The best part about knocking Valentine out of his control box is that the fuckin' surround-sound speakers finally stop playing Baby Give It Up, leaving blissful silence in its wake as the disco lights flicker off, the wall-mounted observation screen flashing red with the triumphant words 'CONNECTION LOST'.
"Well done, son!" Merlin crows in his ear, Scottish accent made thicker in his enthusiasm. "Och, well done, Eggsy. And you, Lancelot."
And Eggsy grins at the praise, because thank fuck it's all over. Turning, he limps slowly across the body-strewn dance hall towards Valentine's prone form, swiping the back of his hand over his mouth to clear away the blood from his split lip. Everything aches, and he’s pretty sure his whole body’s going to seize up overnight and make walking a fucking torment tomorrow, but he’s alive. And so is the rest of mankind – aside from all them selfish VIPs whose heads had been blown up, of course.
His shoes squelch wetly in the congealing blood of Valentine's guests and he pointedly averts his gaze from the gruesome corpses. There's only one body he needs to check on. He knows how this shit works - bastards like Valentine always find a way to claw themselves back from the brink of death, and Eggsy doesn't plan on giving him the opportunity. He'll blow a hole in the man's head himself if he has to. The dude ain’t getting a second chance at mass genocide.
Fucker's still breathing, though god knows how. His glasses are cracked and blood-splattered, but when his eyes flicker upwards to meet Eggsy's gaze, they're alarmingly clear for a bloke who'd just been impaled on a steel spike and plummeted twenty feet.
"Sup, man?" Valentine chokes, and there it is, that telling gurgle in his chest as his breath catches mid-word. "Is this the part where you say...some really bad pun?"
Eggsy could. He's got a whole dictionary of witty one-liners stashed away (ace pick-up lines for the right kinda girl/guy on a Friday night), and if he gave it half a thought, he's fairly confident he'd be able to come up with something of the fly. But he's standing in a pool of blood hundreds of miles from home, and he's fucking tired, and you know what? He's not willing to give Valentine the satisfaction.
"It's like you said before," he replies after a brief pause, straightening his cuffs before bending down to meet the dying man's eyes head-on. "This ain't that kinda movie, bruv."
Valentine, the mental bastard that he is, just grins at him, blood staining his teeth as he coughs. "Perfect."
And then it's over. Eggsy stares at the lifeless body a moment longer, just to make sure, before straightening again and smoothing down the fabric of his suit with hands he keeps from trembling through sheer willpower. His pulse is still pounding double-time in his ears, and there's something wound tight beneath his skin, like he could run a mile in a minute despite how mentally drained he feels. It's an unnerving sensation.
A distraction, that's what he needs. After all, why waste an opportunity like the sexy one waiting for him back in that detainment cell? He just saved the fucking world; he's earned it. Besides, he's confident that everything'll seem better somehow after a healthy serving of victory buttsex.
"Harry would be proud of you, Eggsy," Merlin tells him over the com, his voice softer now. "He was right."
And just like that, the feeling of relief and triumph and pride inside of him curdles and turns sour, his stomach twisting as the cold, hard truth of it smacks him in the face. He'd been so focused on Arthur's betrayal, on stopping Valentine and saving the world, that for a brief moment he'd forgotten about the empty house he'd be going back to. About the man who'd saved him; a man whose body’s still lying on a cold slab in Kentucky, waiting to be buried.
Fuck, it's not fair.
He drops his hand from the neck of the champagne bottle he'd been intending to swipe, curling his fingers into loose fists as he turns towards the exit abruptly, stepping over the fallen corpses of Valentine's guests as he makes his way back out into the corridor.
"Merlin," he manages, and he's bloody impressed with himself for keeping his voice so level. "We're goin' home now, yeah?"
"The plane's ready and waiting," the other man promises, and thank fuck the Dom doesn't call him out on his sudden change of pace. "Don't worry about Valentine's prisoners; MI6 have half a dozen extraction teams en-route to our location, they'll handle cleanup this time. Figure they owe us that much, seeing as they've been as useful as a wet sock so far."
"Right you are, guv," Eggsy agrees with forced cheer, trudging his way through the blood-soaked corridors on numb legs until finally the private Kingsman jet comes into sight.
He takes a few steadying breaths as he ascends the ramp and has managed to plaster a convincingly cocky grin onto his face by the time he emerges into the midsection of the plane. "So. Was I ace or what?"
Merlin rises from his seat at the control desk, mouth curling into an answering grin the likes of which Eggsy's never seen before on the usually-stoic agent, pulling the Sub into a brief, tight hug and clapping him firmly on the back.
"Well done, lad," the agent murmurs. "You did him proud."
It's meant to be comforting, Eggsy knows that, but all it does is twist the knife in his gut a little deeper. He can’t help but remember the man; picturing that subtle upwards tick at the corner of Harry's mouth, the warmth and weight of his hand on the back of Eggsy's neck, a constant reassurance. All that's gone now. Gone for good. It hurts so much he can hardly breathe.
Merlin pulls back after a moment, regarding him steadily, his expression sobering as he reaches up to settle a hand on Eggsy's shoulder, squeezing softly. It's not Harry hand, it's not what he really wants, but it's still something. Even if it does turn his joints to jelly, muscles in his legs twitching reflexively as though to send him to his knees.
And fuck, if he isn't treading on thin ice here. What with his Kingsman training and shit, it's been months since he last went under. He needs it, craves it, wants it; he can lie about his Dynamic until the cows come home, but at the end of the day, he can't rewrite his own biology. He's a Sub. And he's on the verge of one helluva fuckin' drop.
"Are you alright?" Merlin asks quietly, his hand still lingering on Eggsy's shoulder, thumb brushing along the collar of his suit. And maybe it's the man's Dominant instincts, or maybe Eggsy just looks as shitty as he feels, because the instructor's brow has a crease in it now; the same one Eggsy had seen him wearing the day Harry had turned up in the infirmary with a breathing tube shoved down his throat.
The man's concern stokes the painful fire in Eggsy's chest, a hot pressure building behind his eyes. He can only nod, his lips pressed together in a thin line, his throat closing up as he pulls away from Merlin's touch and strides over to the minibar near the sitting area to poor himself a generous drink. It's either that or have a fucking breakdown, and he ain't had a proper cry in years, 'cept after he'd watched the video feed from Kentucky. He's not one of them stuffy traditionalist wankers who thinks that Doms can't cry or shit like that, but he knows he can't afford to lower his guard, not right now, not when he's on the brink of a fucking sub-drop with nowhere to run. As far as Merlin and the rest of the Kingsman service are concerned, he's a Dom. Hell, he doesn't even know if they'd allow him to be a field agent at all if they found out the truth. Certainly all of the other Lancelot trainees had been Doms, and the only Subs he'd seen back at HQ had been lab technicians or groundskeepers or medical staff.
He can’t risk losing his place as a field agent, not after everything he's been through; not when Harry’s sacrificed so much getting him here.
"I'll get us in the air," Merlin says after a pause, and Eggsy's never been more grateful for the man's discretion. "We'll rendezvous with Lancelot in half an hour, shouldn’t take us too long to get home after that. Strap yourself in, alright?"
Eggsy's grateful for the order. It's not much, it's not what he needs, but at least he can pretend for now that Merlin's in control here; that all he needs to do is obey and keep quiet.
Maybe he'll make it through this after all.
Fuckin’ hell, he’s dying.
There's a buzzing beneath his skin now, a restlessness that can't be sated no matter how much he jiggles his leg and flexes his hands. He wants to stand up and pace, but he's so fucking tired, and there's a leaden sort of weight seeping into his limbs the longer he sits there stewing in his own thoughts.
The ache in his lungs is fucking awful, a tightening sort of pressure that restricts his airways the deeper he breathes, and his throat has grown painfully sore, thickening his swallow, with the threat of tears a constant burn at the back of eyes as he tries to distract himself with thoughts of his mum, his sister, his two best mates from school who'll get a right kick out of seeing him all dressed up posh-like in his new suit.
It's a fruitless attempt; part of him already knows that. He's a ticking time bomb, and there's no locking himself away in his room until it all blows over, no taking a bus to into the city centre to pick up a random Dom at a club for a quick, rough fuck to get it all out of his system. There's nothing to slow his momentum this time – he's crashing. And in a few short minutes there'll be not one, but two fully trained and highly intelligent Kingsman Dominants with him on this very small, very un-private private jet, and where the fuck's he supposed to hide when it all goes to shit? The plane’s Kinsman property; there's probably a load of hidden cameras in the loo, for fucks sake.
"Great work, Lancelot," he hears Merlin call over the intercom from the cockpit as Roxy clunks up the stairs into the plane. "You did your country proud, lass. Go on back and strap yourself in, we'll be home in a jiffy."
There's the sound of footsteps approaching, and Eggsy lifts his too-heavy head with considerable effort to flash a smile towards the partition as she steps through into the passenger section, the outer latch sealing with a hiss behind her as Merlin fires up the engines again.
"Lancelot," he greets, with a grin he hopes doesn't look as shaky as it feels. "Nice of you to join us."
"You look awful," she tells him frankly, tossing her helmet onto the nearby chair and tugging off the skin-tight gloves of her Halo suit. She crosses over to him, leaning down to peer at the cuts on his face critically. "Have you iced any of these yet?"
"Nah. It’s all about glory an’ battle scars, innit?" he dismisses easily. "Have to show ‘em off while I can."
She sighs, but he's pretty sure it's fond rather than exasperated, and half a second later she's throwing her arms around him in a crushing hug, and god, it feels good. Her Halo suit’s covered in buckles and straps an’ shit, but the hug is fucking amazing. Safe and secure and wonderfully tight; an anchor he can cling to so he doesn't get swept out to sea by the overwhelming whatever it is that's brewing up inside of him.
Eggsy closes his eyes and just breathes, hands coming up to grip the airpack on the back of her suit. And he’s probably being fucking selfish, what with her bent over at an angle like this, but he can’t bring himself to let go just yet. Just one more minute, that’s all he’s asking. Maybe it’ll be enough to pull himself together.
Roxy goes still suddenly, her arms wrapped around him, and Eggsy holds his breath, muscles tensing as his stomach drops.
"Eggsy?" she murmurs after a tense pause. "What's wrong?"
He doesn't open his mouth, because he's pretty fucking sure he'll say something stupid like "everything" and then the whole sorry mess will come pouring out. He's kept his Dynamic a secret since he was sixteen, he ain't about to blab it to the world willy-nilly.
"You're shaking," Roxy points out…and oh, yeah, he is. Shit. How long’s he been doing that for? Fuckin’ hell. "Eggs, what is it? Tell me."
He shakes his head, because it's all he's capable of doing at present, cursing his damned biology for betraying him like this. Roxy's secure hold, her gentle concern, her soothing voice - it's all tipping him further and further over the edge, the trembling in his limbs worsening to a point that he feels like he's clinging onto his sanity by his fingertips.
He can't do this. He can't. He wants to fucking die.
"You're dropping," Roxy breathes in a moment of clarity, her voice hushed. "Oh my god, Eggsy, are you dropping?"
In spite of his better judgement, and despite how desperately he wants to deny it to the bitter end, he finds himself nodding against her shoulder; the barest fraction of movement, but it's there. And suddenly Roxy's hand is settling gently over the nape of his neck, squeezing gently as she guides his forehead down to rest against her collarbone.
"Alright," she murmurs, and God fucking bless the Dom who raised this woman to be so bloody perfect. Her voice is like a balm to his aching, fractious mind, her touch soothing the restless buzzing beneath his skin. "I’ve got you, Eggsy. We'll get through this together, yeah? What do you need? Just tell me what you need from me. Do you want to kneel?"
"Eggsy, Lancelot," Merlin's calls over the plane's intercom. "You two alright back there?"
He tenses, because of course the man would've noticed that something was off. This is all going so horribly wrong, and it ain't even fucking funny. He's kept his Dynamic to himself for years, tricked the education board and guidance counsellors at school into thinking that he was a Dom just so that he'd be able to protect his mum and stand up to Dean. Fuck knows how the bastard would’ve treated him if he’d realised it was a Sub back-talking him all this time – probably forced Eggsy into a drop just to keep him obedient. He’s never once considered that his ruse might backfire, and now…now it feels like his whole fucking world is about to come tumbling down.
"Eggsy, does Merlin...?" Roxy's arms tighten around him further, her voice a low hum against his ear. "I won't tell him if you don't want me to."
"Just so you know, there'll be no canoodling on my plane," Merlin warns, faux-sternly, and it's enough to startle a strangled breath of laughter from Eggsy, although the sound that comes out is far closer to a sob than he'd intended. "Don't make me pull over."
“Eggsy?” Lancelot whispers. “Do you want him involved or not?”
And God help him, but he nods. Everything’s gone to shit now anyway, it’s not like he’s gonna be able to keep this from Merlin indefinitely; the man’s too smart for that. And besides, Merlin’s a decent sort of bloke, and they did just save the bloody world together - maybe he won’t hold Eggsy’s Dynamic against him.
Roxy presses a kiss to the side of his head, squeezes him again, then pulls back a little to call over her shoulder, "Merlin, Eggsy's dropping. Do we have any Ritinal on board?"
There's a beat of silence, then, as serious as the man’s ever sounded: "Lancelot, take the cockpit."
"Sir," she tries to protest, keeping her hand on the back of Eggsy's neck as she twists her upper body towards the front end of the plane. "I'm not about to leave him on his-"
"Roxy, get in here, now," the senior agent orders firmly, and Lancelot exhales a sharp sigh, face pinched, but abruptly climbs to her feet and moves away from Eggsy's side with a parting squeeze to the back of his neck.
And oh, fuck, that's not good. Even that single point of contact had been enough to ground him, to keep the overwhelming cacophony of sensations at bay, and without it he feels like he's drowning. He braces his elbows on his knees, burying his face in hands that won't stop shaking, and tries not to hyperventilate. The impending sense of doom is growing worse. He’s either going to burst into tears or beat his head against the wall of the plane until he knocks himself into blissful unconsciousness, and the inclination he feels towards both options is alarmingly strong.
"Shh. It’s alright, lad."
It's Merlin, close enough that the words are a warm puff of air against Eggsy’s temple, which means the man must be kneeling on the floor in front of him. The notion feels wrong, somehow – a powerful Dom like Merlin kneeling for a splintering sub like Eggsy – but he doesn't have long to agonise over the issue, because suddenly there's a hand on his back rubbing in slow, soothing circles, another one settling on his knee and squeezing, and the reassuring contact means everything.
"Easy now," the Scotsman soothes, and his thick brogue rolls down the sub’s spine in a pleasantly warm wave, some of the tension easing from his shoulders. "I’ve got you.”
The agent carefully slides a hand up to rest against the side of Eggsy’s neck, his fingers warm and gentle. “There’s an emergency stock of Ritinal in the medkit. But I should warn you, it’s strong stuff, and the side-effects aren’t pleasant. It might be better if we try to ease you down the natural way.” His thumb brushes against the corner of Eggy’s jawline. “Will you let me help you?”
Help? Fuck yeah. Help sounds good. Help sounds fantastic. Definitely better than drugging himself up with Ritinal.
Nasty stuff, that; a cocktail of fast-acting hormones and shit that fucks with the chemicals in your brain, yanks you out of a sub-drop and dopes you up for a few hours, but leaves you with fucking awful whiplash. Eggsy’d used it once in an emergency back when he was still a teenager, before he was old enough to legally get into the kind of places where he could pick up a Dom for a quickie. Dubbed the ‘lonely Sub drug’ (not to be confused with actual LSD, though), it was real popular with his Mum before Dean arrived. Fuck, even after Dean had come along she’d still slapped on a patch every week or so, never bothering to cancel her regular prescription from the GP.
And yeah, maybe for a couple of hours it makes you feel fucking perfect, but waking up on the other side of that high is like crawling out of Satan’s arsehole. It had messed with Eggsy’s head for days afterwards, kept him awake at night, made everything taste weird, and muted all his senses to a point where he just felt wrong.
He isn’t about to take it again – not willingly, not if he can help it.
So he nods, and let’s himself be eased to his feet on shaky legs, supported by Merlin’s strong hands. He sags against the older man’s chest when the Dom’s arms come up to pull him into a crushing hug, and fuck, it’s perfect. It’s chips and cheese after a night out, or a hot shower and a steaming cuppa after walking home in the rain – it’s comfort, the ultimate self-indulgence, and he doesn’t ever want it to end.
“You’re alright,” the Dom murmurs against his ear, one hand cupped securely over the back of Eggsy’s neck, the other rubbing soothing circles between his shoulders. “Deep breaths for me, Eggsy, there’s a good lad.”
Eggsy feels himself go boneless at the soothing mantra, the tension in his body dissipating as though a switch in his brain has been flicked, and if Merlin hadn’t already been supporting him so steadfastly, he probably would’ve ended up in a crumpled heap on the floor when his knees suddenly give way.
“There we go, easy now,” Merlin says softly, slowing his descent, guiding him gently to his knees. “That’s the way, son.”
A hand settles on the back of his neck again, applying gentle pressure, enough that Eggsy knows he’s got permission to rest his head against Merlin’s knee as the man sits down in the vacated chair. The fabric of Merlin’s pants is soft against his cheek, and he can feel the man’s warmth through the thin material, a reassurance that this is all real, that it’s not just in his head.
He’s still shaking, but it’s beginning to subside now, an intermittent trembling that stays mostly in his hands as the storm in his chest eases with every breath, the fire beneath his skin cooling rapidly as Merlin cards his fingers through Eggsy’s hair.
“Good lad,” the agent murmurs, and another wave of warmth ripples through him at the praise.
Fuck, that shit’s has always been a weakness for him. Maybe that’s why he’d been so gone on Harry from the get-go. I see a young man with potential, a man who is loyal – that’s what he’d said. Accepting Harry’s offer to become a Kingsman had been a no-brainer after that. He’d wanted to do anything, everything, to win the man’s approval; to see that proud little quirk of his lips when Eggsy presented him with his test results and marksmanship scores; to hear him say “well done” and “excellent progress, Eggsy”, even if it wasn’t the ‘good boy’ he’d secretly wanted to hear.
Truth be told, he feels the same way regarding Merlin too – has done so right from the first task. The man isn’t as free with his praise as Harry had been, but that had made it all the more gratifying when he’d done something to earn it. To see the quiet pride in the Dom’s expression when Eggsy took out six Kingsman security officers during hand-to-hand combat training, or to be singled out at the end of a task and congratulated for some small moment of bravery or ingenuity. That’s why he’d been so annoyed when he’d thought Merlin had left him without a parachute. Forget the fact that Eggsy had almost pulled Roxy’s cord too late and plummeted to his death; he’d felt hurt and betrayed that Merlin apparently cared so little about him compared to the other candidates.
And, naturally, he’d felt horribly guilty afterwards for mouthing off to his instructor when it transpired that he’d been wearing a parachute all along. Merlin’s low, warning “no, no, no – you don’t talk to me like that” had sent shivers down his spine for days to come afterwards. In the privacy of the showers near the firing range, he’d let himself imagine what might’ve happened if Merlin had known his true Dynamic. Thrilling fantasies of being turned across the Dom’s knee and paddled with that bloody clipboard of his until Eggsy had learnt his lesson, or bent over the desk down Mission Control while the man’s strong, long-fingered hand turned his arse pink. Or simply being put on his knees while the man worked at his computer station, forced to kneel at Merlin’s side for hours on end until the man eventually accepted his apology and fed Eggsy his cock.
There had been very few men in Eggsy’s that he’d legitimately wanted to kneel for, and Merlin was one of them.He never pictured it happening like this, though – shivering his way through a sub-drop on the floor of a private jet after saving the world from a madman in a baseball cap.
It’s fucking comfortable, though. More than it ought to be, really, given that he’s kneeling on the hard floor without a cushion or nothing – but then his legs have gone numb, so he ain’t really all that bothered.
He must doze off or something, ‘cause next thing he knows there’s a warm hand cupping his cheek and the background hum of the plane engine is missing, and everything hurts again. But not in the imminent-drop way; in a pulled-every-fucking-muscle-known-to-man way, which he’d kinda been anticipating, what with how that steel-footed chick had tossed him around like a bloody ragdoll. Baby Give It Up an’ all.
“Eggsy.” Merlin’s thumb strokes along his cheekbone (thankfully not the one that’s throbbing), and the Sub blinks his eyes open groggily to peer up at him.
“We back already?” he asks, his voice coming out slurred, like he’s been on a three-day bender.
Merlin’s lips twitch up at the corner, but there’s still a faint crease in his brow that belies the lightness of his tone. “You’ve been asleep for quite a while. Feeling better?”
Eggsy nods, then winces when even that pulls on abused muscles. “Yeah. Thanks, guv.”
His legs are completely dead, and he’s gonna have the worst pins and needles attack ever in a minute or two, but he’s just so fuckin’ relieved that the turmoil of emotions inside of him has settled down to a background murmur, he could bloody kiss Merlin.
“Don’t mention it,” the senior agent replies, dropping his hand from Eggsy’s cheek after a final caress. “And I do mean that, Eggsy; what happened here can stay between the three of us, if that’s what you want.”
The Sub blinks at him, feeling hope begin to stir in his chest. “You mean I can stay registered as a Dom on my files and stuff?”
Merlin nods. “I don’t see why not.”
“There ain’t, like, a rule against Subs being field agents?” Eggsy presses, stunned. “I thought Kingsmen were all traditionalist and shit, ‘cept you an’ Harry.”
“There are certain individuals who might protest the presence of a Submissive agent during particularly dangers missions,” the Dom acknowledges, reaching to pick up a glass that’s sitting on the small coffee table by his elbow. “But like I said, nobody else needs to know about it unless it’s something you want advertised.”
The younger man stares at him, still hardly daring to believe what he’s hearing. “You’d do that? For me?”
“You’re a good lad, Eggsy,” Merlin tells him, and oh, that still feels fucking awesome. “Your secret’s safe with me. And we’ll find a way to keep you from dropping again, don’t you worry. Here.” He presses the rim of the glass against the Sub’s bottom lip. “Drink this.”
Eggsy obeys without question, gulping down the refreshingly cold water, suddenly realising how utterly parched he is. Clearly saving the world is enough to seriously dehydrate a guy.
“Thank you,” he says again once the glass is drained, and he holds Merlin’s gaze for a moment, hoping the man realises he’s grateful for far more than the drink.
Merlin’s lips curl into another quiet smile, his thumb brushing gently over Eggsy’s chin to wipe away a stray droplet of water. “You’re welcome.” Then he seems to rouse himself, tearing his gaze away from Eggsy to glance out at the Kingsman hangar beyond the window. “Come on. We’ve got an organisation to put to rights. And you need to eat something.”
“Sir, yes, sir,” Eggsy replies, with a grin that actually feels half-genuine, and lets himself be pulled slightly unsteadily to his feet.
Merlin’s right. They may have stopped the whole mass-genocide thing, but for seventy seconds the world had gone to shit, and it’s bound to have left ‘em with one helluva cleanup. He needs to ring his mum, and check up on his mates (they’re both pants at fighting, so he hopes they didn’t get caught up in anything too serious), and make sure JB’s still alright back at Harry’s house. And Harry…
Well. There’ll be time to sit down and have a proper cry later on. Right now there’s shit needs doing, and Eggsy ain’t no skiver. He’s saved the world once already today, he can bloody well help fix it up.