there, Galahad?”

 

***

 

In an astonishing twist of fate — you know what, scratch that, because Eggsy’s one hundred percent sure that Merlin did this on-fucking-purpose — the safe house that Harry hauls him to is just across the block from where he’d been dropped off at the start of the mission. Eggsy still can’t walk by himself without stumbling every few steps, and while he has nothing against Harry’s offer of a fireman’s lift in principle, he still has his dignity to think about, and settles for the compromise of using him as a human crutch instead.

Harry helps him in and deposits Eggsy on the couch in the living room before doubling back to lock the door. The apartment is small and grotty, with little furniture to speak of save the couch he’s on and a dining table pushed up against the wall. Paint peels from the ceiling and faded drapes filter out most of the late afternoon sunlight streaming in from the only window. The musty smell in the air makes Eggsy wrinkle his nose. Nothing about the place screams property of Kingsman immediately apart from the biometric scanner on the front door, and the fact that they’re both there.

“You’re bleeding,” Harry comments when he’s back.

“Hm? Oh.” Eggsy looks over his shoulder at the blotch of red on the back of his suit. “Yeah, I got shot.”

Harry cocks an eyebrow. “Sounds like it happens quite a lot.”

“No shit,” Eggsy mutters, like he’s not talking to someone who has the face of his dead mentor. Harry’s hair is shorter and greyer, and the angle of his jaw looks a little off, as if it’s been broken once and then never reset fully. There are wrinkles in his face that Eggsy doesn’t remember, but with the glasses on it’s uncannily him, or an extremely good impostor. Five years of black ops and subterfuge tend to make quite the skeptic of a person, and there are numerous other possibilities that could account for this happening besides the obvious, painful one Eggsy’s not sure he wants to believe.

“I’ve a medical kit in the bedroom. Wait here.”

Eggsy nods, watching the far wall until Harry returns to him with the kit, and he doesn’t speak until Harry’s done with unpacking the thing on one of the couch cushions, which is dark and faded and sort of looks like an infection waiting to happen, but you know, whatever works.

“So,” Eggsy says, trying not to make it sound like an accusation, “you’re alive, then.”

Harry just makes a humming sound that could mean just about anything. He snaps on a pair of latex gloves and says, “If you don’t mind…?”

Eggsy sheds his suit jacket and shirt obediently, turning so that Harry can work on his bare shoulder. “There was a funeral, you know,” he says, flinching at the first sting of antiseptic solution swabbed over raw, broken skin. “Your funeral. With a priest and flowers and a coffin and everything.”

“Yes,” Harry says. Sharp tweezers excavate Eggsy’s shoulder, and he winces. “I know. That was… interesting to attend.”

Eggsy closes his eyes, because the closed-coffin thing makes sense now, though he’d been grateful for that at the time. He wonders if that grave in Manor Park Cemetery is empty, or if it contains some other poor bloke buried under the wrong name, and why it would matter to him either way. “You were there?”

Harry hums again, pulling the bullet from Eggsy’s shoulder and letting it clatter to the floor. “A flesh wound, it would seem,” he says. “That’s fortunate.”

Eggsy wants to scoff at the deflection but it’s not like it’ll do him any good, so he just sits as he can whilst Harry tears open a suture pack and gets to stitching the hole in his shoulder. He thinks back to the funeral, so very long ago but still in his memory with sharp clarity: Roxy and Merlin standing beside him, their heads bowed throughout the elegy and the lowering of a coffin for a man who wasn’t dead. Like actors in a pantomime. A farce. The very thought of it makes his stomach churn.

“Merlin knew,” he says, and it’s not a question, because now it’s clear as day that this is what he meant by backup, the cunt.

“Yes.”

“Just him?” Eggsy asks, because he can’t believe that Roxy would keep something like this from him, she wouldn’t —

But then again, he could have very well said the exact same of Harry, once.

Harry sighs, but his hands remain steady with every stitch he makes in Eggsy’s skin. “Unless if he’s told anyone else, not as far as I’m aware.”

The knot winding in Eggsy’s chest loosens, but only just. He’s not sure why, honestly speaking. It doesn’t change the fact that he still doesn’t know what to believe of the world anymore, for all the secrets and lies and betrayals that it has come to revolve around for the last five years of his life.

“If I wasn’t about to,” Eggsy starts, sucking in a breath through teeth clenched against the pain, “you know, like. Back there. Would you have come? Would I have ever known?”

There’s no response from Harry, but the clicking of forceps and tweezers is as good an answer as any.

“Fucking hell,” Eggsy growls.

Harry clucks his tongue. “Language,” he warns.

“Whatever.”

“A gentleman does not swear.”

“But they’re okay with playing dead and lying about it, no fucking problem with that,” Eggsy retorts, because now that the initial relief of having his sorry arse saved has passed, anger sprouts up in its place. He’s angry at himself, inexplicably, for not having expected this, but more so at Merlin and Harry. Mostly Harry, who could’ve told him a hundred times over but didn’t, like it was information Eggsy hadn’t earned the right to.

He expects another reprimand at this, but Harry just sighs again, snips off the last of the stitches and gets to taping a large pressure dressing in place. “Ever seen Diamonds Are Forever, Eggsy?”

Eggsy has, as a matter of fact, so he knows what Harry’s trying to imply, but he just snorts and makes no response beyond that. They’re not playing this game. Not now.

“Mm, fair enough, might be a bit far back for you. Captain America 2?”

Eggsy sets his jaw and folds his arms.

“Oh, come on, now. Sherlock?”

“If you’re suggesting that I should be trying to strangle you right now,” Eggsy snaps, “Believe me, I’d love to have a go.”

“Ah, so you have, then,” Harry comments, patting Eggsy on the arm to let him know that he’s done. “It’s a good show. I’m looking forward to Season Five.”

“Just tell me why you did it already,” Eggsy sighs, pulling his shirt back on and buttoning it up, then shifts so they’re facing each other.

Harry smiles in a manner that doesn’t seem to fully reach his eyes. “Kingsman needed a ghost operative. It just so happened that I fit the requirement.”

That’s… sure, it’s a reasonable explanation, but the heat in Eggsy’s face doesn’t subside. Which it should, because he’s done his own fair share of fucked up shite in the name of Kingsman and the greater good, and this seems fairly mild by comparison. But all the same, he can’t stop thinking about the hole Harry left in his life five years ago and the way it’s bulged out into how he is around other people. Eggsy always known he’s an emotionally constipated wreck, has been even long before meeting Harry, make no mistake about it, but it was always that singular loss that’s made him perpetually wary of finding anyone else and staying tethered. Hard to when he could’ve died on a mission at any point in time. He’d never have wanted to do to another person what losing Harry did to him.

“And that makes it okay, then?” Eggsy says, because why the hell not, it’s not like his life isn’t already one big cliche as it is.

Harry apparently thinks so as well, because his mouth turns and something dark comes over his face for the briefest of seconds, lapsing into this look that Eggsy thinks might be hurt, before it’s gone and he says, quietly, “I’ve never once claimed it was.”

Great. Trust Harry to turn this around and make Eggsy feel like the arsehole in this situation. He watches Harry pack up the medical kit in mutual silence, doesn’t once offer to help even as his fingers itch. He tells himself that’s what he wants to do with them, not straighten Harry’s fractionally askew tie, or rub off the bit of dirt on his collar that’s been bothering Eggsy for the past hour and a half, and most definitely not taking Harry’s face in both hands and kissing him as if he were teaching someone who didn’t know how.

Not that kind of movie, he remembers, and it might even be true. Maybe just a little bit.

Harry brings the medical kit back to the bedroom, and when he returns again he has a phone in one hand and is typing something into it, holding it at an angle such that Eggsy can’t see what’s on the screen. Then he pockets it and settles back on the couch next to Eggsy, folding his hands neatly in his lap.

Eggsy listens to the silence for several long minutes before he clears his throat and says, “What now?”

Harry looks at him, eyebrow raised. “You tell me. It’s your mission.”

Eggsy scoffs. Like he has a reason to believe that anymore.

“I assume you got your objective out alright?”

The what? Oh, right. Why he’s even in Sarajevo at all. Eggsy reaches into his jacket, draped over the armrest, and fishes out the hard drive in the breast pocket, tossing it over to Harry so he can examine it.

“I wasn’t aware that these were still in production,” Harry notes, turning it over in his hands.

“Yeah, me neither,” Eggsy mutters.

“Merlin will probably want to take a look at this as soon as possible.” He returns it to Eggsy with an approving nod. “You’ll be flying back to HQ first thing tomorrow, yes?”

Something in the way Harry says it makes Eggsy’s hackles rise. “It was going to be tonight, but I dunno,” he says carefully. “You — this. This wasn’t supposed to be part of the mission.”

“Yes.” Harry smiles, and Eggsy’s heart just aches for him. “I can see how this might qualify as a complication.”

“You gonna come back as well?” Eggsy asks, before he can lose his nerve.

The smile wanes. “I’m afraid not.”

Ah. Then, with absolutely no panic seeping through: “You gonna come back at all?”

“Eggsy,” Harry says, like he’s trying to make a small child understand, and oh, Eggsy hates him for it, he hates him almost as much as he loves him, “My mission isn’t over yet.”

Will it ever be? Eggsy thinks but doesn’t ask. This one, he knows he won’t want to hear the answer to.

“Kay,” he says instead, and turns away from Harry, because if he’s going to be treated like a child he may as well act like one. Maybe this is why he never had the courage to make a move back then — the possibility that Harry always regarded him as an unruly to be raised and looked after, and nothing more than that.

“Eggsy,” Harry repeats, his tone far more sincere than Eggsy can take.

“I need a drink,” Eggsy mutters, standing up and wandering from the couch before he realises he has absolutely no idea where the pantry is, if there even is one in this apartment at all and if it’s stocked with anything as potent as Eggsy requires. Failing that, he just stands in the hallway with his arms akimbo, a tactical retreat but also a miscalculation.

“Second door on the right,” he hears Harry say from the living room with something like a smile in his voice, and Eggsy doesn’t bother with gratitude, just strides away thinking, fuck him.

 

***

 

Because see, when you go through life with nobody giving a toss about you for as long as Eggsy has, you tend to latch on to the first person who does, no matter who it is. It’d been Dean once, when Eggsy was younger, but then he turned out to be a Grade-A wanker with an entire side course of scumbag to boot, and after that crushing disappointment Eggsy had sworn himself off father figures for the rest of his life. Which is why when he walked out of that police station and found Harry waiting for him on those steps, his first thought was to tell him to fuck off, because he wasn’t up for being fucked in the literal sense when that was already figuratively happening with every waking minute of his miserable life, but cheers for the jailbreak anyway.

But Harry was… different, to say the least. Harry gave him a future to think about and he didn’t have to do that, not really. He gave him everything and didn’t even want to fuck Eggsy, which wasn’t how the world was supposed to work. At least not the part of it that Eggsy slogged through on a daily basis.

He can’t deny that things would be easier for them both if Harry had been more of an arsehole about their business together, or just impersonal, even. If he didn’t smile around Eggsy in that way he never did when someone else was in the same room with them, or if he didn’t always look at him with his whole heart in his eyes; man, what else was Eggsy supposed to do with that apart from falling head over heels for him? He’s only human, after all.

He used to think a lot about that. When exactly it was he knew for sure that he was in love with Harry. It certainly wasn’t after Harry had saved his skin not once, nor twice, but thrice in a single day, though there were some stirrings of that already present, in the Guinnesses they shared and Harry’s disembodied voice in his house and the way he said Kingsman in that tailor shop like a promise, like it was salvation. Maybe it was that night on those blasted train tracks, with Harry looking down over him as if he’d never been as proud of anyone before. Maybe it was Harry lying still and broken in a hospital bed with tubes in his body and a machine breathing for him, and Eggsy praying to the only god he knew and thought he’d managed to outgrow, please let him be okay.

Maybe it was when he finally understood that the slow, arduous process of becoming a Kingsman wasn’t so much Harry forcing manners upon him to make him into a man, but helping him realise that he’d always been one in the first place.

 

***

 

Eggsy wakes in the middle of the night with a crick in his back and his shoulder hurting like a bitch. The mattress beneath him is too hard, too foreign, but then he remembers mission, Sarajevo, Harry, and then he just sighs and closes his eyes and tries to go back to sleep. When it becomes clear that it’s not an option, he throws the blanket off and gets up, spits in the sink and tugs his shirt on before leaving the bedroom.

He finds Harry out on the balcony, tapping ashes from the cigarette he has clamped between two fingers into an empty wine glass. An open bottle of port sits on the balustrade. Eggsy's sure he didn’t see that in the pantry, since he’d be drunk out of his mind right now if he’d found anything like that.

“Mind if I join you?” he asks from the living room.

Harry turns and looks assessingly at him, then nods once.

Eggsy pads up next to him. The Sarajevo night is cold, and he shivers before picking up the port and swallowing a mouthful. It’s magnificently strong, which is just what he needs at the moment.

“Where were you hiding this?” he asks, rotating the bottle in his hands.

Harry shifts, ever so slightly. “I went out and got it. After you went to bed.”

“Oh.”

“Having trouble sleeping?”

Eggsy shrugs. He used to, when nightmares of gunshots in a church were enough to startle him awake, grasping for someone who wasn’t there. Even now he has them from time to time. He’s trained himself to sleep through them, but he still won’t go back to Kentucky, not even for missions. Merlin gives those to Roxy, or any of the other Kingsmen.

“Is it the pain? There’s some ibuprofen in the kit if you need it.”

“I’m good, thanks,” Eggsy says, eyeing Harry’s cigarette.

Harry considers him for a moment, then offers it to Eggsy without another word. With a wry grin, Eggsy lifts it to his lips and takes a long drag, sucks it deep into his lungs as the nicotine rushes his system and he feels so alive for the moment, yes.

“I thought you’d quit,” Harry says.

Eggsy shrugs again, coughing out smoke. “I thought you never started,” he counters, handing the cigarette back.

Harry accepts it and smiles. “It helps pass the time. I try not to make a habit of it.”

“Are you having trouble sleeping?”

Face tilted to the moon, Harry breathes and sighs placidly. “Sometimes it’s better not to fight it, if you get what I mean.”

Eggsy doesn’t, and he can’t be arsed to find out, so he grunts and rests both elbows on the balustrade and looks out over the city. He hasn’t made note of it since coming here to start the mission, but he realises now that Sarajevo at night is beautiful. It’s the kind of city he remembers his dad used to tell him about, back when Eggsy’d believed he was a travelling tailor, just that, and not a secret agent in training. It reminds him of London and not at all of it, bright city lights mixing with its countryside idyll, the dark outlines of mountain ranges scoped in the distance, and snow frosting the early morning air.

“Did you ever want to tell me?” Eggsy asks, after a long while of them not saying anything to each other, because it’s suddenly important that he knows. “That you were alive?”

The look Harry gives him is much too sad. “Always, Eggsy. Always.”

“Okay,” Eggsy says, even though it’s not.

“I had my orders.”

“Yeah, yeah, I get it.”

“And still you are upset.”

“Yes, but, come on, it’s not what you think,” Eggsy mumbles, tracing a circle into the white marble under him with his index finger.

A pause, glowing embers off the cigarette end, and then with moon-silvered breath on an exhale: “Do you want to talk about it?”

“It’s like, I never really got to know you, y’know?” Eggsy says, everything coming out in a rush. He contemplates the moon, as if to confess to it. “Before you di — before you left. We didn’t talk too much, did we, and. You know more about me than I do about you. It didn’t feel right.”

He can just about make out the quiet surprise on Harry’s face, which is oddly satisfying to look at. “I see,” Harry says. He rests the lit cigarette next to the port bottle and turns his head to look at Eggsy. “Well, what would you like to know?”

“Before this, like. Before Kingsman. What were you, you know.”

“I grew up in Staffordshire,” Harry says without further prompting. “Went to grammar school, then Oxford, and then RAMC. My mother died the second year I was there. Kingsman got into contact right before I was to be commissioned, and that’s when I found out she used to be an operative.”

Eggsy blinks in surprise. Harry’s a doctor? That explains the unerring precision of the stitches in his back. “Oh,” he says, and stamps down on the I’m sorry that instinctively springs into his mouth once he’s digested the rest of what Harry’s told him. He of all people knows better than that to fall into that trap. “What about your dad?”

Harry smiles. “Growing up, it was only ever Mummy. Troubled marriage, you see.”

“Right. Yeah.”

“Anything else?”

“What did she go by in Kingsman?” Eggsy isn’t sure why he’s even asking, but then Harry’s smile widens and Eggsy’s saying it even before he knows it, “Galahad?”

“Kingsman has quite the thing for continuity,” Harry explains.

“No kidding,” Eggsy laughs, and it’s the lightest he’s felt in weeks. He thinks about prying further into Harry’s military life before something else occurs to him. “So if you’re not Galahad anymore, then what are you, exactly?”

“Elyan,” Harry replies with a coolness in his voice that wasn’t there before. “It’s not a name you’ll ever have to hear in Kingsman, if I’m doing my job right. The designation has been defunct since 1985. For official reasons, it doesn’t exist anymore.”

Elyan, Eggsy thinks. Different name, same man. He can work with that.

“What happened after you got shot?” he asks.

“I died,” Harry says simply, like he’s passing a comment about the weather. “Many times, as a matter of fact. I was unstable for months. Nobody believed I would survive, each and every time.”

“But you did,” Eggsy breathes.

Harry nods. “I pulled through, eventually. By the skin of my teeth, I’ve been told. But they’d already signed my death certificate, and it seemed a shame to let that go to waste. You get the idea.”

“So you’ve been… under-undercover, is what you’re saying,” Eggsy says slowly. “Or super-undercover, whatever.”

“If you like,” Harry says, a good-natured laugh shaking his shoulders.

Eggsy grins, because he’s missed this so much more than he knew, him making Harry smile just to see how it lights up his entire face, and for the way Harry’s laughter makes Eggsy’s chest open to the point where he can almost bring himself to tell him about the things he’s felt for the longest time. So much, in fact, that he’s hurting from it and there are now tears leaking from his eyes, and he looks down so Harry won’t see, but he does anyway because he’s Harry and it’s impossible to hide anything from him.

“Eggsy?” Harry’s hand is suddenly at his elbow, fingers warm through the cotton of his shirt. “Are you quite alright?”

“Yeah, sorry.” He wipes his eyes on his sleeve and winches up the biggest smile he can muster before he faces Harry. He thinks he feels his elbow tingle from where Harry’s skin briefly brushed his. “Sorry, I’m just. I dunno where that came from.”

Harry’s eyes hold nothing but the deepest, most earnest concern. “You are certain?”

Eggsy shuffles his feet and nods wordlessly. God, get it together already. “So why are you here, anyway?” he asks.

The worry in Harry’s expression doesn’t dampen, but he startles nevertheless. “I’m sorry?”

“In Sarajevo,” Eggsy clarifies, grateful to have something legitimate to query about. As widely-dispersed an organisation as Kingsman is, it’s no coincidence that two operatives have somehow managed to end up working the same grounds. “Are you on a mission here, or something?”

“I… in a way, yes. You could say so.”

Eggsy looks at Harry expectantly and waits for him to elaborate.

Harry hesitates for far too long, then tilts his head apologetically and says, “It’s classified. I’m sorry.”

Somehow, Eggsy finds he doesn’t believe that for a second. And it’s not his spy training calling bullshit, but rather the part of him that he’s buried deep down for years, the part that longs for Harry hard enough to know a white lie when it hears one and wants to press the issue.

“So if you’re not coming back to HQ,” Eggsy says, schooling the suspicion from his tone, “Where are you going next?”

There’s another brief pause. “Elsewheres,” Harry answers. “Wherever I’m needed, I expect.”

“Hm.” Eggsy works back along his last string of completed assignments, a list of locations like coloured thumbtacks stuck into a world map. “Somewhere like, say, Buenos Aires?”

“Possibly.” Harry’s expression betrays nothing, doesn’t even threaten to slip.

“Or Helsinki?”

The corner of Harry’s mouth twitches, and it lasts just a microsecond but Eggsy is keeping a close enough watch such that he doesn’t miss it. “I don’t know if I should… Eggsy, please, you have to understand —”

“Istanbul? Darfur? Pisa? Osaka?” Eggsy lists in rapid succession, a hot flush creeping up his neck. “Or hm, I don’t know, just to hazard a guess, St Petersburg?”

Even in the dim light, Harry’s face has gone very, very pale. The sight makes Eggsy’s heart feels as though it’s swollen to twice its normal size.

He swallows to steel himself, and asks, “Were you — have you been looking out for me?”

Harry’s lips go dangerously thin, and in that single gesture, Eggsy just knows.

“All this time?” he asks, and manages to keep the words from breaking, a small miracle in and of itself.

Harry is too quiet at this, and looks far too defeated for the strongest man Eggsy’s ever known. “Not always,” he says, his voice low. “Just sometimes. Whenever I can.”

Eggsy shakes his head but can go no further than that, because his throat is closing up and even if it wasn’t he knows he’s going to break down completely if he tries to say anything, so he closes his eyes and allows Harry to take him by the shoulders, trying to keep the tears back, warm breath in his fringe and Harry’s mouth just inches away from his forehead.

“I heard about Valentine, you know,” Harry says softly, back in control once more. “From Merlin. What you did, every last detail of it. And I was so, so very proud. Just look at you.” He touches his fingers to Eggsy’s cheek, and Eggsy looks up into his small, loving smile. “How wonderful you are. My Eggsy.”

Eggsy sniffs, lips pursing, hands fisting by his sides, and then he rocks up on his tiptoes to kiss Harry, how could he not. Harry doesn’t draw back, not at all, just threads a hand into Eggsy’s hair and kisses him back, he doesn’t stop, he doesn’t stop. Eggsy makes a whining noise in his throat, and oh, Harry’s hands are gripping his back, studiously avoiding the wound in his shoulder, and he wraps his arms around Harry’s upper torso and kisses the corner of his mouth, seeking the very essence of him.

He wants Harry. He wants him so much he can barely breathe.

“Let me,” Harry murmurs, his hands already moving to unbutton Eggsy’s shirt as they stumble back indoors, into the warmth. He lowers his head to let Eggsy pull his shirt off, tugs both their pants down and kicks off his slippers. Then, he pushes Eggsy’s shirt off his shoulders and kisses him, thumbs sliding down to press lightly into the hollows of his jaw.

“Harry,” Eggsy whispers. His name just slips from his mouth, and it’s all he ever wants to have to say.

“Eggsy,” Harry replies, and then they’re on the couch, naked bodies pressed together as they kiss and kiss and kiss. Eggsy gasps when Harry palms his cock, fingers curled around the base, and jerks his hips against Harry’s thigh. His face is hot and Harry’s body is warm and he can’t think anymore, not with Harry on top of him and Harry’s lips on his and the sheer want and desire flooding him like sparks shooting through a live wire.

Please, Eggsy thinks, almost past the point of bearing. His hands won’t stop trembling at the nape of Harry’s neck and he hopes Harry won’t notice. Maybe he does or maybe he doesn’t, but Harry lets out a growl and mouths at Eggsy’s throat, kissing and sucking as Eggsy inhales the smell of his hair. Harry smells of cigarette smoke and expensive cologne, the kind Eggsy’s always disliked and never wore himself but he doesn’t care about that, not one whit, because Harry has him now and that is all that has ever mattered.

“I’ve missed you,” Harry mumbles into his skin, directly over his breastbone. A tentative lick at Eggsy’s nipple sends him twitching, but he stills at the dragging of elegant fingers over his pelvis. His heartbeat has gone almost as ragged as his breathing, and Harry must hear.

“Don’t go,” Eggsy says to the ceiling, before Harry kisses his chest, his navel, and goes lower to take him in his mouth. Eggsy melts into the couch with a moan, bucking into Harry’s slick throat, and it takes every last shred of self-control he has not to choke him. Harry tucks his teeth away under his lips as he gives little tender sucks, hollowing his cheeks and tonguing the underside of Eggsy’s cock. Eggsy slips his hands into Harry’s hair but doesn’t grip or pull, just leaves them there, resting. He’s breathless with the effort of not coming apart and maybe it’s a good thing that he hasn’t the air for the words that he doesn’t trust himself to get right, like if he says the wrong thing then Harry will be gone all over again, and Eggsy would sooner have the world end twice over than take that risk.

So instead, he touches Harry back, smoothening his hands over whatever of him that he can reach. Every inch of skin electrocutes, every touch tingles. Harry has very well-built shoulders and thick deltoids, and there are scars on his back that Eggsy tries to map fully with his fingers as if to understand their history. There’s still so much he doesn’t know, so much to ask from and of Harry, but there’s just not enough time, and the thought that this first between them might also be their last makes him gasp and sob with every thrum of his labouring heart.

Oh, his heart. He thinks it might be breaking but he can’t know for sure, not while he’s completely and utterly lost in the only person it could ever break for, who is not at all dead but alive and breathing and here, with him, for what he prays will be the rest of their days.

When he comes, it’s with Harry’s mouth still working over his cock, a cry stoppering up in his throat, and pleasure breaking open inside him in thick, heavy waves as Harry swallows and swallows around him, fingertips circling an endless caress against the inside of Eggsy’s thigh.

 

***

 

He doesn’t sleep.

They stay on the couch for the night, just holding on to each other. Eggsy puts his hands on Harry’s back and kisses his shoulder and Harry kisses him in return and that’s enough. He doesn’t want to ever stop touching Harry. He wants to burn the memory of Harry’s skin into the palms of his hands, so that when he closes his eyes he’ll be able to feel him, even if it won’t be real.

When the sky outside has finally begun to lighten with day, Eggsy’s still awake but he hasn’t moved for the longest time. Harry’s breath on the back of his neck falters, and Eggsy keeps his eyes closed through the slow lift of weight behind him off the couch, the footsteps to the bedroom and the quiet shuffling of clothes being put on. He waits for Harry to return to the couch, to him, and lie back down beside him and stay.

But then he hears the door click open and shut and the cool slice of air over his bare, bruised back tells him what he already knows, Harry is gone.

He sleeps.

 

***

 

He gets flown back to London that very afternoon. Eggsy’s always struggled with mission reports but the Sarajevo operation is surprisingly easy to type up. Missions with holes in them generally are. It’s always simpler to fill in gaps with misinformation than to try and explain them away, and it happens much less often than not but sometimes Eggsy gets lucky and Merlin lets him slide.

He knows for sure that Merlin will let him go on this one.

“Sounds like you ran into a bit of trouble,” Merlin notes, once he’s read the report.

Eggsy doesn’t reply. Harry smiles demurely at him from the wall, the etching at the bottom of the portrait’s mahogany frame glinting gold. Galahad VI, 1988—2015. My strength is as the strength of ten, because my heart is pure.

“Eggsy.”

There are no women among the portraits hanging in the room, nor are there any repeats of names. The latest date Eggsy can find is on a stern-faced Pellinore who died in 2001. There will be no Elyan, so he doesn’t even bother looking. He scuffs the toe of his shoe against the thick carpet and stuffs his hands into the pockets of his trousers.

“Eggsy,” Merlin says again. “I’m sorry.”

Eggsy shrugs. “What for?”

Merlin smiles and flips the report cover shut. “Nothing.”

They never speak of it again.

 

***

 

Roxy ambushes him outside the shop in her car, winding down the window to beckon him into the passenger’s seat. “Just got back from a mission, did you?” she asks.

Eggsy climbs in and pulls the door shut after him. “Mmf.”

“Handled it fine?”

Eggsy pretends to struggle with his seatbelt. He doesn’t really want to talk about it.

“Fair enough,” Roxy says. “I’ll bet you’re knackered. Can’t wait for bed?”

“Sure,” Eggsy mumbles. “Whatever.”

Roxy grins evilly. “Tough. Because my next assignment starts Tuesday and I just scored an advance copy of Halo 6, which means I have exactly two days to absolutely wreck your arse. Don’t argue, don’t say anything, there’s nothing you can do to stop it happening. Got that?”

Eggsy stares out the window, into the shop. The facade is exactly as it appeared the first time he ever saw it. They haven’t even changed the suits on display. He wonders if he can get Merlin to do something about that.

“Eggsy?” Roxy touches his arm. “You alright, mate?”

You know what, screw it. It’s not like they need the business anyway.

“Yeah,” he replies, turning his eyes back to the road. “Let’s get going.”

 

***

 

He’s not sure what compels him to go to Harry’s old house, or why he’s held on to the key for so long, even. All the same, Eggsy’s grateful that he never got rid of it as he unlocks the front door and slips into the foyer. He hangs his umbrella up in the hall, wipes his feet on the welcome mat and stands there for several minutes before he feels ready enough to move again.

The house is remarkably tidy for having no one live in it for years. Every surface is dust-free and there’s even a bowl of fresh fruit on the kitchen counter. It’s slightly disconcerting to observe and think about, though Eggsy reckons it’s just cleaning that comes around every week to straighten up the place.

If it were him, he’d want his home to be in order when he comes back, too.

The study is cool and quiet and welcoming. Eggsy sits in Harry’s chair and finds that it’s still adjusted to his height. He hasn’t grown that much taller; five years isn’t that long a time, not really. He swivels around in it for a while, then picks up the folded newspaper on the desk and reads the first two pages before folding it up again and putting it aside. He could do with a cup of tea right now. Earl Grey, or maybe Darjeeling. Yes, he thinks he’ll probably go and fix one soon, and it'll be lovely.

Instead, Eggsy ends up going through the headlines tacked to the wall behind him, willing himself to memorise each and every one until it’s almost dark and his eyes grow tired.

 

***

 

Merlin wants to send him to Tennessee next.

“You don’t have to,” he reminds Eggsy. If even that still hits too close to home, if you’re still twenty-four and can’t save the man you love. “Bors is wrapping up in a few days, I can put him on it.”

Eggsy says nothing at first, then holds out a hand for the mission dossier.

 

**

 

The objective is simple enough: a stolen nanochip, embedded in the brain of one of the most skilled assassins ever to defect from the Shin Bet. Hardly worth the cop-out of a bullet, and Eggsy likes the challenge besides. He strangles the guy with a bull rancher’s lasso in a barn and cuts his whole brain out because he can’t find the darned thing; better to be safe than sorry.

After he gets rid of the body, he still has fourteen hours left in Nashville before his pickup arrives, so Eggsy decides to push his luck and looks about for a place to spend the evening drinking. He finds a bar in the city centre that just so happens to be flying a rainbow flag in the window, smiles coolly at the whistles he gets when he walks in and takes a seat next to the counter.

“What’ll it be?” the bartender asks, his eyes ticking down the front of Eggsy’s navy suit.

“Give me a minute,” Eggsy replies. He is aware that there are no less than five other guys staring at his arse right now, which is all according to plan. If he waits long enough, plays his cards right, he probably won’t even have to pay for his drink.

“Hello,” says someone from behind him, right on cue.

Eggsy doesn’t reply for the time being, pretends to be more interested in the menu under the glass of the counter top. This is almost too easy. “Hm,” he says, after going through all the drinks they have twice.

“This seat taken?” An older man, forties, maybe fifties, a vaguely familiar voice sporting a perfect American accent.

Almost too perfect.

Eggsy turns and looks and stares, his mouth opening just a little. His grip on the edge of the counter tightens.

“I was wondering if I could buy you a drink, son.”

Eggsy licks his lips, swallows hard. His heart thumps in his chest. “Yeah,” he breathes. “Yeah, of course you can.”

Harry smiles and sits down.