Harry stands in an empty parking lot and looks down at his hands.
The glasses seem to be broken. Merlin's voice stutters through the comm unit over the crackling static, but he can barely make out the words. He thinks Merlin is calling his name, but his voice is lost to white noise.
Harry hurtles through the corridors and almost slips on pooled blood. He ricochets off a wall, hardly slowing down. He can't stop. If he stops then the mercenary group will eventually break into the master bedroom, and then they'll kill the entire royal family hiding in the hidden space behind the mirror.
He sprints up the last staircase and shoots the first mercenary he sees in the head. The man crumples from where he stands guard in front of the master bedroom.
Harry gets his breath back while he reloads his gun, pressing his back to the wall so that he does’t get shot when the door swings open. There should be three more of them inside, and he holds his gun in his right hand and grasps the door handle with his left.
There's a sudden sinking sensation in his chest. His palms sweat as he thinks about the family, royal in blood but humble in lifestyle, a proud father and a sweet mother with three children, all small and too young to have a gun aimed at their heads. He thinks of the youngest son, only four years old and fingers sticky with jam. He knows deep down that he's too late.
He twists the doorknob and opens the door.
The girl tied to the chair sobs and begs for mercy. She's only nineteen and devastatingly beautiful even with her eyes red-rimmed and voice husky from screaming.
Harry doesn't let that deceive him. He saw her disembowel a CIA agent only fourteen hours ago.
"I swear, I don't know what you're talking about. Let me go, please, I'll do anything."
She spreads her knees as much as she can with her ankles tied to the chair legs and gazes imploringly at Harry with earnest eyes and wet cheeks. Merlin mutters something into Harry's ear about how they're quite sure the last man this girl slept with ended up eviscerated in the back seat of a Porsche.
"I think you know exactly what you were doing when you killed a man last night," Harry says. He slides on latex gloves.
"You made a mistake," she gasps without even a hint of dishonesty, and Harry has to give it to her, she is good. So good that he'll have to resort to less gentlemanly tactics. "Don't you ever make mistakes?"
Harry almost pauses. Almost.
Instead he reaches over and breaks her fingers, one by one.
“Such a pity to lose such a wonderful lady.” Lancelot sighs into his glass of gin. “I wish I could say I didn’t expect this to happen.”
The bar is half-full, quiet in a way that means Harry can clearly hear Merlin snort before taking a long gulp of beer. Harry is nursing a glass of water, because he’s on a pharmaceutical cocktail that promises to wreak havoc on his body if mixed with alcohol—an unfortunate byproduct of his recent stint in Bolivia.
Merlin sets his beer down with a solid thunk. “You’ll find another one in no time.”
“I concur. The ladies find you charming, James.” Lancelot’s womanizing habits are as well-known as his obsession with firearms. It’s a shame that the man’s love for guns and missions is what causes his relationships to fail, but all the better for Kingsman. It’s not like Harry is faring any better. “In fact, I believe the two ladies sitting at your eight o’clock have been undressing you visually for ten minutes now.”
“We’re already committed. It’s no surprise that none of us are getting married any time soon.” Merlin finishes his beer. “Not like anybody can compete with the job.”
It’s true. The job comes first. Harry hasn’t had a committed relationship in nine years. He isn’t sure if he’ll ever have one again. Kingsman takes too much of his time, his blood, his life. He might die any day. He can’t fathom leaving someone behind.
The thought steals his breath away, like someone is pressing down on a forgotten bruise on his chest. Like there’s something he was supposed to remember.
“Harry.” Lancelot peers at him. “Why are you staring at your hands?”
He isn’t sure.
“I think I forgot something,” Harry says.
There’s a bomb in the car.
In the split-second it takes for Harry to realize that Tristan—treacherously young Tristan, Tristan who has three younger siblings who think their oldest sister is on vacation and will be bringing back souvenirs—is standing next to a primed explosive, his eyes meet hers.
They’re in Barcelona and the mid-summer heat has sweat running down his brow. The back of his shirt is soaked and the sun is glaring, but his blood is running cold when he opens his mouth to warn her.
The bomb explodes and Tristan is blown twenty feet away.
The blast knocks Harry to the ground and he sees the girl he proposed two years ago bleed on the sidewalk. He crawls towards her and thinks was it a mistake? Was it a mistake to ask you to suffer for the greater good?
“They’re coming out with something called the iPad,” Merlin drawls. “Very innovative. Top-notch stuff.”
“Didn’t we have these things since 2001?” Harry takes a look at the famed new Apple product on Merlin’s screen. He’s pretty sure Merlin’s been using these for almost a decade.
“December 2000, actually.”
Harry hums and turns the handle of the new umbrella. He watches the screen indicate that he has switched to smoke mode and makes an appreciative noise. “As usual, the tech department’s inventions are remarkable.”
“Well, we’re done testing it. You can take it to the field for your next mission.”
“Have we named it?” Harry folds the umbrella neatly and twirls it. He’s quite sure he’s going to carry this around daily. Much better than carrying a simple rifle in daylight.
“You have any suggestions?”
It’s cheesy, Harry knows, but the name pops into his head naturally. “I was thinking…The Rainmaker?”
It’s his first time in Japan. He stands out, uncomfortably so, in such a homogenous country. Kingsman has only two divisions in Asia, one in Beijing and the other in Singapore. They plan to set up a Tokyo division this year and another division in Seoul by 2012.
The Seoul division’s establishment will be delayed to 2013, thanks to a terrorist unit from North Korea.
Harry, blinks, unsettled.
He isn’t sure how that knowledge came to him.
“Anything else, sir?” Yukimura, the Japanese man who will be in charge of the new Tokyo division, sits across from Harry. The bottle of sake in his hand is empty.
Maybe Harry’s premonition is just an indicator that Harry is drunk.
He hides his confusion behind a smile. “How about I teach you how to make a proper martini?”
The target goes inside the church, and Harry takes care to follow him at a leisurely pace. He is about to enter the church when the voice from his earpiece abruptly stalls him.
“Don’t go in.”
He freezes momentarily because he’s sure that the voice wasn’t Merlin’s. It’s too young, too panicked, the accent too London. Too familiar.
A heartbeat of silence. “I didn’t say anything,” Merlin says.
The University of Sussex is quiet today. Harry has finished his morning lecture and is grading papers as quickly as he can so that he can leave the lounge to investigate the labs without worrying about his duties as part-time lecturer for the meantime. He curses Merlin for making his cover a classic literature lecturer, of all things, and sorely wishes abusing the Oxford comma was a punishable crime.
He makes it to the last paper and checks his watch. He has seventeen minutes before the lab supervisor goes on lunch break, so he decides to skim it.
The first sentence reads You have to come back; you promised me that you'd come back.
Harry's first thought is that he's relieved to see someone utilize the semi-colon properly. His second thought is that he'll have to take a mark off for using a contraction in a formal paper. His third thought is that he's pretty sure this isn't what he assigned.
The paper reads like a one-sided conversation: It's rough nowadays, but we'll make it through. You would be proud, I think. I wish you could see this. It's awful without you. Come back. I know I messed up, and you might have messed up too, but it's okay. Second chances, right?
Harry's head hurts.
There is no name on the paper and he can't assign a grade to an assignment without a name. He crumples the pages up and throws them away.
The lab supervisor will be back in twenty minutes. Harry punches in the code to the labs Merlin sent him and closes the door soundlessly behind him. It's dark inside, and he instinctively knows that he'll discover the prototype for an improved version of mustard gas inside a sealed capsule in the fourth cabinet to his right. He knows that the lab supervisor will be back early because she left her wallet behind. He knows these things but he takes his time and opens the third cabinet instead.
There's a poster board, filled with charts and graphs like a presentation of a study, and there's an abstract about SIM cards and inhibitors and unstoppable violence.
He hears the supervisor approaching the lab, but her footsteps are now clinks of steel, the sound of an executioner approaching the gallows.
Arthur hands him an assignment in Greece and Harry blurts out, "Did you even give him a chance?"
"What do you mean, Galahad?"
The codename makes him blink. "I--terribly sorry, I have no idea why I said that."
There's something discomforting about Arthur's smile, like he knows what Harry is talking about even though Harry himself is not sure. For a split second, Harry thinks of Mr. Pickles, of loyalty and affection freely given, of triggers pulled not out of malice but out of necessity, and the very air in the room tastes sour now. He scrambles out of his chair and walks away from Arthur as fast as he can.
Harry spends Christmas with his mother, drinking sherry and listening to her laughter.
She asks if he has anybody in his life and he says no, not at the moment. He promises to bring someone next Christmas.
She won't be alive by then, but Harry doesn't know that yet.
There's a handsome man in a white Armani suit eyeing Harry appreciatively from the open bar. The gala is crowded with wealthy, influential people, but that is the man who is the most dangerous one of them all. The civilians of Ethiopia depend on Harry's ability to get invited into the man's bed, and subsequently steal the classified documents hidden somewhere in his hotel room.
The greatest obstacle, unfortunately, is the man's wife.
She accosts Harry out of the blue and slides a hand up his arm. The flirting is dangerously forward for someone who has a husband watching from ten feet away.
Harry is attempting to extract himself from her caresses when the mark sidles up and leans in, his chest pressing hot against Harry's back.
"I see my wife likes you," the mark purrs. "And I think I could like you too."
The wife flutters her eyelashes at Harry and he hears Merlin say, "Well, lucky you."
They barely make it to the mark's bed. Harry peels the underwear off of the lady's legs and eats her out until she's shaking and sobbing from her third orgasm while her husband opens Harry up with one, two, and three long fingers. Harry's glasses have clattered to the floor and he can't even string together a coherent sentence when strong hands grip his hips and he feels the heat of someone else inside him, fucking into him with brutal strength. He moans loud and desperate, and those hands sweep from his hips up his sides to his chest. One hand remains there, over his heart, and the other cradles Harry's throat and the touch is too intimate. Too loving.
Something is wrong.
"Harry," the man fucking him gasps into Harry's ear and the mark shouldn't know Harry's name. He shouldn't be holding Harry like he means something to him, and the voice in Harry's ear sounds choked. "Harry."
Harry knows that voice. He tries to turn his head, get a good look at the person behind him.
Tries to say his name.
Olivia leaves because she's tired of dinner dates cancelled at the last minute and his excuses that rot of deception. She adds up what look like hickeys and an erratic schedule and his hesitance to take her to his home and comes with a sum that may seem logical but is fundamentally untrue. She thinks he's cheating on her. The truth is, he's cheating on his job with her.
Eight months is a long time to have a relationship with someone unaware of the true nature of his work. Harry should be glad she stayed that long.
He still can't help the disappointment.
What should happen is this: Harry calls up Merlin and Lancelot and Gawain. They get drunk off whiskey and tequila while Harry experiments with making martinis. He's developing a taste for them. Merlin acquires blackmail material on both Lancelot and Gawain. Harry's curtains are burned. Harry wakes up a little hollow and very hungover but overall okay with Olivia's absence.
That's what is supposed to happen.
Instead, Harry drives over to Smith Street and sees the boys straightening up at the sight of his car. He slows down, searches for a face he thinks he should recognize.
"Lookin' for company?" A boy who looks too young to drink leans in through the window.
"I was looking for somebody," Harrys says, which is strange, because he's never came here before. “I have no idea how to find him.”
"You got a name, bruv?"
Harry shakes his head. "I don't remember."
Percival offhandedly mentions his nephew while peering down the scope of his sniper rifle. Harry is sitting in a stairwell two blocks away, his own rifle sitting on his knees. Percival’s voice crackles intermittently, like the reception wavers every two minutes or so.
“He’s going to be a fine businessman, but he’s hardly Kingsman material. The boy isn’t cut out for danger.” Percival sighs. “At this rate, I’ll be the last of us in the family.”
Percival’s family has been in the business since the beginning. His father was one of the founding members of Kingsman, and Percival hopes to make it a family tradition of sorts. It’s a shame that the man has no children to speak of, however. He has a sister—who never found out how her father really died—and his last hopes lie in her children.
“Didn’t you mention a niece?” Harry asks.
“She needs at least ten more years before she’s old enough for me to propose,” Percival grumbles. “But if I live that long, yes. She has potential.”
“Of course you’ll live that long,” Harry says agreeably, as if he knows there is no alternative. “And Roxy will be a fine Lancelot.”
There’s a pause. “How do you know her name?"
Harry sits in a cafe and doesn’t remember how he got there.
There’s a man sitting two tables away and every time he lisps a shudder runs down Harry’s spine.
It’s 1999 and there are too many crazy religious fanatics trying to enact some sort of awful, genocidal plan because they believe the end of the century will bring some kind of apocalypse.
It’s 1999 and Harry listens to a radio that sings about how the end of the world starts in Kentucky. The very name of the place fills Harry with disgust, but he doesn’t know why. All he knows is that he hates Kentucky.
It’s 1999 and Harry thinks the end of the world starts not in Kentucky, but in London. It starts with leaving behind a boy.
It’s been a year since Lancelot joined Kingsman, and the man is thriving on the adrenaline, the chase, the smell of gunpowder.
It’s been a year and there’s a weight to Lancelot’s sighs, like even the joy of explosions cannot lift his spirits after watching a factory burn down with people still in it. The job is more than gunfights and glory, after all.
It’s been a year and Harry knows that James has only sixteen more.
There’s not enough time in the world to save everybody. Not James. Not Lee.
But please, he thinks desperately, let me just save one.
The phone on his office desk starts to ring. His heart pounds in his ears and he picks up the receiver.
“Oxfords, not brogues,” says a voice he can almost name.
There’s a boy sitting on the floor with a snow globe in his hands.
Harry crouches down in front of the boy. Takes the snow globe from his hands, sets it down. Asks a question he knew the answer to all along: “What’s your name?”
The boy says, “Eggsy.”
The world stops in its tracks.
There’s a script for this, Harry thinks distantly, but he abandons it and scoops Eggsy’s hands into his own. His hands are shaking.
“I made a mistake. I made a mistake and it cost you a life with your father, and I wish things were different.” Harry is so tired. He does not know how to rectify any of this. He rests his forehead on Eggsy’s tiny hands. “I made many mistakes over my life but I didn’t want you to be one of them. I didn’t want you to pay for any of it. Eggsy, my boy, you have seventeen painful years ahead of you, seventeen years where I cannot help you, and then I will ask you to risk the little you have left on a life that might destroy you. I will cut you down for your kindness and I will leave you with cruel words. I will leave you without telling you how proud you make me.”
Seventeen years and Harry got only two months with this boy. The unfairness of it shatters him.
He shudders and presses a kiss to the back of Eggsy’s hand. “My boy, Eggsy, my dear boy. I will make the mistake of leaving you without telling you how much I love you.”
Of all the mistakes he made, this is the one he regrets the most.
“Tell me how to fix this,” Harry murmurs. Strokes Eggsy’s knuckles. “How do I fix this?”
Warm hands turn in Harry’s palms and grip his wrists. Hands that are larger, calloused, familiar.
“Come back,” Eggsy says, his Eggsy, the one who steals cars and refuses to hurt the defenseless and smiles at Harry like there’s nobody else he’d rather be with. Eggsy, who Harry loves and loves and loves. Eggsy, beautiful and kind and worth dying for.
“Come back,” Eggsy pleads, his voice breaking, and Harry never wants to hear that sound again. “Come back to me. Please.”
Eggsy, who is worth living for.
Harry stands in the parking lot in front of the church in Kentucky. He looks down at his hands and they’re soaked with blood.
He looks up.
Valentine aims the gun and Harry says, “Your mistake was not checking the body.”
He opens his eyes and sees a blur of white. He blinks a few times, watching a familiar ceiling come into focus, and he hears the beep-beep-beep of machinery around him. The air smells of disinfectant and sandalwood. He looks to his right, where Eggsy is holding his hand, a faraway look in his eyes.
Eggsy, he tries to say, but he chokes a little around the tube running down his throat and Eggsy’s head shoots up at the sound.
“Harry, oh God, you’re awake—wait, don’t pull the tube out, lemme call Merlin—“ Eggsy jabs at the emergency button and simultaneously reaches for the glasses in his suit pocket. Harry notes that the suit fits Eggsy perfectly. “Merlin, Harry’s awake! He’s awake, get down here.”
Even while he’s bickering with Merlin, Eggsy’s eyes stay on Harry’s face, his smile impossibly wide and bright. Eggsy’s hand squeezes Harry’s, his voice warm when he says, “Yeah, we’re going to be okay.”
After ensuring that Harry doesn’t need to breathe through a tube anymore, Merlin gives him the basic rundown: Arthur was a traitor, Valentine is now dead, the SIM cards caused substantial damage but not as many deaths as they thought, all the other Kingsman agents have survived the ordeal for better or worse, and Harry has spent the last three months in a coma.
Considering that Harry has been reliving and reinventing the last seventeen years in his head, it’s surprising to know that he was only gone for three months.
“We found you as a John Doe in the ICU at the hospital nearest to the church. You almost lost your eye, by the way, but you got off with some brain swelling and a nasty scar.” Merlin says it in a tone that combines you lucky bastard and thank god that was the worst of it. “We’ll have to run some tests, but we’re pretty sure you’ll be good to go in a few weeks. Whether you’ll be cleared for fieldwork is another matter entirely.” As if sensing Harry’s response to that, Merlin adds: “We’ll discuss that when you’re on your feet again.”
“Yeah, you’ve got time,” Eggsy pipes up. He hasn’t left Harry’s side the entire time the medical staff poked around and declared Harry healthy. He hasn’t really stopped smiling, either. Merlin’s eyebrows quirk up suggestively as he sends Harry a look. Harry sends one back that clearly says if you have nothing else to say, please get out.
Merlin’s eyebrows climb even higher. “Well, I’ll let you recover on your own for now. I should let the others know you’re awake anyway.” He turns and walks away. Just before he exits the room, Merlin looks back. “It’s good to have you back, Harry.”
He smiles at that. “It’s good to be back, Merlin.”
Now that Merlin is gone, Harry turns and gives his full attention to Eggsy, who smiles wider when their eyes meet.
“Galath, I see.” Harry doesn’t even try to hide the pride in his voice. “We never had one before.”
“Saving the world got me a free seat at the table,” Eggsy says with a wink. “Got me mum and Daisy out and in a new house, too. You should see what I did to Dean’s lot. Merlin has the video.”
“I wish I could see what you did to Arthur. Such a shame I missed that.”
Eggsy wrinkles his nose. It’s adorable. “He was a prick. And he’s half the reason you got shot.”
“He didn’t think you deserved to be Lancelot.”
“Yeah, but I failed the last task,” Eggsy points out. “I’m pretty sure Roxy deserves that seat.”
“You deserved better,” Harry says, his voice soft.
Eggsy freezes a little, like he isn’t sure how to react to that. He just stares at Harry with wide eyes as Harry takes Eggsy’s hand and brings it closer. Eggsy’s suit jacket is folded over his chair and his shirt sleeves are rolled up. The boy looks rumpled, as if he’s slept in his suit, and his hair is disheveled. He’s lovely.
It takes more energy than he’d thought, but Harry brings Eggsy’s left hand to his lips and kisses his palm, slow and soft. He listens to Eggsy’s breath hitch. “Harry?”
“I’m terribly sorry,” Harry says in a low voice, his eyes on Eggsy’s. “You deserved better than the past seventeen years. You deserved better from me. I should not have said those things to you before I left.”
Eggsy makes a choked sound and swallows. His fingers curl around Harry’s cheek, gentle in the way he is when he touches those dear to him.
“I’ve been proud of you every day. I’m proud of you, and the fact that you did not pull the trigger does not change that. Please forgive me for ever making you think otherwise.”
“I forgive you,” Eggsy says roughly, his eyes wet. “You bastard, of course I forgive you. You came back. How could I not forgive you?”
Harry recognizes the words and smiles. “I heard you, you know. I heard you telling me to come back.”
“Nice of you to listen to me for once.”
I always listen to you, Harry doesn’t say. Instead he pulls Eggsy’s hand further and presses a kiss to the inside of his wrist. He can feel Eggsy’s pulse jump.
As Eggsy said, they have time. There’s no countdown, no ticking clock, and Harry wants to take this slow. He wants to spend days acquainting himself with the different ways Eggsy laughs. He wants to devote an afternoon to tasting each of Eggsy’s fingertips. He wants to take Eggsy to lunch and find out whether the boy likes Indian food as much as Harry does. He wants to teach Eggsy Latin and have private conversations with him that nobody else will understand. He wants to spread Eggsy on his bedsheets and lick him out and fuck him until the boy forgets his own name.
He has time, but he’s already wasted enough of it. He wants to start with finding out what sounds Eggsy makes when he’s being kissed within an inch of his life.
“I would like you to know that I am utterly mad for you,” Harry says.
Eggsy makes a small wounded sound in the back of his throat, then he stands and leans in, pressing his lips to where Harry has a red scar stretching from his brow to his hairline. The gesture is unexpectedly sweet.
“I’m so fucking gone on you, Harry Hart,” Eggsy whispers as he leans back a little to look Harry in the eye. His breath tickles Harry’s chin. They’re so close. “Thinking you were dead was the worst experience of my life. You better fucking make it up to me.”
“Anything,” Harry says.
“If you think I deserve better, I want you.” A tear streaks down Eggsy’s cheek. Harry leans up to kiss it away and hears Eggsy gasp at the contact. “Let me have you.”
“Eggsy,” Harry says. “My boy, I’m all yours.”
He tugs Eggsy down to kiss him, and Eggsy goes down ever so willingly.
Harry’s made a lot of mistakes in his life, but this isn’t one of them.