Eggsy must have been knocked out on impact, he thought as he opened his eyes. The airbag of Dean’s car was deflating with a pitiful hiss and the dashboard was resting snugly atop his knees. He picked himself up off the steering wheel, reorienting himself after the chase on which he’d just led two of London’s finest. He wasn’t sure where exactly he’d ended up, and looking around didn’t give him many clues. Columns of black smoke rose out of the squashed, buckled hood of the car, obscuring any view he had of the outside. His mind felt fuzzy, the connection between his brain and his body frayed. He slowly turned to look at the passenger side and found it empty, heaving a sigh of relief that his friends had taken his advice and fled the scene. There was a knock on the driver’s side window and Eggsy squinted into the blinding beam of a police officer’s flashlight.
“You alive in there, kid?” Eggsy nodded, a groan the best answer he could muster. The cop nodded, “Good. You’re under arrest.”
The DC across the table from Eggsy informed him that his “little stunt”, as he’d put it, had caused a lot of damage to a respected tailor’s on Savile Row. Damage that would cost a lot to repair.
“You can tell ‘em I ain’t got the money,” Eggsy said, flippantly, crossing his arms over his chest and leaning back in his folding chair. The constable, Ineson, according to his badge, nodded,
“Well,” he said, letting out a long-suffering sigh, “I’m sure the owner would agree that eighteen months in prison would more than cover it.” Eggsy set his jaw and glared from beneath lowered brows. He said nothing. Ineson continued, “Of course, there might be a way we can help each other out…”
“I ain’t giving up my mates,” Eggsy spat, “I’m no grass.” DC Ineson sighed and leaned forward,
“Eggsy, there is no such thing as honour among thieves,” he explained, “now, you can start giving me some names of the boys you were with or you go down.” He gave the young man a disaffected shrug, “It’s up to you.” Eggsy scoffed,
“Get fucked.” The constable stood up, raising his hands in a show of defeat,
“Alright, fine,” he conceded, heading toward the door, “we’ve got the shop owner in the other room. We’ll see if your loyalty to your friends touches his heart.” He closed the door forcefully behind him, and for the first time Eggsy allowed himself to feel the dread that had been pooling in his gut all night. The reality that he was going to prison finally began to sink in. Eighteen months, Ineson had said, a year and a half banged up. That was a year and a half that his mum and baby sister would be alone in the flat with Dean. He put his head in his hands, a cold sweat breaking out over his entire body. He hadn’t thought this through, not even a little bit. After a few minutes he heard the door to the interrogation room unlock again and did his best to regain a look of composure when the constable came back in. Ineson wore a look of disbelief, brow knit, mouth pressed into a thin, tight line.
“It’s your lucky fucking day, Eggsy my boy,” he said, tossing a file folder down onto the table. Eggsy cocked his head,
“What’re you talking about?”
“For some reason,” he went on, “and for the life of my I cannot figure out why, the man whose shop you caved in last night isn’t interested in pressing charges.” Eggsy let a smug grin tug at the corners of his mouth,
“Is that right?” He chuckled, resuming his cocky, nonchalant posture. Ineson smiled, too,
“Don’t get too swole up over it,” he warned, “there are one or two conditions associated with this act of charity.” Eggsy’s face fell, of course this was too good to be true.
“What do I gotta do? Public apology? Community service?” He just wanted to get it over with.
“The guy says he’ll forego criminal charges if you work in his shop until you’ve paid for the damage you did.”
“Oh,” Eggsy scoffed, “so I just gotta be his slave, is that it?”
“Of course not, you’d be getting paid.”
“Indentured servant, then. Great, much better.” DC Ineson failed to suppress a barking laugh. Eggsy sneered, “Anyway, what if I refuse?”
“Well, there is always prison, if you’d prefer.” Ineson replied, simply. Eggsy groaned and ran a hand through his cropped hair. The constable stood up again, flipping open the folder and pushing it across the table.
“I’ll give you a minute or two to think it over.” He smirked as he left the room. Eggsy stared down at the paper and pen in front of him. It was a contract. The letterhead it was printed on read “Kingsman Tailors” and listed an address on Savile Row, presumably the one Eggsy had rammed a car into last night. He didn’t like the look of this. Everything about it seemed fishy. He still hadn’t even met the owner, this Harry Hart guy, how was he supposed to know if he was the kind of person Eggsy wanted to work for? Still, he didn’t see any other options. He couldn’t go to prison, leave his mum and sister with his bastard of a stepdad. He picked up the pen, swallowed a lump in his throat, and signed his name at the bottom. He couldn’t shake the notion that he’d just signed his life away.
Eggsy’s mother was equal parts furious and ecstatic to see her son walk through the door that afternoon. He could tell she was weighing in her mind whether to give him a kiss or a slap in the face. In the end, she decided on both, smacking him one across the cheek before kissing it better and throwing her arms around him,
“I’ve had quite enough of this sort of thing, young man,” she sniffled, “do you hear me, Gary Unwin?”
“Yeah, mum, I know,” he said, meekly, “I’m sorry.”
“I can’t have you under house arrest all the time!” Eggsy smiled at that,
“I’m not under house arrest, mum.” Michelle rolled her eyes,
“Probation then, it ain’t much better.”
“I’m free to go,” Eggsy elaborated, “geezer decided not to press charges.” Michelle cast her son a sidelong glance,
“Don’t you lie to me, Eggsy,” she chided.
“I ain’t lying,” he insisted, “he wants me to work in his shop, that’s it.” Michelle scoffed and sank down onto the living room sofa,
“Well look at that,” she chuckled, “only my boy would be able to get a job out of being arrested.” Eggsy smiled and went to look in the fridge for anything he could turn into a halfway decent meal.
Eggsy barely got any sleep that night. Today had been a close call, and the reality didn’t elude him that he’d escaped by the skin of his teeth. He also wondered what kind of ulterior motive Harry Hart must have for saving his sorry hide. This tailor’s must be a front for some kind of drug smuggling or human trafficking ring. Maybe something as innocuous as money laundering for the mafia, but definitely some enterprise where it came in handy to have a little piece of blackmail on your employees. The last thing Eggsy needed was to be getting in more trouble. He had responsibilities, he thought, hearing his little sister stirring in the next room. Some time around 2am he heard Dean come into the flat, his feet shuffling across the floorboards in the telltale plodding gait of inebriation. He heard his mother leave her room, her voice muffled by the wall as she asked him something. Dean snapped back and suddenly Michelle’s voice was pleading, backtracking, apologizing. Eggsy’s face burned, he sat up in bed and braced himself to enter the fray. A moment later, however, he heard Dean grumble, placated, and a nervous laugh from his mother. Their bedroom door closed seconds after that. Eggsy lay back down, but didn’t relax. He kept his hearing trained on their shared bedroom wall, ready to spring forward at any second. If he ever needed a reminder of why he had to clean up his act, there were two sleeping right in the next room.
Eggsy still hadn't slept when his alarm went off the next morning. He turned it off quickly and dragged himself out of bed to get dressed. He pondered his wardrobe for a long time. Was he expected to have some kind of uniform? Eggsy had never met a tailor, and as such had no idea what they wore. In the end, he put on a crisp white shirt and dark grey slacks, two pieces of a suit he’d last worn to his grandmother’s funeral almost three years prior. It didn’t really fit anymore, but he figured it was better than his usual hoodie and jeans. He practically tiptoed to the kitchen - the last thing he needed today was to run into trouble with Dean - and fixed himself a hearty breakfast of cold cereal with not enough milk. He took a last look at himself in the bathroom mirror, wrinkling his nose at how unnatural he looked, and headed out the door.
The contract he’d signed had stipulated that he be at work each morning no later than 8:30. He’d had to rush a bit, but Eggsy was there on the dot, cringing as he stepped over the broken glass of the front window. Mannequins littered the pavement like a murder scene. He opened the door and a small chime rang. He didn’t see anyone inside.
“Hello,” he called through the small shop, “I’m…well, I’m here.” After a moment, a figure appeared from a back room. He was a tall man, his build slight yet imposing, in an impeccable black double-breasted suit. His face bore an inscrutable expression and his dark brown eyes looked at Eggsy from behind a pair of thick-rimmed glasses with the kind of curious intensity one usually reserved for slides under a microscope. The rest of his face was completely impassive.
“Ah, Eggsy,” he said, voice light, “good to finally meet you.” He approached and held out a hand. Eggsy shook it,
“You too, Mr…”
“Harry Hart,” the man supplied, “the owner.” Eggsy nodded, suddenly embarrassed,
“Right, yeah, of course.” He wracked his brain for something to say next. Should he apologize for wrecking the shop? Were they even going to mention it? With a man as repressed looking as Harry it was hard to tell.
“Well, now we’re all acquainted,” Harry clapped his hands together, “I’ve got to take inventory before we open,” he picked up a large broom and dustpan and handed them to Eggsy, “why don’t you begin by clearing up the pavement? I do appreciate your design input, but my clientele are used to a more traditional storefront aesthetic.” Normally Eggsy would have some snide remark at the ready, but Harry’s easy wit disarmed him. He took the broom and pan and made his way back outside, cheeks reddening as he turned away.
Eggsy made quick work of the glass on the ground and hauled the mannequins back inside, doing his best to replace them in the now warped and splintered display. Harry gave him a large square of clear tarpaulin to tape in place of the missing window. He was surprisingly patient, Eggsy noted, for someone who looked such a prat. Not once on that first day did he talk down to Eggsy or insult him, which, considering how they had come to be acquainted would have been entirely within the other man’s rights as far as he was concerned. He even brought out a cup of tea while Eggsy was working with the tarp, for Christ’s sake. Eggsy decided to confront him about his unreasonable courtesy as they took their lunch, sitting around a long table in a back room eating crustless chicken sandwiches Harry had brought from home,
“Why’re you doing this, Mr. Hart?”
“Harry,” Harry corrected.
“Fine, Harry, why’d you ask the police not to lay charges? It’s been bugging at me all morning.” Harry looked at him thoughtfully,
“Because I think you have potential,” he said, after a moment. Eggsy snorted,
“You just met me this morning,” he challenged. Harry nodded,
“A little gratitude would be nice,” he muttered, “everyone has potential, Eggsy. I think yours would be wasted in prison,” he took a sip of his tea, a lock of chestnut hair falling onto his forehead and a wry grin appearing at one corner of his mouth, “Why? Would you rather I had?” Eggsy did not reply, disguising his loss of words with a bite of sandwich.
Maybe this whole thing was supposed to be an exercise in penitence, thought Eggsy as he spent the afternoon sweeping and dusting around the shop, some kind of experiment in criminal justice. He certainly found himself less inclined to go out and cause trouble if the consequences were always going to be this boring. It was a quiet day, with only a handful of customers coming in to get alterations. Harry made polite small talk with them, but when they left and he fell silent again, and the only sound in the whole shop became the flapping of the tarp in the breeze. 8:00 could not have been more welcome, Eggsy thought as Harry locked up the till.
“Good night, Eggsy,” he said as they pulled down the security grate outside, “same time tomorrow.” Eggsy muttered his agreement before taking off at a fast clip down the road.
Dean, thankfully, was not in the flat when Eggsy got there. Michelle sat on the couch with the baby bouncing on her knee. Something about her face, though, told him that the bouncing was less for his sister’s benefit and more out of nervous habit. An unlit cigarette balanced between two trembling fingers.
“You feeling alright?” He asked, sitting down beside her. She turned and looked at him with glassy eyes,
“You really shouldn’t be here tonight, sweetheart,” she said, gravely. So, Dean was looking for him. Eggsy noticed the red welt blooming on his mother’s cheek.
“Where is he?” He spoke quietly, his hands balling into fists. Tears welled behind Michelle’s eyes,
“Darling, don’t,” she pleaded, “please, just for tonight. He’ll calm down.” Eggsy shook his head, already back on his feet,
“I’ve had it,” he said, tone still deceptively even, “I’ve had enough.”
He had hoped Dean would be at the Black Prince, but when he burst through the front doors he saw only the pub’s regular patrons, along with his stepfather’s goons in a corner snug. They turned their heads at Eggsy’s entrance and were almost immediately on their feet, parting the evening crowd as they advanced on him.
“Lookit, boys,” their leader, a gangly, gaunt man known as Rottweiler called out, “Eggsy, mate, we’ve been looking for you all day. Been wanting a chat.” Eggsy puffed up his chest and planted his feet, as though about to hold his ground, before unexpectedly turning on his heel and sprinting out of the pub. The others took off after him in a heartbeat. Dean’s thugs managed to catch him despite Eggsy’s head start, cornering him in an alley a couple blocks away. Two of them held his arms as Rottweiler sucker punched him in the gut. Eggsy wheezed, tasting bile before a hard left to the nose had him seeing stars. Warm blood trickled down the back of his throat. He tried to cry out, but was silenced by another blow to the ribs knocking the wind out of him. He closed his eyes and waited for them to kill him, but surprisingly, no finishing blow was dealt.
“I think you boys ought to know,” a familiar voice lilted down the alley, “I’ve just phoned the police. I daresay now would be a good time to vacate the area.” Dean’s boys let Eggsy fall to the pavement.
“Fuck off, granddad,” said another of the gang, a curly, stout man, “this ain’t got nothing to do with you.” Eggsy opened his already swollen eyes, astounded to see none other than Harry Hart at the mouth of the alley, leaning casually on an umbrella.
“Of course, of course,” Harry went on, “I don’t know what your beef with Eggsy is, but I would appreciate it if you’d leave him alone.” The boys had apparently heard enough. Rott nodded to one of his lackeys, who advanced on Harry, a sharp grin splitting his face. He cracked his knuckles and gave the group a look that said he was going to enjoy this. Then, in one easy motion, Harry managed to clobber him with his umbrella, sending him to the ground with very little fuss on either of their parts. The rest froze in shock for a moment before descending like hawks. Harry was quicker than he looked, managing to dodge several blows before retrieving a stun gun from his jacket pocket and incapacitating another assailant with 50,000 volts. Before the brawl could escalate further, the sound of sirens came echoing down the road. The gang picked themselves up and scattered in all directions. Harry knelt down next to Eggsy,
“Can you stand?” Eggsy nodded before realizing he wasn’t sure whether that was true. With Harry’s help, he managed to limp into the street and allowed himself to be loaded into the front seat of a car. He closed his eyes against the pain soaking through his entire body, hoping that when he opened them again he’d find that the last 48 hours had been some horrible delusion.
So, I'm trying this newfangled thing called proofreading before I post. It seems to be working out really well.
It was a short drive to wherever Harry had taken him. Eggsy’s eyes had been closed for the duration of the trip, so he couldn’t exactly orient himself, but he could tell it was nowhere near his neighbourhood. He could also tell it wasn’t the hospital, which was disconcerting. He turned to ask Harry where they were, but he was already out of the car, making his way round to Eggsy’s side to help him out. Harry led him down a street of neat row houses, not extravagant but clearly expensive.
“Where are we?” He asked as they crossed the threshold of a home at the end of the row. He did his best not to let the blood from his mouth fall onto any of the ornate rugs that stretched across the floor.
“My house,” Harry supplied, unhelpfully. He steered Eggsy into a small bathroom and left him to wait. Eggsy looked around, startled when he noticed a taxidermy terrier sitting on a shelf directly above the toilet. Harry returned a moment later with a first aid kit, bidding Eggsy sit down.
“Do you know what you’re doing?” He eyed the needle and thread Harry was holding suspiciously. Harry nodded,
“Long time since Barts, but I’d say so.” He gently wiped the dried blood from Eggsy’s face with a damp cloth, instructing him to take off his shirt to examine the bruises blooming along his abdomen.
“My word,” he declared, “they did a number on you, didn’t they?” Eggsy let out a bitter laugh,
“That’s nothing,” he muttered, “you should see my stepdad’s handiwork.” He regretted the words immediately after saying them, looking up quickly to gauge Harry’s reaction. To his relief, his employer was focused intently on surveying the depth of his facial lacerations and didn’t acknowledge his words.
“Fortunately, it looks like you’ll be able to go without stitches,” he concluded, reaching behind him to retrieve a tensor bandage. He handed one end to Eggsy and wound the rest around his waist. They were so close Eggsy could smell the peppermint on Harry’s breath. Harry finished bandaging and handed him back his shirt, moving on to place butterfly bandages and gauze pads over the rough, broken skin of his brow. The silence stretched between them and Eggsy considered saying something, but nothing seemed appropriate. He wasn’t used to people being this quiet. In his block there was always noise. If it was this quiet it meant something was seriously wrong. There was none of that tension in Harry’s silence. It was safe, if not comfortable. As Eggsy considered the man in front of him, Harry stood up and surveyed his work with satisfaction. Eggsy got up and looked himself in the mirror, prodding gently at his darkening eye.
“Thanks,” he said, sincerely. Harry nodded, curtly,
“You can spend the night here if you’d like,” he announced, “the spare bedroom is made up. I’ll get you something cold for that eye.” He was out the door without another word, leaving Eggsy again to ponder the increasingly improbable shambles his life was becoming.
Harry’s spare room reminded Eggsy of a suite at a posh hotel, not that he’d ever been to one. It looked professionally cleaned, every crease pressed out of the pristine white linens on the room’s queen bed. There was even a basket of tiny soaps and scents on the vanity next to the bathroom door. Harry led him inside, handing him a towel and a soft, light blue shirt, presumably to serve as his pyjamas.
“Let me know if you need anything,” he offered, “or if you start bleeding again.” He shut the door quietly behind him. Eggsy sat down experimentally on the bed, letting out a gasp when he sank close to a foot into the soft mattress. He lay back and stretched out, feeling the downy give of the duvet beneath his palms. He’d never understood about thread counts, but if he had to guess Eggsy would probably have said these were in the trillions. He changed slowly out of his clothes and into the loaner shirt, his ribs aching from even the tiniest motion, before climbing under the comforting weight of the covers. He wasn’t sure he’d ever be able to go back to sleeping on his old, sagging mattress. He breathed deeply, taking in the bright scent of fresh detergent in his clothes, mixed with a suggestion of musky spice. Harry’s cologne, he thought, permeating the fabric, worn in from years of use. He fell asleep surrounded by the unfamiliar, yet oddly at ease.
Eggsy had a brief moment of panic when he opened his eyes the next morning and was not in his own room, but the distant sound of a kitchen at work and the smell of bacon cooking quelled his anxiety. He dressed himself haphazardly and wound his way downstairs. Harry stood at the stove, looking intently into a sizzling pan. He wasn’t dressed, instead swaddled in a dark red dressing gown, his normally coiffed hair in a disordered mop on top of his head. He looked almost unrecognizable, Eggsy thought, apart from his glasses and the careful precision in his movements.
“Smells good,” Eggsy ventured, clearing his throat. Harry turned and nodded in greeting,
“Ah, good morning,” he poured a mug of tea and set it aside, “how do you feel?” Eggsy chuckled and regretted it as a streak of pain shot up his side,
“Like I got hit by a fucking bus,” he replied, sitting gingerly down at the kitchen island. Harry joined him a moment later, sliding a plate of eggs and bacon toward him before taking one for himself. They ate in silence for a few minutes before the burning question at the back of Eggsy’s mind came bubbling out of his mouth,
“What exactly was all that last night?” Harry quirked an eyebrow,
“What exactly do you mean?” Eggsy groaned,
“All of it,” he went on, “were you looking for me, where’d you learn to fight like that and why’d you bring me here?”
“I had been hoping to find you, yes,” Harry explained, “I’d been meaning to speak with you, but you left in such a hurry last night I didn’t get a chance. As for why I brought you here, it was clear to me that leaving you where I found you wasn’t an option.”
“And the other thing?” Eggsy levelled his gaze at the man across from him. Harry met his eyes and heaved a sigh,
“I’m afraid there’s not much I’m able to tell you about that,” he said, “you can know that I was with the RAMC for a number of years, now discharged.”
“Dishonourably?” Eggsy smirked. Harry fixed him with a disapproving look,
“Medically,” he elaborated. Eggsy kept staring, expectantly, “a bullet to the head, even one that doesn’t turn fatal, is often impetus for retirement.” The boy’s eyes went wide and he nodded, impressed.
“My dad was in the army,” he offered after a moment. Harry hummed, feigning interest it seemed, and Eggsy fell silent again, finishing his breakfast before excusing himself to take a shower.
Harry offered him the day off to rest, but Eggsy had no interest in going home to be throttled by Dean. So here he was in the shop, wearing more borrowed clothes, his own still soaking out their blood stains in Harry’s sink and trying to avoid the searching, judgemental gazes of Kingsman’s customers. As he re-swept the same square foot of floor a third time, two such figures entered the shop: a pale-faced man in his early forties and a sandy-haired girl who looked to be around the same age as Eggsy. She cast her eyes over his bandaged face, an intrigued smile quirking her bow shaped lips.
“Mr. Percival,” Harry greeted, pleasantly, making his way around the counter to shake the man’s hand, “good to see you again. Second fitting, was it?” The man nodded,
“Love what you’ve done with the place, by the way,” he said, glancing at the missing window, “open concept is very in these days.” Harry’s smile tightened and he led his customer into one of the dressing rooms. The girl made her way over to where Eggsy was leaning on his broom and began looking at a display of neckties.
“If you try to nick any of those I got no problem taking you down.” Eggsy joked. The girl laughed,
“Oh, so you’ve got a black belt too?” Eggsy shook his head, letting out a low whistle. The girl extended a hand, “Haven’t seen you here before. I’m Roxy.”
“Eggsy. I’m new.” He shook her hand gestured toward the fitting room, “Is that your dad?”
“Uncle,” she corrected, “he gets all his suits made here. I guess I’m hoping if I show enough interest he’ll ask me if I’d like one.” Eggsy furrowed his brow,
“What do you want that for?”
“No self-respecting lesbian should be without a bespoke suit in her wardrobe.” Roxy grinned. Eggsy must have balked, because Roxy’s smile quickly turned into a laugh. Harry and her uncle chose that moment to return to the front of the shop, briefly hammering out the details of Mr. Percival’s next visit before shaking hands again.
“Let’s go, Roxy,” he said, bidding a civil - if a little snide - goodbye to Harry, giving not a glance to Eggsy. Roxy turned to him and shrugged,
“See you around, Eggsy.” She followed her uncle out of the shop. Harry smiled until they were out of sight, then heaved a weary sigh,
“Prick,” he muttered. A laugh burst forth from Eggsy before he could tamp it down.
Eggsy received a series of texts from Ryan over lunch which suggested that things in the block had done anything but cool down since word got round of Dean’s boys getting beat up by “some posh twat”, as he’d put it. He immediately called his mum to tell her he was okay, stopping her when she tried to apologize on Dean’s behalf.
“I’ll be home tonight, mum,” he insisted. Michelle protested, but Eggsy was adamant, “Love you, see you later.” He hung up and was startled to notice Harry standing in the doorway of the back room.
“Sorry,” he said, “I didn’t meant to interrupt.” Eggsy shook his head,
“Nah, it’s alright,” he responded, going pensive for a moment before adding, “do you think you might wanna lend me that stun gun?”
Perhaps in an effort to distract Eggsy from his predicament, Harry spent the afternoon showing his hired hand around the tools of his trade. They stood hunched over what Eggsy had been referring to internally as the lunch table, now covered in brown paper and scattered with chalk pencils. Mr. Percival’s jacket was laid out in front of them, still unfinished, next to a pattern of four long rectangles.
“A trouser leg should initially be cut a little roomy,” Harry explained, running his shears along the dark line of the design, “it gives a tailor a degree of leeway with regard to seam and pleat.” Eggsy nodded, watching Harry cut through the paper in long, smooth strokes.
“Couldn’t you reuse the pattern for one leg to make the other?” He asked, baffled that someone as fastidious as Harry would fail to notice something so wasteful. His employer smiled, knowingly,
“Normally, yes, but Mr. Percival’s left leg is nearly a quarter of an inch longer than his right. His ilk do love to add unnecessarily to my workload.” Eggsy smiled in spite of himself,
“His ilk? Harry, are you one of those self-loathing posh types?” Harry snorted,
“I have very little patience for pretension,” he answered, “the circumstances of one’s birth do not, in my opinion, translate to any inherent superiority of character.” He returned to the paper. Eggsy couldn’t help but stare as Harry worked. He moved with the sureness of years of experience, transferring the pattern from paper to cloth, deftly marking in chalk what would soon be pleats and flies. If he thought of it, it didn’t surprise Eggsy that Harry had been a military man. His father had had that same brand of sureness to him, from what Eggsy could remember, enamoured of routine and consideration.
“Eggsy,” Harry said, firmly, and Eggsy’s eyes snapped upward to his face, “did you hear me?” Eggsy felt himself redden, unable to believe he’d become distracted to the point of oblivion.
“Not really,” he admitted.
“If you would retrieve the clapper from the closet in dressing room two, I would be much obliged. It’s a block of wood, shaped almost like an anvil.”
“Right.” Eggsy fled, hoping his embarrassment didn’t show.
More than anything, he had begun to want to prove to Harry that the second chance he’d offered hadn’t been in vain. Eggsy hadn’t meant to crash into his shop, after all. In the last three days, this man had gone from a total stranger to someone who had saved his life twice, figuratively and physically. The pressure to make it up to him was beginning to weigh heavily on Eggsy’s shoulders, and he was fairly certain that no portion of his already garnished wages would be able to account for everything. He tried to shake the thought for tonight as he opened the front door of the flat. He froze when he saw Dean sitting on the sofa, one arm around Michelle. They both looked relatively at ease, but Eggsy still hoped he’d be able to avoid acknowledgement.
“Oi, Eggsy,” Dean called at him. Eggsy’s throat went dry and he braced himself. To his surprise, Dean only laughed, “you look like you’ve shit yourself, boy, what the hell’s the matter with you?” Eggsy gritted his teeth and traversed the living space at a fast clip. Dean cackled again, “Ha! Poor kid must think I’m still angry about that piece of shit car! Insurance bought me a new model. You did me a fucking favour!” Eggsy shut the door to his room before the conversation was allowed to progress. He knew Dean was lying, he’d loved that car more than anything, wife and daughter included. It was only a matter of time before he got proper revenge. Maybe Eggsy would be safe tonight, but every minute he stayed in his flat he pushed his luck. Of course, he’d have to stay in his room tonight. Any contact with Dean was an unnecessary risk. He felt like screaming, but he was too exhausted. As he undid his belt to change into something less stuffy than his work clothes, Eggsy realized that he was still wearing Harry’s shirt and trousers, which meant his own were still at the tailor’s house. He somehow found himself relishing the thought of having an excuse to go back round and pick them up, maybe share in another meal at Harry’s cozy kitchen island. He lay down on his narrow, lumpy mattress, berating himself internally for having gotten so spoiled by just one night under covers that didn’t reek of mothballs. The front door opened and shut, a parade of familiar but unwelcome voices filling the flat. Eggsy slipped his headphones over his ears, turning the volume on his iPod as high as it would go, and forced himself to look forward to work tomorrow.
Eggsy and Harry fell into a comfortable working routine over the days that followed. Slowly he was given more responsibilities around the shop, mostly grunt work like inventory and display preparation, but occasionally he found himself being trained, it seemed, to actually interact with the customers.
“The people who come into this shop will believe themselves to be a higher calibre of man than you,” Harry explained as he sewed a dart into a dark grey sharkskin jacket, “and while I don’t encourage being disrespectful to one’s clientele, I think that challenging this assertion - subtly, mind - is important.”
“How d’you do that?” Harry smirked, knowingly,
“I think it’s reasonable, on very rare occasions, to test the limits of some of my more difficult clients’ patience. Mr. King, for example, when he comes to retrieve this order, will have to wait roughly seven minutes extra while I ‘search’ for it in the back room, so swamped with important commissions that I simply can’t remember which one was his.” Eggsy didn’t try to hide the amusement nor the incredulity splayed across his features.
“And that’s what rich people do for fun, is it?” Harry’s fond laugh surprised him. Something in the way those stoic features became suddenly animated found Eggsy at once feeling great affection and profound apprehension. He started to think maybe he was getting too invested in this relationship, which, as far as he knew, was to Harry one of simple necessity, perhaps tempered with pity. He knew he should start putting some serious distance between the two of them before Harry inevitably either died without warning or decided Eggsy wasn’t good for anything but the occasional punching bag or ashtray.
“I have something for you,” Harry remembered suddenly as they watched the glaziers finish installing the new front window, “before I forget.” He reached into a pocket and retrieved a small, brassy medallion on a chain. He handed it to Eggsy, who examined it carefully, brow knit,
“What’s this?” He asked, running his thumb over the portrait embossed on its front.
“Saint Homobonus,” Harry responded as though that would explain everything. Eggsy snickered,
“Saint what?” Harry fixed him with the now familiar long-suffering eyebrow quirk,
“Omobono, if you prefer,” he went on, “patron saint of tailors. ‘I ask for guidance in my work, so that I may prosper by choosing virtue over avarice.’” A look of nostalgia had come over his face as he recited the prayer.
“Didn’t have you pegged for a Catholic,” Eggsy remarked.
“Lapsed,” Harry shrugged, “though I’ve remained enamoured of many of its trappings, the Church and I have always disagreed on a few crucial points.” Eggsy felt there was more to that story, but decided not to press Harry to elaborate. They’d been slowly but surely building a comfortable rapport which had become quite precious to him, and Harry seemed like the type to withdraw when pursued. The workers came in from outside, folding up the tarp as they went and Harry turned his attention to them, suddenly switching back into business mode. They hardly spoke for the rest of the day, but Eggsy felt the of weight the sacramental around his neck keeping him company.
It had been a long time since he’d had one of those dreams, Eggsy thought when he awoke at precisely 4:27am, chest tight with panic, sheets damp with sweat. They’d started after his dad died, his grief manifesting in the form of nightmares every night. He’d find his mum, or someone equally important to him, covered in blood, gasping for his help with their last breath, and there was nothing he could do about it. He would wake with tears in his eyes, sometimes he would even be sick, but it had been years since he had cared about anyone enough to have them die in his arms at night. He put his head in his hands, taking deep breaths and trying to scour the image of Harry’s broken, blood-splattered glasses from his mind.
The best way to deal with the problem of uncomfortable emotions, Eggsy decided, was to spend the foreseeable future in total denial. When his mother asked about the dark circles under his eyes the morning after a restless night of sleep, he feigned ignorance. He kept his head down at work, avoiding Harry’s eyes as he counted sleeve garters in the inventory room. All the while, though, that damned medal sat heavy on his chest beneath his shirt, burning a hole into his heart.
Eggsy heard the door chime one bright Friday and was pleasantly surprised to see Roxy accompanying her uncle through the door of the shop. She smiled and gave him a quick wave as Mr. Percival approached the counter to speak with Harry,
“Morning, Eggsy,” she said, cheerfully. Eggsy returned her smile,
“Finally convinced him?” He asked. Roxy shook her head,
“I didn’t have to,” she explained, “he’s trying to give my father a heart attack, and he thinks my showing up to our upcoming gala in a tux with my girlfriend on my arm will do the trick.” Eggsy laughed. Seeing Roxy again took a load off his mind. Harry approached and insinuated himself into the conversation,
“Ms. Morton,” he said, “your uncle tells me you’re interested in a suit.” Roxy beamed,
“That’s right.” Harry nodded in the direction of the fitting rooms,
“If you’ll follow me, we’ll get you measured. Eggsy, if you wouldn’t mind assisting me.” The three of them made their way back behind the counter.
“Have you ever been measured for a suit before?” Harry asked Roxy as Eggsy closed the door behind them. She shook her head,
“Only gowns, I’m afraid.” Harry nodded, thoughtfully,
“This process is tends to be a bit more, shall we say, personal. There are a few more dimensions I’ll need to know.”
“Is that so?” Roxy’s eyebrows were threatening to disappear into her hairline. She was clearly amused.
“I’d be glad to demonstrate, if it would put you at ease.” Roxy leered deviously at Eggsy and nodded,
“Oh, would you? That’s very kind.”
“Eggsy, if you wouldn’t mind,” Harry said, and Eggsy suddenly found himself being steered in front of the triptych mirror at the front of the room. He hoped Roxy couldn’t see his red face in the mirror as Harry deftly ran the tape measure across his shoulders, explaining the purpose of every measurement he took. Eggsy barely held back a gasp as Harry’s hands found their way around his waist, palms flat against his ribs. He was talking, Eggsy was sure he was talking, but all he heard was his own heart beating in his ears. Harry measured his outseam, followed immediately by the part Eggsy was most dreading. Nimble fingers ghosted up the inside of his thigh and he had to bite the inside of his cheek to keep from visibly reacting. He caught Roxy’s gaze in the mirror; her eyes were wide with what Eggsy could only hope was guilt. He turned his view back toward his reflection until Harry was finished. His employer patted him gently on the shoulder and thanked him for being a sport. Eggsy hastily excused himself as Harry moved on to Roxy.
She found Eggsy after her session, approaching meekly from across the shop,
“I am so sorry, Eggsy,” she said, “had I known I never would have…” Eggsy shrugged,
“Don’t worry about it,” he said, unconvincingly, “it’s not what you think, anyway.” Roxy nodded, clearly humouring him. She sighed,
“Want to grab a pint after work?”
When she’d asked him to come out for a drink, Eggsy had expected Roxy to take him to some overpriced hipster haunt filled with the kind of entitled prats her father would approve of as gala dates. He was surprised, then, when she led him through the door of a small but lively pub, filled with music and excited chatter. A dark haired girl waved them over to a booth at the far end of the room. Roxy tugged at Eggsy’s sleeve, excitedly, dragging him over to meet her.
“Eggsy,” she said, beaming proudly at the girl, “this is my girlfriend, Amelia. Amelia, this is my new friend Eggsy.”
“Unusual name,” Amelia said, scooting over on the bench to allow the other two a chance to sit.
“Unusual accent,” Eggsy quipped back. Amelia laughed.
“I lived in Berlin for the better part of the last decade,” she explained, “I guess I brought some of it back with me.” Roxy stood up, abruptly,
“I’ve got the first round,” she offered, “you two get acquainted.” She kissed Amelia on the cheek and trotted off toward the bar. Eggsy and Amelia made pleasant small talk until she returned, balancing three glasses precariously against one another in her hands.
“Allow me,” Eggsy said, grabbing one from her. She sat down hard, leaning into the crook of Amelia’s arm.
“What shall we drink to?” She asked, already raising her glass.
“World peace,” Amelia teased.
“Good enough,” Eggsy agreed, taking a long swig.
“Eggsy,” Roxy slurred, a few hours and innumerable drinks later, “Ugh, I told myself I wasn’t going to do this.”
“What?” Eggsy wondered, eyes straining to focus on her face. Amelia had long since found the middle distance, contenting herself with gazing out at the other patrons.
“How long have you had this…thing for Harry?” Eggsy gave her a warning look,
“What d’you mean?” He asked, defensively. Roxy’s eyes rolled just slightly,
“He gave you that medallion, right?” Eggsy hadn’t noticed that the sacramental had fallen out of his shirt and was now prominently displayed around his neck, “I saw you fiddling with it earlier.” Eggsy’s face fell. He leaned his cheek on his hand and heaved a long, wistful sigh,
“Is it that fucking obvious?” He asked, plaintively. Roxy pursed her lips and nodded, sympathetically,
“I mean, it’s not a big deal. I get it.” She glanced at Amelia and amended, “Well, in theory.” Eggsy breathed a chuckle out through his nose, forcing a smile he didn’t really feel,
“I’m too pissed to have this conversation, I should probably go” he admitted. He dug in his pocket and tossed a few notes on the table, “I think that about squares it.” Roxy apologized as Eggsy stood up, trying to convince him to stay,
“I didn’t mean anything by it, Eggsy, please,” she insisted. Eggsy waved her away, good-naturedly,
“No worries, Rox, it’s getting late anyway. We should do this again, though.” Roxy nodded, unconvinced. Eggsy said goodbye to the dazed Amelia, though he wasn’t sure she heard him. He staggered through the still crowded pub and out into the cool night air. He paused a moment, gathering his faculties against the bricks of the pub wall before starting the journey home.
The commotion caught his ear as soon as he stepped out of the stairway onto his level. Muffled shouting was punctuated with the tinny crash of glass shattering. Eggsy sprinted toward his door, his heart pounding, terror turning his guts into lead weights. He threw the door open and burst inside. Dean was looming over a cowering Michelle. She held the neck of a broken liquor bottle in a white-knuckled grip. A steady stream of blood flowed from a wound on Dean’s hand.
“You stupid fucking cow,” he bellowed, sweeping his injured hand toward her, “look what you’ve fucking gone and done!” Michelle’s eyes met her son’s and she screamed,
“Eggsy, get out of here!” Dean whirled around and made a mad lunge toward the boy. Eggsy managed to dodge at the last second, but fatigue and alcohol had slowed his movements and he felt a breeze on his face from Dean’s hand. He grabbed a ceramic ashtray from the table and slammed it into Dean’s face as he hurried past.
“You little shit,” Dean spat as Eggsy rushed to his mother’s side. He picked her up from where she was crouched and spoke quickly,
“Take the baby and get out of here right now,” his voice was urgent, “go next door or to Nan’s or wherever, doesn’t matter, but go now!” Michelle opened her mouth to protest, but Eggsy was suddenly caught up in Dean’s grip. His large, clubbed fingers had Eggsy by the collar, forcing his head back to expose his throat. As his stepfather’s hand closed around his neck he saw his mother and sister tearing out of the flat. Dean hit him hard in his still tender ribcage, eliciting a ragged croak as he tried to cry out.
“I’ve had it up to here with you, boy,” Dean growled. Eggsy grappled at his assailant’s arms, but lack of oxygen had weakened him. His vision had begun to go dark around the edges when Dean relented. The sudden rush of air to his lungs hit him like icy water and he collapsed to his hands and knees, gasping and wheezing. A boot to the head sent him onto his back and he stared up at Dean’s face. Quiet rage pooled behind the man’s eyes.
“You’re not worth the effort it’d take to kill you.” He whispered, grabbing his keys and taking off out of the flat as Eggsy began to pick himself up.
Eggsy was worried it was going to start getting cliché, him showing up at Harry’s house bruised and bloody, but his mother wasn’t answering her phone and he hadn’t seen where she went. This was the only place he could think of where Dean or his gang wouldn’t consider looking for him. He knocked frantically on the door, praying Harry was a light sleeper. The foyer light came on and Harry opened the door in his pyjamas, eyes bleary and bewildered.
“Eggsy,” he said, baffled. He peered at the front hall clock, “it’s nearly—”
“I’m sorry,” Eggsy interrupted, “I didn’t have nowhere else to go.” Harry saw the state he was in and face softened. He stood aside,
“Of course,” he said, softly, sweeping Eggsy through the door, “come inside, Eggsy.”
I don't know how I came to ship Roxy/Amelia as hard as I do, but they needed to be in this story. It's an absolute crime that Roxy didn't get her own suit in the movie.
Harry hadn’t asked what happened yet, for which Eggsy was immeasurably grateful. They sat in silence in Harry’s small drawing room, steaming mugs of tea going untouched on end tables. Harry had offered him something stronger, but Eggsy had refused, worn out from his evening with Roxy and Amelia. He looked across the room at Harry, leaning back in a tall, upholstered armchair. There was no impatience evident in his face, no sense that he was entitled to an explanation, though Eggsy wouldn’t blame him if he felt that way.
“You don’t have to stay up with me,” he offered, taking a sip of his tea in a display of cultivated nonchalance. His throat ached when he swallowed, and the too hot tea felt like molten iron as it went down, “I know it’s late.”
“I imagine you’d like the company,” remarked Harry. He noticed Eggsy rubbing at his neck, “would you like me to have a look at that?” Eggsy shrugged and Harry crossed the room to sit beside him on the settee. He gently lifted Eggsy’s chin,
“Tell me if this hurts,” he said, running his thumb along the four red welts that striped Eggsy’s throat. Eggsy’s breath hitched at the contact and Harry made to pull his hand away. Eggsy stopped him, grabbing his wrist and guiding Harry’s palm to cup his cheek. Harry stared at him, his normally impassive expression straining. Eggsy wished he could blame his brashness on the alcohol, but adrenaline had long since sobered him up, so it was all his own fault when he leaned forward and pressed a gentle kiss to Harry’s mouth. It was chaste and simple, but undeniably longing. Eggsy parted his lips the slightest bit, stating his intent without being demanding. He lingered for a few long seconds, savouring what he was certain would be his one and only chance at this, before pulling away. He couldn’t bring himself to look Harry in the face. He thought of apologizing, but he wasn’t really sorry. Not for kissing him, anyway. He’d be sorry if Harry started to hate him, but he couldn’t force himself to regret allowing himself this one small indulgence. It slowly occurred to him that Harry’s hand hadn’t left his cheek, and he finally chanced a look in his direction. Harry was staring down at him curiously, the gears of his mind visibly turning. Now Eggsy was beginning to feel a twinge of regret. He should have known Harry would be his typical repressed self about this. Still, his hand remained on Eggsy’s face, and he didn’t look upset. Maybe that was a good sign.
“Why did you do that?” Harry finally asked. There was nothing accusatory in his tone, he sounded genuinely curious. Eggsy forced himself to shrug casually,
“Cos I wanted to,” he hoped the diffidence in his voice sounded playful rather than bratty, “I’ve wanted to for a while, actually.” Harry took that information on board, filing it away in the pros and cons chart Eggsy could see him making in his mind, all the while sweeping his thumb along Eggsy’s jaw.
“I think we ought to get some sleep,” he said, conclusively, “there are a number of things it seems the two of us need to discuss, but none of them can’t wait until morning.” Eggsy let out a breath he hadn’t realized he’d been holding. It wasn’t exactly the response he was hoping for, but it also wasn’t Harry throwing him out into the night. He allowed himself to be led upstairs to the spare room again, accepting the guest towels as usual. He turned around in the doorway to bid Harry goodnight, but was interrupted by the other man’s mouth descending on his. Eggsy leaned into the too brief kiss, praying Harry didn’t hear the tiny whine that escaped him when they separated.
“Goodnight, Eggsy,” Harry said, softly before making his exit. Eggsy replied breathlessly to the empty room before crawling into bed in a daze.
Eggsy called his mum first thing when he woke up, cradling his phone in the crook of his neck as he pulled on his socks. It rang five times before she picked up, at which point Eggsy was so giddy with relief he had could barely suppress his laughter.
“What’s the matter with you, Eggsy?” His mother demanded, “Where are you?” Eggsy told her he was at a friend’s place, which wasn’t strictly untrue, though he wasn’t sure how he’d classify his and Harry’s relationship. She replied the same.
“Good,” he said, “stay there. Don’t tell anybody where you are. I’ll see you soon.” They said their ‘I love yous’ and hung up, and Eggsy made his way downstairs.
He wasn’t looking forward to the conversation he knew was coming as he slunk into the kitchen. Harry was steeping two cups of tea and passed him one when he heard Eggsy enter. They sat down at the dining room table.
“So…” Eggsy began, letting the word hang over them.
“So,” Harry repeated, “you say that last night was a long time coming.” Eggsy nodded,
“Yeah, I guess so.”
“Eggsy,” Harry’s voice went inordinately gentle, like a doctor delivering bad news, “I don’t think it would be a good idea for the two of us to become…involved.” Eggsy clenched his jaw, feeling his ears heat up,
“Why?” He asked, petulantly, “I’m not a child, Harry.”
“No, Eggsy, you aren’t.”
“Then what is it? My family doesn’t have a fucking estate in the country so I’m not good enough to be anything but your pet cockney?” Harry’s face had gone steely, his lips tight, clearly both hurt and incensed. He got up from the table and made his way to small cabinet by the door. He retrieved a leather-bound album and dropped it in front of Eggsy.
“Look through that for a few pages,” he said, calmly, with only a hint of impatience, “see if you can’t figure it out.” Eggsy looked questioningly at Harry, but obliged. It was mostly pictures of Harry during his army days, posing with fellow medical officers or recovering patients. After four or five pages, though, he saw something that nearly stopped his heart. Sitting in a wheelchair, grinning with Harry’s hand on his shoulder, was Eggsy’s father. He looked up at Harry again, who nodded, solemnly,
“He saved my life,” he explained, “pushed me out of the way of a grenade explosion. Got a leg full of steel for his trouble.” He paused, his face darkening, “I never got a chance to repay him before he died.” Finally it was clear,
“So, you kept me out of prison.”
“As soon as I heard your name, I knew I had to. Your father, he spoke of you and your mother while he was in my care. In fact, he spoke of little else.” Eggsy felt a stinging sensation behind his eyes, but blinked it quickly away, steadying his quivering lip.
“So that’s why you won’t be with me? Because you owe my dad?” Harry didn’t reply, casting his gaze shamefully downward, “That’s fucking mad, Harry.” Harry’s eyes snapped back up. Eggsy laughed, tears returning to the brim of his eyes, “It is! You saved my life. Twice. You don’t owe him nothing, Harry. Not anymore, anyway.” There was a war raging in Harry’s mind between propriety and his long overlooked desire for happiness.
“You do seem to be forgetting the fact that I’m your employer.” He chided. Eggsy waggled his eyebrows,
“Oh I didn’t forget.” The smirk he gave Harry could only be described as lascivious.
“You’ll have to give me the opportunity to think,” Harry said, firmly, “I’m still not convinced this could end any way but badly, but I will consider it.” Eggsy nodded,
“Fine, I’m holding you to it.”
Staying at Harry’s was going to be torture, Eggsy quickly determined, but as he had nowhere else to go, he was forced to endure it. He spent the majority of that first weekend out of the house, visiting his mother and having coffee with Roxy. Seeing her helped, he found. She had no time for Eggsy’s posturing or evasion.
“Wow,” she said when Eggsy explained his current living situation, “I mean, I knew you liked the guy but I didn’t expect you to move in with him right away!”
“You’re funny, Rox, you know that?” Eggsy rolled his eyes, but couldn’t help smiling, “A real laugh riot.” She sipped her drink coquettishly, giggling into the foam of her cappuccino. Soon after, though, her face straightened into a decidedly more serious expression.
“But it really doesn’t bother you? The age thing, I mean.” Eggsy looked down into his cup. The truth was he didn’t know how they were going to make that part work. Harry was old enough to be his father. Hell, where Eggsy grew up Harry could be his grandfather.
“He hasn’t even said he wants to yet,” Eggsy said in justification, “that’s a bridge I’ll jump off when I bloody get to it.” Roxy laughed at his choice of words, sarcastically praising his positive outlook. They finished their drinks and got up to part ways.
“Take care of yourself,” she said, “don’t go completely mad before I see you again.” Eggsy waved her away, passing along his regards to Amelia, and started back toward Harry’s house.
For all that Harry had begun to open up to him, it was a different story by the time Monday came around again, and Eggsy couldn’t help but think it was his fault. He woke up at 7:30, just in time to see Harry speeding out the door without so much as a “good morning”. He was more than a little hurt. At least Harry had left him a plate of breakfast, he thought, picking up two rashers between his fingers and shoving them forcefully into his mouth. No matter, if Harry wanted to play it cool, Eggsy would play along.
To Eggsy, playing it cool meant aggressively asserting that he found their situation perfectly normal. The plan, he formulated as he walked through Kingsman’s front door, was to behave so forcefully content as to force a crack in Harry’s armour. He saw Harry hunched over the back room table and was immediately beside him, craning to see what he was working on as he would any other day.
“Is that Roxy’s?” Eggsy had never seen Harry startle, and he wasn’t exactly sure that was what he would call Harry’s reaction to his sudden presence. He seemed to drop into a fighting stance, his hand tightening around the pair of shears he was working with. As soon as he turned and saw Eggsy’s face, he relaxed, if only slightly.
“I didn’t hear you come in,” he said, pushing his glasses to the top of his head and running a hand down his face. Eggsy was still looking over Harry’s shoulder at his project. It looked like the beginnings of a jacket, still rough, in rich navy wool accented with ivory pinstripes.
“Classy,” Eggsy said, nodding his approval, “need a hand with anything?” Harry shook his head,
“No, Eggsy, thank you,” there was a forcefulness in his tone that Eggsy felt was unnecessary, “if you would change the display jackets, though, I’d be much obliged.” Eggsy obeyed, now completely certain that the bridge between them was well and truly burned. Harry avoided him like the plague, never so much as allowing himself to be alone in the same room as Eggsy. Evenings at his place were even worse. Meals were shared where barely a word was spoken between them apart from “pass the salt, please, Eggsy” or “great ham, Harry”. By close of business Wednesday Eggsy was ready to throttle him. He couldn’t spend another evening locked away in the spare bedroom, it was going to kill him. He helped Harry lock up, but instead of taking a lift home with him, popped by a local florist’s for a discount bouquet of carnations.
Michelle was surprised when her son arrived at the door of her friend Barbara’s flat with flowers, but she knew something was really wrong when he said he was taking her out for a nice supper.
“What’s all this for, then?” She asked as Eggsy led her into the restaurant. She felt underdressed, or rather underpriced. Eggsy shrugged, good-naturedly,
“A boy can’t take his mum out for a nice meal every once in a while?” Michelle raised an eyebrow,
“He can, but he never has done.” She looked down at the menu and inhaled sharply at the prices. Eggsy only laughed. She eyed her son skeptically as they ate and chatted. Ever since he’d started that job at the tailor’s it had been all he could talk about, but Harry Hart was suspiciously absent from their conversation that evening. As a waiter cleared their plates, she asked, casually,
“So, how’s work going?” Eggsy choked on a mouthful of wine,
“Fine,” he said too quickly, “really good, actually.”
“I thought I taught you better than to lie to your own mother, Eggsy.” She fixed him with a stern look and he caved,
“I messed up,” he said, “things are…weird now, and I don’t think I can fix it.” Michelle nodded, solemnly,
“Well,” she said, “you’re only human, darling. Whatever you’ve done it can’t be the end of the world.” She was surprised when that seemed to make Eggsy feel better, as she’d come up with it on the spot and didn’t actually think it was terribly insightful, but he thanked her and kissed her cheek as they left the restaurant, and for the first time in years she felt like a real mother.
His confidence bolstered, Eggsy made his way back to Harry’s house filled with a sense of relief and newfound purpose. He had a job to do, and part of that job was having a civil relationship with his employer. He had taken a risk when he’d confessed his feelings, and that risk hadn’t panned out. He told himself he was ready to move on and behave like an adult. However, as he strode through the front door he got the feeling that was going to be easier said than done. He saw Harry sitting at the kitchen island, a bottle of whiskey open beside him, staring intently into a glass of ice. He spoke to Eggsy, not turning to look at him,
“Please, have a seat.” Eggsy sat down next to him. Harry looked tired, his expression sagging, though his eyes were clear and sober. “I have been…foolish,” he went on, “avoiding you these last few days was immature to say the least.” Eggsy felt a lump rising in his throat. From where he was sitting there were two directions this conversation could go, and he wasn’t sure which one he was hoping for. He cleared his throat,
“That’s one way to put it,” Eggsy croaked.
“Especially considering avoiding you is the last thing I want to do.” Harry’s hand found its way around Eggsy’s, squeezing his fingers tightly. Eggsy held his gaze, searching for any indication of insincerity, but found none. This was bad, he thought, he’d just got through deciding he was done waiting around for Harry to get over himself. He needed to nip this in the bud before he did something he’d really regret.
“So,” he breathed, “does that mean…” Harry nodded,
“If you’ll still have me.” A soft smile appeared at one corner of his mouth. It took every iota of self control for Eggsy not to crawl right into his lap.
“God yes,” he said, leaning in for a kiss instead.
Eggsy realized, as they tore through the door, that he had never seen the inside of Harry’s bedroom before. Hell of a grand tour, he thought as Harry pushed him against the wall and claimed his mouth in a searing kiss. Eggsy liked this side of Harry, raw and fervent, growling into his open mouth. He wondered how long it had been since anyone had seen him like this, but then Harry’s hand was cupping his ass and he stopped thinking entirely, letting out a cracking moan as the older man trailed his mouth down the side of his neck. He suddenly found himself lying on his back on Harry’s plush mattress, the buttons of his shirt being undone at a tantalizing pace.
“Please,” he panted. Harry kissed him again, running those nimble tailor’s hands over his chest and down his sides, gliding gently over the last remnants of bruising. Harry treated Eggsy like something precious, exploring every inch of his flesh in the hope of drawing out another tiny sound of pleasure, whispering in his ear how good he was, how beautiful. Eggsy was dizzy by the time they were both spent, seeing stars on the ceiling. He lay back and caught his breath, barely noticing when Harry picked his medallion up off his chest.
“I’m amazed I failed to notice you were wearing this the whole time.” He said, laughing. Eggsy smiled, sleepily,
“Maybe I should’ve covered his eyes at least,” he replied, “does this mean I’m going to hell?” Harry lay down next to him and pulled him close,
“You’ll be in good company, at least.”
He was stupid to think things would be easier now that their feelings were out in the open, especially considering they weren’t. Not really. Sure, they were sharing a bed more often than not, except those nights when either one of them actually wanted to get any sleep, and Harry certainly wasn’t shy about showing affection when they were alone, but they’d yet to have any kind of discussion outlining the nature of their relationship. Eggsy was a lot more attached to Harry than he let on, but would be very surprised if the feeling was mutual. He decided very early on that he could cope with that. He could be a casual fuck, or a fling or a concubine or whatever someone like Harry would call it. At least, that’s what he thought. In practice, it was exhausting having to hold back so much for fear of driving Harry away, the terror of coming on too strong and ending up alone again. It left him drained at the end of every day, the weight of Harry curled around him at night morphing from comforting to suffocating.
The day’s dreary weather should have been an omen, but pathetic fallacy had always been one of Harry’s least favourite literary devices. Eggsy was on edge from the moment they woke up, swerving out of the way of a kiss on the cheek and avoiding eye contact over breakfast. For all his many talents, Harry’s skill in handling emotional delicacies was lacking. That was why he hadn’t yet been able to sit Eggsy down and have the conversation they both surely knew should have been had ages ago. Instead simply hoping his actions spoke for him, though even he could see that wasn’t working. The clouds hung heavy over his head as he drove to work, giving the morning an oppressive closeness. A distant roll of thunder rumbled as Harry arrived at the shop, certainly not forecasting any sort of impending destructive confrontation.
The end is in sight, people! You're all such troopers for staying with me this far.
“Eggsy, would you come here for a moment?” Harry called from the back room as Eggsy was sweeping up at the end of the day. He was surprised to find Harry not crouched over some last minute stitching, but instead standing ready to receive him, a white envelope between the fingers of his right hand.
“What’s going on?” Eggsy asked. Harry held out the envelope, launching into what could only be a prepared monologue.
“When I met you, I said you had potential,” he said, smiling proudly, “I can now say with certainty that in these past months you have lived up to that potential gloriously.” Eggsy took the envelope, regarding Harry skeptically as he opened it.
“What’re you talking about, Harry?” He looked inside and saw what appeared to be an ordinary pay cheque, “What is this?”
“I’m pleased to inform you that this cheque represents the last vestiges of your debt. You have fulfilled your contract,” Harry turned around and retrieved a long, rectangular box from the table, presenting that to Eggsy as well, “I wish you best of luck in all your future endeavours.” Eggsy was dumbstruck, a queasy feeling rising in his stomach,
“Are you sacking me?” He demanded. Harry furrowed his brow in confusion,
“No,” he responded, baffled, “Eggsy, I simply thought that with your obligation fulfilled…” Eggsy wasn’t hearing it. He had known this would happen. He couldn’t believe he’d been so stupid as to think that this time things would be different. He shoved the cheque angrily into his pocket and stormed out of the shop, turning the collar of his jacket up against the rain.
He hardly even noticed that he’d made his way back to the block until he was standing in the stairwell. He climbed until he reached his old flat, noting that the door now hung off-kilter on its hinges. He opened it slowly, hoping to find no one inside, and was relieved when the place was empty. He drifted into his bedroom and lay down on the bed, self-pity weighing him down more than his sodden clothes. Eggsy knew he had no right to feel chucked. There would have had to have been a relationship first. He shouldn’t have been surprised about being fired, either. It wasn’t the world he belonged to. He retrieved the medal Harry had given him from inside his shirt, bringing it up over his head and shoving it in his bedside drawer. This wasn’t My Fair Lady, he thought, and Harry wasn’t Rex Harrison.
Eggsy got through feeling sorry for himself and quickly fell back into the rhythm of his old life. Ryan and Jamal were glad to see him back haunting the Black Prince, clapping him on the back when they walked through the door,
“We thought you was dead, bruv,” they laughed, raising their glasses to their friend’s return, “everybody heard that your mum ran off, but nobody heard nothing from you. Dean was going around bragging that he’d done you himself.” Eggsy shrugged,
“Just laying low,” he said, nonchalantly, “finishing out my community service.”
“Good to have you back, man.” They toasted again and Eggsy felt a twinge of nostalgia. He pointedly ignored the sense of loss that undercut it. Instead, he began focusing on ways to fill his now long, empty days. He never would have guessed as a chronically unemployed youth just how much time there was in a given 24 hour period, and loitering on street corners just didn’t hold the same appeal as it used to. Seeing Roxy wasn’t helping matters either.
“I really think you should talk to him,” she said every time they met up, apparently having given up on the more traditional ‘hello’, “honestly, you act like you’re the first person in history to have relationship trouble.”
“This ain’t ‘relationship trouble’, Rox,” Eggsy insisted, “because there’s no relationship. I thought there was, but clearly I was wrong.” Roxy rolled her eyes,
“At least do something,” she begged, “if you insist on moping about this way I’ll have to disinvite you from my engagement party.”
“Fine,” Eggsy said, not really listening, “wait, what?” When he looked up, Roxy was beaming. She waved her left hand in front of his face, displaying a white gold ring set with a deep purple stone.
“That’s right,” she said, sternly, “so you’d better turn that frown upside down before Saturday evening.” Eggsy agreed that he would try, for her sake if not for his own because he was fine, really. Roxy raised her eyebrows disbelievingly, but left it at that, thanking him with only a hint of sarcasm in her voice.
Of course, he realized quickly that he had nothing to wear to a high-class do, which the party would assuredly be. Roxy had said that her father was the one throwing it to show how progressive and supportive he was of his daughter’s ‘lifestyle’,
“I don’t think it’s a coincidence that he insisted on an open bar, though,” she’d added. Over the next few days he went through his entire wardrobe trying to find something that wasn’t made of polyester. Four months ago he wouldn’t have known that there was such a thing as another material, but it seemed that some of what he’d learned at Kingsman had come home with him. He laid out all his passable clothes on the bed and shook his head, hopelessly. He was going to have to buy a suit, he thought, which meant he was going to have to return to his life of crime, because there was no way he could afford one. He gathered his coat and headed out toward the street, tripping over a large box on his doorstep.
“Hey,” he called to no one in particular, “the fucking bins are downstairs!” Eggsy picked up the box to throw it away before noticing a tag attached with his name on it. Then he noticed the Kingsman logo on the box itself. He brought it inside into his room, and threw it down on top of the pile of clothes. He stood across from it, considering it a long time before tearing aside the strings and lifting off the top. Inside was a neat, double-breasted jacket of pinstriped navy wool. He touched it apprehensively, as though it might burn on contact. Beneath the matching trousers and starched, white shirt lay a piece of rigid notecard lined with Harry’s neat cursive. He gingerly picked it up. Eggsy, it read, you are an outstanding assistant and an exemplary young man. It would be an honour to have you remain at Kingsman. If you’ll have me. Signed H.H. Eggsy felt like a twat. He should apologize, he knew, but what could he say? “I’m sorry I assumed you were using me for sex and cheap labour?” At least, he thought, the problem of what he was going to wear to the engagement was solved.
Saturday evening arrived and Eggsy found himself walking through the front doors of a stately manor house just outside the city limits. He wore his Kingsman suit, pocket square and all. He felt bulletproof, astonished at how few narrowed glances and snide remarks he incurred. Looking the part was apparently enough for this crowd, he just hoped no one asked him about his last fox hunt. He scanned the room for Roxy or Amelia and, finding them nowhere in sight, began quaffing sparkling wine to put himself at ease. Moments later the couple made their entrance down a grand staircase in the centre of the room to a round of restrained applause and tasteful string music. Eggsy caught their eyes and pumped his fist in the air a couple of times, earning matching gestures from each of the brides to be. Roxy proudly wore her tux, Amelia in a demure gold and cream gown.
“You clean up pretty well,” Eggsy told Roxy when she rushed over and threw her arms around his shoulders.
“You’re not so bad yourself.” She plucked at his lapels.
“I think we have the same tailor,” Eggsy remarked.
“I believe you’re right,” Roxy agreed, “in fact, he’s over there.” She pointed somewhere behind him and Eggsy’s head whipped round. Sure enough, Harry was standing on the other side of the room, genteelly sipping from a flute of champagne and looking like James Bond’s dad, Eggsy thought. He should have known Roxy would invite him, if only out of her sick sense of humour. Harry suddenly looked in his direction and Eggsy tried quickly to look away. Not quickly enough. Their eyes met, though neither one seemed sure whether to acknowledge the other. Finally, Eggsy decided that, as he was a grown man, he was going to do the mature thing and journey over.
“Evening, Harry,” he said, casually.
“Good evening,” Harry repeated, adding, “nice suit.” Eggsy hoped he wasn’t blushing,
“Do you think we could go somewhere and talk?” Harry took on an expression of surprise, but agreed, leading Eggsy down a long hallway.
The parlour was cozy and warmly lit with imitation gas lamps. Mahogany shelves and deep red plush armchairs gave it a sense of affected antiquity. Harry closed the door gently behind them and strode into the centre of the room.
“What can I do for you?” Eggsy cleared his throat,
“I wanted to say that I’m sorry,” he said, eyes downcast, “and thank you. For the suit, and the card. For a lot of things.” Harry took a step toward him, hands shoved unceremoniously in his pockets,
“Well, I did have your measurements lying about. I should apologize as well,” he added, meekly, “there were things I didn’t take into consideration. I was perhaps not as transparent as I ought to have been.” Eggsy scoffed,
“How could you be when you can’t talk in anything but nine-syllable words?” Harry laughed and brought a hand up to squeeze Eggsy’s arm.
“I’ve come to care about you a great deal,” he said, in what Eggsy guessed was his idea of bluntness, “and I’m very sorry that I’ve failed to express that to you thus far.” Eggsy rolled his eyes, unable to contain the smile that spread across his face.
“That’ll do.” He pulled Harry down into a kiss that felt like coming home. Harry’s hands grabbed him around the waist and steered them into one of the chairs. Eggsy found himself suddenly straddling Harry’s lap, threading his fingers through the other man’s greying hair, gratefully opening his mouth to Harry’s insistent tongue. They finally broke for air when Eggsy started feeling lightheaded,
“I’ve missed that,” Harry said, breathlessly. He leaned in again, nipping at Eggsy’s lip before the younger man pressed a finger to his lips, pushing him back a couple inches.
“I can’t just move in with you again,” he panted, firmly.
“Why not?” Harry asked, dropping his mouth to Eggsy’s neck, eliciting both a chuckle and a moan. Eggsy lifted Harry’s face to look him in the eye,
“There’s things I’ve got to take care of, Harry,” he explained, “unless you want to take in my mum and baby sister too.” That seemed to bring Harry to his senses. He nodded, face going solemn.
“Of course,” he said, gravely “no, living with me would be impractical.” Eggsy placed a kiss at the corner of his mouth, cupping a hand around the back of his head,
“Christ, Harry, I’m not chucking you,” he laughed, “also, I was wondering if you’d found someone to fill my old job.”
Eggsy was reinstated as an assistant tailor at Kingsman by Monday morning and moving into a new home with his mother and sister the following week. It seemed to have slipped Harry’s mind that he owned a second unit in his row, which had been lying empty since the last tenants moved out nearly six months prior.
“I’ll pay you rent,” Eggsy had insisted, “I’m not interested being in debt to you again.” Harry nodded,
“Naturally,” he agreed, snaking a hand around Eggsy’s waist, “though I only expect you to pay for the nights you actually spend there.” Eggsy laughed,
“Oh, Mr. Darcy!” Harry shot him a weary look and dropped him unceremoniously,
“Cheeky little…” he muttered, turning away dramatically to hide the fond smile he was failing to contain. Eggsy reached up on tiptoe to kiss his cheek before heading out the door.
“I love you too.” He teased. Neither one of them was certain exactly how to define their relationship, nor how they would even begin explaining it to Michelle, but Eggsy found it difficult to worry. Those were both bridges they could jump off when they got to them.
Well, now I haven't any excuses to put off writing my damned novella.
Thank you to everyone who took the time to read and give feedback. Bless your intrepid souls. I'll see you next time for some equally ludicrous endeavour.