"Maybe they're deciding to have you kill me," Eggsy says, as the plane gains altitude and Stockholm Arlanda shrinks to a speck far below.
"Don't be silly," Roxy says. "Ice?"
She waves the tongs around like she's been on hundreds of luxury jets where the bar includes individually watermarked tumblers for the three available types of whiskey, handcrafted bitters in a smoky glass bottle like something out of the Arabian Nights, and silver ice tongs. Probably she has. She's changed out of her Halo suit and back into her jeans and Sloaney blazer, and she spent the first half of the flight bonding terrifyingly with Tilde while Eggsy sulked on the green tartan loveseat and tried to decide if he's going to be seeing fireworks of exploding heads when he closes his eyes for the rest of his life, or only for the next decade.
"Cheers," Eggsy says, distracted.
"Come on, Eggsy, staring at the door won't make them talk any faster."
"You don't know that," Eggsy says, but he takes the drink she hands him.
Merlin and Harry have been shut up in the cockpit for the entire flight, doing important Kingsman damage control and probably casually deciding the fates of nations in between demolishing fifteen packets of crisps, which Eggsy has been counting because he has to fetch them another one every time Merlin gets on the intercom to bawl, "I'm famished, is there no real food on this godforsaken aircraft," sounding more Scottish every time.
Eggsy had thought it was all in the name of secrecy, but they're still at it even now that they've dropped the Crown Princess off to be mobbed by her adoring public, and the only people left on board are Kingsman agents, or at least Kingsmen employees, or at least prospective--
Balls to the lot of them, Eggsy thinks, throwing back half of the generous triple measure that Roxy's poured him. And especially Harry bloody Hart.
Roxy sits down next to him and bumps his shoulder with hers. They sip for a while in silence.
"You look good," Roxy says finally. "In the suit."
He's looked better. Not even a Kingsman suit can survive being hastily removed, thrown onto the floor, and then even more hastily put on again, without looking a bit roughed up. But Eggsy grins.
"Yeah, look at me. Silver spoon firmly lodged in arse."
"Mmhm," Roxy says.
Eggsy bites his tongue and almost fumbles the glass right out of his hands. "I--I mean--shit."
Roxy smirks and gets an arm around his shoulders, then pulls him down until he's lying across her lap. She nabs his glass neatly with her other hand on the way, and finishes both his whiskey and her own in two quick swigs.
"Steady on, Rox."
"I fell all the way from the edge of the bloody atmosphere, Eggsy," Roxy says. A shudder runs through her legs. "I have the right to get as drunk as I see fit."
"Fair'nuff," Eggsy decides.
Roxy sets down the empty glasses and rests her folded arms on Eggsy's side. Eggsy closes his eyes. She's warm and so's his chest and his belly, from the whiskey, and now that the day's adrenaline is draining away, lying on his side is kind of nice, really. Tilde had some serious core strength going on and she wasn't shy about using it.
He tenses and his eyes jerk wide when the cockpit door opens and Harry emerges.
"Eggsy," Harry says, calm as anything. "If I could have a word."
Eggsy unfolds himself from Roxy, who gives him a bracing pat on the arm as he follows Harry down the body of the jet and into the little munitions room closer to the tail. Harry closes the door behind them and leans against it, clearly setting as much distance between them as he can in the small space; knowing Eggsy's luck he's about to have the it's not you it's me talk from a bloke old enough to be his dad, how fucking embarrassing.
Eggsy plunges ahead anyway, because that's the kind of stupid he is.
"So you heard all of that back at Valentine's, then, with her Royal Sex-toyness?"
"I did," Harry says.
Eggsy can't for the life of him tell what he's meant to be getting from Harry's expression here, whether it's disapproval or apology or what. Knowing Harry, this bland nothingness is just another piece in the spy puzzle, but Eggsy's tired and sore and narrowly keeping himself from going bright red and desperate at the thought of Harry listening, and he's not in the mood to treat his own humiliation like one of Merlin's fucking tests.
"Alright then," he says, lobbing the noncommittal grenade right back.
"Tell me what happened in your Marines training, Eggsy."
"Shall I repeat the question?"
Eggsy blinks, recalibrating jerkily, like one of Merlin's clipboards after you've spilled tea on the thing. "I told you. Me mum went mental--"
"So you just walked out? Just like that?"
Eggsy can already feel his nails digging into his palms. "Harry, what is this?"
Harry says, "I told you I looked up your reports. You had brilliant marks in all the skills domains, but--well, attitude problem covers most of it. Your sergeants were optimistic, however. A few more months and they'd have had you in hand."
"See? I'd have done it," Eggsy snaps. "I'd have done fine. But I didn't want to hurt me mum."
"Surely she would have objected when you first applied."
Eggsy squirms. "Yeah, she did."
"So then why--"
"Jesus, Harry, what the fuck do you want from me?"
It's Harry's turn to blink behind his glasses, leaving the tinny echo of Eggsy's shout to press down on the both of them, above the rattling hum of the plane's engine.
"Why did you leave the Marines, Eggsy?" Harry asks, gently.
Eggsy looks down at his hands and twists the electric signet ring to and fro on his finger, struggling.
"I worked so bloody hard," he says. "I wanted it, I wanted to do well, and I did. And I thought I knew how to cope with people yelling at me all the time, calling me useless, breaking me down, I could see the point of it, yeah? But it was just. It was just like living with Dean all over again. So that, that's why." He takes a deep breath and looks up. Harry isn't quite smiling, but Eggsy takes courage from him anyway; he always has. "All that shite that Merlin put us through, the job interview. You lot were pushing me, tricking me, but it always made me feel better about myself. Not worse."
"And what about shooting JB?" Harry says.
Bloody hell, this is like their disorientation training: blindfolded and knocked around in the back of a van, hands tied. Eggsy grits his teeth and stays as stubbornly silent as he had during that task, because Harry's clearly set some mission outcomes for this conversation and Eggsy's only getting in the way.
Harry sighs. "Part of being a Kingsman has always been the ability to obey orders without question. I'm sure I don't have to explain why that is vital in the field. Understand me, Eggsy, nobody has ever been made a Kingsman agent who failed that test."
"Yeah?" Eggsy glares. "So I should have kept me mouth shut and done what Arthur told me to do, is that it? Guess what, Harry, most of the people in the world would be dead."
"Well, exactly," Harry says, wrenching the conversation round another hairpin corner. "You can see that the organisation now finds itself with something of a dilemma. Eggsy, you are bright, and talented, and caring. And after what you've done today, Merlin and I will both vouch for you as undoubtable Kingsman material. How could we make it so that you would trust your orders enough to carry them out, even if the point of them isn't clear to you at the time?"
Eggsy is miles away from knowing if that question's rhetorical or not. He clings to his anger and to the memory of sodding Arthur's sodding stuck-up, sneering face, as he tried to kill Eggsy with a drink that was meant to honour the best person in Eggsy's life.
"I thought I was joining something good, alright? Something worthwhile. But Kingsman's only as good as the person at the top."
"I think you and Roxanne have already proven that that's not the case," Harry says, with a bit of a smile.
Eggsy slumps against the wall, feeling every bruise like it's new, and tells the truth.
"You want to make sure I jump when I'm told?" he demands. "It'd better be you doing the telling, Harry."
Harry says, looking sad, "I rather suspected that would be the case."
Harry reaches for the door back into the rest of the jet, but Eggsy's not done; no, Eggsy's just remembered what he originally wanted out of this conversation before Harry hijacked it.
Harry turns back, eyebrows raised.
"Are we going to talk about the--y'know," because a gentleman probably doesn't come right out and say: about the fact that I've been dreaming about you fucking me senseless since the day we met, that a nosy Swedish bird with a strap-on managed to drag that fact out of me through cunning use of fingering, and that you apparently heard the whole thing happen.
Harry's throat moves. "I don't know if that would be wise," he says, careful.
And you know what, fuck careful, fuck gentlemanly behaviour, because Eggsy thought Harry was dead and if he's honest he's still reeling from the whiplash of having him here, whole, alive, close enough for Eggsy to reach out and demand the proof of his pulse.
"You don't want me, then, you say it to my face, yeah? Say it."
That magnetic gaze of Harry's sweeps down Eggsy's suit and back up again. And then suddenly Harry's striding forward and crowding him against the wooden panel to kiss him, Harry's hands are cupping his face and his mouth is hard and hungry, so hard that Eggsy's split lip reopens with a glorious sting of pain. Eggsy hears himself make a sound that's at least half pure surprise. The other half of it is a moan a porn star might be proud of, because Jesus, he's never been kissed like this, like he's something addictive and unbreakable, like Harry's trying to short-circuit his nervous system and drive him right out of his mind. He's only just recovered himself enough to clutch at Harry's shoulders and kiss back, as sweet and deep and dirty as he knows how, when Harry pulls away.
"My lovely boy," Harry says, somehow making it sound both deeply fond and like you filthy tart. "That is not what I'm saying."
Eggsy probably looks a right idiot, opening and closing his mouth while most of his higher faculties thump and whir like an engine stalled between gears. A small functioning portion of his brain rages at his body to do something, do anything, to keep Harry in this tiny room and continuing down the path of ravishment. But his palms and fingers have gone numb, as though Harry's firm tongue found some kind of off-switch tucked away in the inner curve of Eggsy's lips, and Harry slips easily away from him and back across to the door.
"Holy fuck, Harry," he manages. "You can't just--and then--"
Harry looks back at him with one hand poised to open the door.
"I suppose," Harry says thoughtfully. "Hmm. All right. There is something you can do for me, Eggsy. As an exercise, of sorts."
God, Eggsy hopes the words mile high club are about to make an appearance.
"I would take it very kindly, Eggsy, if you would refrain from touching yourself."
It's classic Harry: so many words folded delicately around a simple idea that it takes a moment to click. When it does, Eggsy feels his heart rate pick up.
"I can do that," he says, putting a bit of a drawl in it, just because. "Until when?"
"Yes," Harry says, "that is the question, isn't it?"
And he steps back out into the body of the jet, leaving Eggsy half-hard and sucking his bleeding lip and dizzy with what-the-everloving-fuckery.
Once he knocks Dean to the floor of the Black Prince with a well-aimed stein, the rest of Dean's goons--the ones who were there when Harry first exploded Eggsy's world, and who will probably steer clear of toffs in good suits for the rest of their lives--fold like wet fucking tissues. Eggsy has a moment of despair that limp-dicked specimens such as these managed to get through V-Day with no more than minor injuries, but he leaves them be. Despite how much he's aching to deliver a bollocking they'll never forget, he's probably fought enough people for one week. And he's pretty sure Harry would have something to say on the subject of hurting unarmed men who are backed up and huddling in a pub booth with their hands in the air, blathering on about how they're sorry, no harm done mate, no sore feelings, they'll explain it all to Dean when he comes to, yeah?
Eggsy keeps the umbrella in prominent view.
His mum is looking at him with her lips pressed together. That expression means Gary Charles Unwin We Will Have Words About This, and Eggsy was scared silly of it up to the age of thirteen.
"A job with a tailor, you said?" she says.
"Yeah, that's right," Eggsy says.
She steps slowly around the unconscious Dean, glancing from the umbrella to the shoes to the glasses, on Eggsy who's never worn glasses in his life. She's not dumb, his mum. She was there when Harry delivered the news about his dad, and God only knows what Roxy said to her on the phone to get her to lock herself away from Daisy on no more than the word of a stranger.
Eggsy swallows and holds his shoulders firm, because if she asks him straight out...well, he's not going to say anything, because Kingsman is a secret that belongs to other people too, and he promised Harry he'd keep his mouth shut and so he'll take it to his grave. But he's going to feel a right tosser about lying to his mum.
"Well, that's nice," she says finally. "I'm pleased for you, Eggs. Come on then, Liane Bromley's watching your sister, we can pick her up from there."
Once they've collected Daisy, his mum directs them all home, where they pack boxes. Lots of boxes. So many boxes that Eggsy starts to think longingly of his Kingsman training, where he'd turned up with nothing more than what he was wearing.
"The house comes with tables and beds and all that, Mum. And I can buy you new clothes."
"Well that's a kind offer, love, but it doesn't mean I don't want to hold onto the ones I've got. Here--take this, and go pack up Daisy's toys."
Eggsy escapes to a corner of the bedroom, eyes the amount of shit that appears to have been multiplying in the wardrobes over the course of his entire life, and calls Merlin. Half an hour later there's a white moving van parked down on the street, and two burly blokes appear and carry boxes up and down from the house while half the estate peers over their railings and Doris Grainger from next door, seventy if she's a day, puffs interestedly on a fag and shows off her boob job in a singlet top it's at least ten degrees too cold for.
The new house is a terrace in Earls Court, pale green and cheerful on the outside and proper posh on the inside. It's not even the fussy, lived-in, weirdly comforting poshness of Harry's place, but something stern and sterile that makes Eggsy feel both like taking off his shoes and like nicking some spray paint to tag the bare walls.
The burly blokes transfer all the boxes inside and Eggsy's mum drifts around from room to room exclaiming about how they're not even going to be able to sit on that chair, it's so new and so pointy, who the bloody hell can live with things like this? Eggsy tips out a box of toys onto the thick, red-and-amber patterned rug of the living room for Daisy to amuse herself with, leaves JB face-down in a bowl of dog biscuits, and does his own examination of the place exactly the way he's been taught: attic to cellar, making note of exits and locks and awkward corners and blind spots. After ten minutes he stops kidding himself he's not also checking for hidden cameras and bugs, goes back to the attic, and starts over, proper thorough this time. He finds two basic bugs in the bedrooms, another three in the living areas, and a totally pointless but fiendishly neat little marvel of engineering tucked under the edge of the dryer in the laundry.
Then he digs some stationery out of the leather-topped desk in the study (get out--what's Eggsy supposed to do with a study?) and seals the bugs up in an envelope on which he writes THANKS MERLIN along with a sketch of an extended middle finger, because when it comes to turning everything into a teachable moment that man just can't fucking help himself.
When he's done he finds his mum poking through the pantry and fridge in the kitchen, making faces at jars of odd-looking grains, and murmuring in a pleased way at the honest-to-god fruit bowl, full of apples and pears and oranges so precariously arranged that they look like they'd tumble to the ground the moment you nudged one. Eggsy's feeling peckish after all that paranoia; he lifts an apple away with his best sleight of hand, nods in satisfaction when the rest of the fruit trembles but stays in the bowl, and leans against the wall as he bites into it.
"That's more like it," His mum straightens up, kicks the freezer closed, and hoists a bag of oven-ready frozen chips. "Right, beans and chips for tea, then?"
So they eat baked beans heated up and spooned over chips, Eggsy's favourite since he was a kid, and for dessert there's some kind of chocolate mousse thing from M&S which is brilliant, and then they watch the telly with their socked feet up on the fancy glass coffee table, Daisy passed out in a happy, sticky, snoring lump between them.
The bedroom that Eggsy's picked for himself is the smallest one, with the best view of the street and the most handholds available if he ever has to scale the outside of the building. The bed's still enormous. Flushed and blissful from blasting himself under a hot shower, Eggsy burrows himself between the expensive sheets, all slippery and soft, and listens to the sleep-snuffles coming from JB's own little bed against the far wall. Really, Eggsy feels like he should be arranging his body diagonally in order to take best advantage; it's a waste of high-thread-count real estate, otherwise.
Or else he should have someone in the bed with him. That'd work too.
This is fucking cruel. If Harry hadn't gone and dropped that order on him all offhand, Eggsy probably wouldn't even be thinking about getting off. Except--sod it, that's a lie, he absolutely would, now that he knows Harry heard him, knows that Harry wants him, and knows that if Harry fucks anything like he kisses, it's going to be spectacular and brain-melting and leave Eggsy feeling like he's hit the ground from a height.
Eggsy shifts his legs against one another and bites his lip at how this makes his pyjama bottoms rub over the oversensitive skin of his cock. He should've made that shower colder. He's a bloke, he's young, he's easy for a pretty face or a good pair of legs, he's never denied himself the pleasure of a good wank when he's horny or restless or just plain bored. And now he's swimming against the tide of images that his brain seems to be producing out of sheer frustrated confusion: Harry in the plane with his shirt rolled up to his elbows and the skin of his throat visible. The skid of Tilde's hand down Eggsy's side, as he dropped his head between his braced elbows and gasped. Harry's mouth biting at his, confident and overwhelming and good. Harry's thumbs brushing his jaw.
For half a second the thought springs into Eggsy's head that he could do it anyway. His glasses are beside the bed, so he can wake and grab them easily if their alert is activated remotely, but they're facing downwards. He could be quiet, quick. Harry wouldn't know.
But it's pretty obvious that isn't the point of the exercise.
Eggsy rolls onto his stomach and shoves both of his hands underneath the pillow, manfully resists the urge to hump the mattress, and plants his face miserably on top of the pillowcase's embroidered Kingsman symbol.
"Sodding bleeding fucking hell," he says.
There's something very reassuring about the way the city ticks on. V-Day is still fresh in everyone's memory, unpleasant and undeniable as a steaming turd, but the English have always had ways of stepping over that kind of thing in the street. The media is still chewing the words tragedy unprecedented like they're trying to get the last bit of flavour from a bit of gum; the subfaction of UKIP that wants all mobile devices banned has had a screaming row with the subfaction of UKIP that thinks the whole thing could have been avoided if full metadata collection was standard practice and also if Valentine had been denied access to the country on grounds of being rich while black. And there's no denying the fact that a huge chunk of the population--including half of Parliament and a fair number of the royal family--died in various horrid ways, often at the hands of their loved ones
But this is still London. So everyone is bitching about delays on the Central line and what a shame it is that this season of GBBO was cut short because all the contestants went mental and murdered each other, which if you ask Eggsy stood a fair chance of happening even without Valentine's SIM cards.
"It's like the Blitz," says Roxy, who has been reading up on the role of the Kingsmen in World War II. Beneath that petite frame and sleek superior ponytail beats the heart, Eggsy is discovering, of a total nerd. She already speaks three languages and is working on the fourth and fifth, and she's having Merlin teach her about software encryption in her spare time because apparently her idea of fun outside work is more work.
"We've got to get you laid, Rox," Eggsy says.
Roxy lets the door to the tailor shop swing violently shut in his face, for that, and Eggsy's grinning as he opens it.
"Good afternoon, Ms Morton. Mr Unwin."
"Good afternoon, Caradoc," says Roxy. "I'm here to pick up my suit?"
"Fitting room one," says Caradoc, nodding her towards it.
The middle mannequin in the shop window had a red pocket square, which means the shop's doing normal business and strictly no spy talk allowed. Eggsy leans on his umbrella--which Harry has told him at least five times not to do, but Eggsy's cultivating it as a habit because Harry looks even more fit than usual when he's exasperated--and exchanges sympathetic glances with some poor prepubescent sod with a shock of red hair who's clearly been dragged here by his mum for Baby's First Bespoke Suit. The kid stands obediently still, sporting a mutinous expression, as one of Caradoc's minions flutters around him with the chalk and his equally redheaded mother has a nasal phone conversation about someone called Lauren having discovered wheatgerm liver cleanses, and this darling little antiques shop she stumbled across last week, and how much they're all looking forward to Majorca.
Eggsy's fingering a stack of fabric samples and trying to remember something that Harry said about pinstripes when Roxy emerges from the fitting room. Her suit's a lot paler than all of his, a shade of grey like clouds promising snow, and the jacket's cut snug at her waist. The trousers have wide legs and fall straight and neat to her black oxfords, which have a tiny but definite heel. Her tie is bright blue with a silver stripe and her eyes gleam behind the frames of her glasses.
"Rox," Eggsy says. "You look well smashing, honest."
"I do, don't I?" she says. For the first time since he's known Roxy there's something loose and girlish about her, like she might break into giggles.
"I didn't know you'd started dressing women," butts in Mrs Redhead, with an air that suggests she'd rather they'd started branching out into tiny monogrammed coats for dogs. (Which is a top idea, now that Eggsy thinks of it; JB would look wicked.) "I thought Kingsman was a traditional tailor."
"Times change, Lady Walter," says Caradoc calmly. "And it is our honour to change with them. We appreciated the challenge, Ms Morton. I trust you find the suit satisfactory?"
Roxy's mouth curves, sincere and sharp. "A girl could take on the world in this suit," she says.
"Caradoc, d'you mind if we use fitting room three?" asks Eggsy.
All evidence seems to suggest that Caradoc's no more than a superb tailor who knows how to keep his mouth shut, but then, Eggsy wouldn't be surprised if he also knew how to kill a man with a pincushion. He gives a bow and waves them towards it.
Lady Walter's mouth makes a scandalised little shape and she bustles her son into his own dressing room, like she's convinced the two of them are going to start shagging right there in the shop. It's a nice thought and all, but Eggsy decided about thirty seconds after meeting her that trying to get into Roxy's pants was a terrible fucking idea, and now she's his best mate and it'd be weird, and besides: one raging, panting crush on a coworker's enough to be getting on with, yeah?
Roxy looks over the toys--sorry, field gear--in the room behind fitting room three, chooses a watch that looks huge on her slender wrist but which she seems to love, and slaps Eggsy's hands away from the row of signet rings. She's not as quick as Harry, though, so he manages to distract her by getting her to practice clicking her heels and retracting the blade, and pockets a cigar cutter (slash portable EMP generator) mostly for how thunderous and pissy Merlin's expression is going to be when he discovers it's missing. Eggsy leaves the envelope of bugs tucked behind one of the iPads; that'll be explanation enough.
He and Roxy have moved on to picking up a long-running argument about sniper rifle sights, and Roxy's cooing over a weighted throwing dagger like it's her firstborn child, when there's a light knock on the dressing room door and Caradoc calls, "All clear, sir, madam. Ms Morton, the meeting is scheduled to begin in ten minutes."
For once, the Kingsman headquarters above the shop is something more than oppressively quiet. Eggsy spares an interested glance for the knights milling in the dining room--they all look the same to him, well dressed and dull as dirt, but he'd have said the same about Harry once upon a time--before poking his head around the door of Arthur's office, where Harry and Percival are standing near one of the bookcases with their heads bent over a leather-bound book.
"Ah, Eggsy," Harry says, glancing up. "And--Lancelot, good."
"Hello, Roxanne," says Percival.
"Sebastian," Roxy says, warmly. She walks into the room and Eggsy's half expecting them to shake hands, formal-like, or for some kind of posh cheek-kissing thing to occur, but instead they exchange a solemn, slow little fist-bump. "I didn't ask, is Daniel--"
"Alive," Percival says. "A broken arm, three cracked ribs, and he took a glass to the face that's going to leave a nasty scar."
"This feels crass," Roxy says, "but am I allowed to say, good?"
"Are all the knights really here? In person?" Eggsy asks.
"Mostly," Harry says. "Tristan's stranded in bloody Taiwan because the airports are still closed, but he'll remote in through his glasses."
"It's tradition," Percival says, tapping a finger against the open page of the book. "The selection of a new Arthur calls for all active agents to be physically present, where at all possible."
"So it is a vote, like?" Eggsy asks. "Or are there tests, oh, Harry, please tell me there's a duel."
Harry gives a faint smile. "I'm afraid, Eggsy, that deciding on a new Arthur is like the meeting of a church social committee where the person who edits the newsletter is stepping down, and nobody else wants to do it, and they sit around for two hours eating jam sandwiches and making polite demurrals until finally somebody snaps under the pressure and raises their hand."
"That's a rank shame," Eggsy says sagely. "I reckon you should duel."
"Percival, Lancelot," Harry says. He closes the book and hoists it under one arm. "Shall we?"
Percival steps back to let Harry lead the way out of the room, which Eggsy notices without knowing what it means. He's like that, these days: trained into registering the details, but often unable to translate, like someone crash-landed on a bloody alien planet. It's okay when it's just him and Harry, it's easy, it doesn't matter, but around people like Percival all of Eggsy's working-class instincts start to circle in his stomach like awkward sharks.
"D'you want me to--"
"Stay here, Eggsy," Harry says, and somehow manages to give it the same blasé heat as refrain from touching yourself. Eggsy's so startled by it he can feel all of his muscles pause in response. "This meeting is about you, too, you know."
To cover up for the shiver of arousal and nervousness that's still flicking its fingers against his skin, Eggsy strides around to the other side of Arthur's desk and arranges himself in the chair, legs in every direction and hands clasped across his chest. Harry looks at him for a second longer and his eyes go soft behind his glasses.
"Have a little faith," Harry says. "I'm hardly going to let you slip out of my hands."
Percival flicks a sharp glance at Eggsy, looking for something, but Eggsy just presses his laced fingers more firmly over his thudding heart and smirks back.
"Go on then," he says. "Save me a sandwich, yeah?"
It's quiet again once all the proper, official, shot their dog because they were told to Kingsman agents are shut up in the dining room. Eggsy considers putting a glass to the door or fetching a more sophisticated listening device from the toy room downstairs, but...Harry told him to stay, and Eggsy's apparently committing to this embarrassing spaniel routine. It's like he said on the jet: he's got faith in Harry, if nothing else.
Instead he does what any spy worth their salt would do when left alone in a room probably stuffed full of interesting secrets, and sets about seeing how many of them he can find. Picking the locked desk drawers doesn't reveal anything apart from the late Chester King's fondness for Maynards wine gums; Eggsy cracks a fresh packet and picks out all the black ones, which he jiggles in one hand and eats slowly as he inspects the bookshelves. There's a lot of dull poetry and a lot of military history and an unexpected selection of Ray Bradbury and Enid Blyton. Eggsy flicks fascinated through an illustrated volume of The Magic Faraway Tree and considers nicking it to read to Daisy before he notices the faint pencil marks that run through and between the lines of text about the Land of Tempers.
He goes back to the desk, makes himself comfortable, starts in on the red wine gums, and dredges up everything Merlin ever taught him about manual codebreaking.
He looks up sharply an unknown amount of time later, when the door to the dining room opens. Eggsy leaves the book with its unbroken code next to the notepad on which he's been scrawling endless matrices and alphabets and, alright, increasingly rude and violently underlined words, and goes to stand in the doorway as the knights file out of the meeting.
Roxy catches Eggsy's eye and gives him a smile and a tiny thumbs up. She calls over her shoulder, "Do you want to see him now, Arthur?"
"Thank you, Lancelot," comes Harry's voice.
A knot that Eggsy hadn't known existed comes loose at the base of his throat, but a new one twitches between his shoulderblades. He's pretty sure Harry's just done something for him that it's going to be hard to repay.
Harry's sitting very straight-backed at the head of the table in that room full of stuffy paintings, all the founding Kingsmen gazing off importantly into the middle distance and not a casual stance or a laddish smirk amongst them. It's like dressing room three with its black-and-white photos. Even a bleeding moron could tell that Kingsman as an organisation is in love with its own history.
Eggsy kicks the door shut behind him and stands at the other end of the table. He swallows down both congratulations and thank you, and goes with, "So they stuck you with the newsletter, then."
That gets him a tiny glitter of humour but Harry doesn't smile, doesn't unbend even a little. Eggsy takes the hint and stands formally at ease, hands clasped behind his back, waiting.
"It is my honour to serve Kingsman in this new role," Harry says.
"You'll be brilliant," Eggsy says. "Wait, you'll be brilliant sir? Is this a sir thing?"
"Traditionally," Harry says, "and as far the the knights are concerned, yes."
Eggsy's trying, he really is, but he can't help the grin that breaks out on his face. He gets another stern glitter in response.
"Which brings me to the fact that this does, of course, leave the position of Galahad open."
"Is that right," Eggsy says.
He's not actually worried. The suit wraps him up like confidence, they've already given him the house, a week ago he saved the world--kind of--and even though he doesn't know what to do with this version of Harry, the Harry that walked into the room promised not to let him go. And Eggsy won't. He'll handcuff himself to the furnishings if he has to, and scream bloody murder; they'll have to kill him or at least amnesia-dart him into a coma if they want him to walk away from Kingsman now.
Harry stands and comes around the table until he's almost near enough to touch.
"Eggsy," he says, in a not-fucking-around voice that focuses Eggsy's attention entirely. "The other members of the Table have made it clear that your knighthood is on my head. Your obedience is on my head. I proposed you and I have vouched for you, and I will accept full responsibility for you. Do you understand?"
Something about that stings, and there's another part of it that Eggsy can tell he's missing, something important, but he hasn't the time to work it out now.
He says the only possible thing he can say, which is, "Yes, sir."
Harry smiles, finally. Not his proper smile, but halfway there. He holds out one hand.
"Welcome to Kingsman, Galahad."
"What I want to know is," Eggsy says, "are we being punished or something?"
"Nonsense, Eggsy," comes Merlin's voice in his ear, maniacally cheerful as he only is when making other people suffer.
"You first," says Roxy, as they jog to the bottom of the third barrier wall. She clasps her hands together, braces herself against the wall, and Eggsy steps into the bracket of her fingers and jumps, his hands slamming--fucking ow--and catching on the top, where he pulls himself up. Once he's mostly over the top he reaches down for Roxy's waiting hands and feels the muscles of his arms complain loudly as he hoists her up after him, until she's high enough that she can let go and haul herself over the wall as well.
They drop down over the other side in muddy unison, running almost as soon as they hit the ground.
"It's just," Eggsy says, in between gulps of air, "it seems a waste to have us doing the same bloody training all over again, when there's probably hundreds of missions we could be more useful on. The world being in chaos, and all."
"Perhaps you weren't listening to the briefing," Merlin says.
Eggsy rolls his eyes, focusing his attention on the cargo net and the rope climb ahead. He was listening. He's just not thrilled that his first act as a real, proper, codenamed Kingsman was to be packed off to the country to relive the same fucking obstacle course that's been the bane of his existence for the past three months. His muscles remember enough of his gymnast training that his course times were always the fastest of the prospects, and Roxy began dismally but was as almost as fast as Eggsy after spending most of her free evenings for a month throwing herself at the equipment in the half-light. And here they are again. And here Merlin is again.
"There are certainly a number of urgent missions," Merlin goes on, with the smugness of someone whose jumper is mud-free and whose heart rate is sitting at a calm sixty. "But our new Arthur has agreed with something that I've been saying for years, which is that if you're going to deploy agents in pairs then you should train them in pairs."
Eggsy feels his foot catch at an odd angle in the edge of the cargo net as he's climbing free; almost before he can react, he feels it being tweaked clear by Roxy, behind him.
"Why us?" Roxy asks. Through her teeth, sounds like.
"Couples," says Merlin, "are in many circumstances much less suspicious than individuals, and there's only so many places you can impersonate a same-sex couple without attracting more attention than such a subterfuge is worth."
Roxy slips six inches down her rope, hisses something, and shakes her head when Eggsy raises his eyebrows at her. Her knuckles are bloodless as she pulls herself up the distance she'd lost. "So it's because I'm--"
"Absolutely," Merlin says, sharply. "We've never had a female agent before, Lancelot, and don't for a moment think we're not going to use you. You two showed excellent field affinity during selection training, you're close in age, and most importantly, you don't hate one another." He leaves a significant pause. "This is the time to tell me if you hate one another, children."
Breathing hard on the platform above the rope climb, crawling towards the head-down bars, Eggsy and Roxy exchange the glance that they first developed in response to Charlie's more extraordinarily prattish behaviour.
"Up your arse, children," says Eggsy, just as Roxy snaps, "I thought the condescension might stop now we're fully-fledged agents."
"All right, all right," says Merlin, dry.
They stumble across the finish line with Eggsy's hand under Roxy's elbow, and--
"Fifty seconds faster than your best individual times," Merlin says in their ears. "Very good. But as you'll recall--"
"Sod off," Eggsy gasps.
"--you need to slice off a full minute before we stop for the day. Might I suggest less talking, next time?"
Roxy's the one who spins to face the camera attached to the finish line pole and makes a rude gesture. Bless. Eggsy's proud of her.
"Duly noted, Lancelot," Merlin says. "Again."
The obstacle course isn't the the only thing Merlin has for them. After they've whittled their time down, he then has them practice throwing weapons to one another. Eggsy starts whistling circus music after the first two minutes.
And after that, Merlin sends them on a five mile run, because apparently they haven't had enough of the stuffing knocked out of them already.
"Classic ingroup identifier psychology," says Roxy, as they jog at a passive-aggressive pace around the fuckoff gorgeous grounds of the Kingsman mansion. It's not raining, but the air has that glum, dense dampness to it that's nearly as bad. "Uniting us against a common figure of resentment, in order to counteract the fact that we've been trained up to this point to see each other mostly as competition."
"Have we?" says Eggsy, a bit stung. "I mean, yeah, we were, but--"
Roxy punches him in the shoulder. "Don't be an idiot, Eggs. We're friends."
"What if I'd gotten the job and you hadn't?"
The look Roxy gives him is so superior it probably polishes her cheekbones as it glides over them.
"Please," she says, and pulls ahead.
Afterwards they shower and change back into their suits, and Merlin hands them back their glasses from where he's been doing God knows what to them.
"One more thing," he says. "I've created a private communications channel for the two of you: encrypted, and unmonitored. Access it through the usual menu."
"Thanks, Merlin," says Roxy.
"You're going to be fine Kingsmen, the both of you," Merlin says, not changing expression. "Now fuck off. Back to the city."
Roxy falls asleep on his shoulder during the short ride on the (very, very) underground from the mansion back to the shop, and Eggsy's stifling a yawn as well as they head out of the dressing room and into the tailor shop, where the lights are dimmed and one of Caradoc's assistants is brushing down the counter.
Eggsy turns to see Harry, umbrella over his arm, looking ready to leave.
"Alright, Rox?" Eggsy says over his shoulder, and she waves him goodbye as she steps out into Savile Row.
"As your sponsor," Harry says, "I should buy you a drink--a few drinks--to celebrate your success in the selection process and your new codename. It is tradition." His face is tired but it's definitely Harry again, warmer and more relaxed. Arthur-Harry was so professional and buttoned-up, all of his impatience and joy and profanity buried somewhere well out of view.
Eggsy's so happy to see him he manages to wrangle the next yawn into a smile.
"Ain't turning down a free drink," he says.
He wonders if Harry will insist on someplace fancy--and sure, Eggsy's getting a taste for the three pure ounces of chilled gin that’s Harry's idea of a proper martini, even if they do go to your head like being hit with a snowball that some wanker's packed around a hunk of ice--but in the end they try out Eggsy's new local. It's a gastropub on Old Brompton Road that was closed for renovations and empty during V-Day, so it sustained almost no structural damage past a broken window. The surviving owners rushed the job through and reopened a week later.
Old Eggsy would have taken one look at the crush of after-work suits and given it up as a bad job, but he and Harry fit right in.
Harry describes the on-tap selections as crushingly unimaginative, which is rich coming from a man who's never ordered anything but Guinness in the time Eggsy's known him.
"Merely an observation," Harry says. "The kind of place that charges twenty pounds for a steak and offers four mustards plus horseradish would usually pride itself on having a selection of obscure microbrews to go with it. Either the owners have little interest in that side of the menu and are running a restaurant in all but name, or they haven't had time to coordinate with their suppliers yet."
Eggsy sips his own beer and stares in fascination at this unexpected Sherlock Holmesian side to Harry. It's the seeing-without-translating stuff all over again. They did a heap of observation exercises during training, and Eggsy did well on them, but it took effort. Harry seems unable to turn it off. Maybe Eggsy will see the world like that, in a few years' time, but right now it seems a tiring way to live.
"Of course," Harry says, glancing mildly around, "like so many others in this area, this particular public house was a Leather bar, in the 1970s."
"Shut up," Eggsy says, trying and probably failing to hide his grin behind his pint.
"Quite serious, I assure you," Harry says.
When the food comes Eggsy buries himself in his bangers (pork and fennel and cider) and mash (truffled, fucking hell) with all the appetite that comes from crawling through mud on your elbows for most of an afternoon. And even though this is the kind of pub where the bacon butty is all dolled up with twiddly lettuce and homemade chutney or some such, eating it still leaves Harry sucking grease and sauce thoughtfully off his fingers like he's trying to give Eggsy's poor neglected dick an aneurysm.
Harry does the gentlemanly thing and insists on walking Eggsy home after, despite Eggsy pointing out that he's well able to take care of himself, if anyone tries anything, and he's been walking alone on streets worse than this one since before he was trained to kill in a variety of creative ways.
Harry says, "Your first week in a new neighbourhood, Eggsy, do you think attracting that kind of attention would be wise?"
"A gentleman stays out of the papers," Eggsy says, "I got it."
And it's not exactly a hardship to stretch out the evening, to let himself enjoy the simple pleasure of Harry walking beside him all the way back to the green house and then hovering on the street outside. Harry's tall and slim and achingly handsome under the streetlamp glow, like something from an old film, and Eggsy shoves his hands in his pockets and resists the urge to ask Harry in to meet his mum, to have a cup of tea, to make himself so comfortable in Eggsy's life that he never thinks of leaving.
"Well then," Harry says, and gets one large hand in the curve of Eggsy's lower back and pulls him close.
Eggsy goes, awkward at first with sheer surprise, and his heart honestly skips in his chest with the shock of it, that Harry would kiss him goodnight without a thought to who might see, like this was a proper date and they're normal people.
"Open up for me, my lovely boy," Harry murmurs, in a slow-burning voice, and Eggsy does.
And hell, he's so relieved that whatever happened in the jet wasn't just a warning or a freak accident or a quick grab at pleasure before Harry's promotion made it impossible. Something's happening here, Harry's letting it happen, and for now Eggsy's willing to go at whatever pace Harry's chivalry or control issues or pointless age-related hangups need them to go, just as long as they're going. Just as long as he can have this, Harry's mouth taking long thoughtful kisses from his own as Eggsy lets his own hands rest on Harry's chest between them, not required to do anything but relax into it.
It's nothing like the kiss in the jet, which was like being attacked by the Kama bloody Sutra. This is slow and thorough and nearly romantic, the two of them wrapped up in each other, Harry's gloved hand at the back of Eggsy's neck and the other holding him firm and flush against Harry's body. All of Eggsy's nerves are sizzling with it; Harry's leg is so close to being between his; Eggsy gives little encouraging moans, shifts his feet hopefully, and yes, fuck, that's it, hard and so good, something for Eggsy to rub against--
The leg in question moves away and Eggsy makes a noise of broken complaint against Harry's mouth.
No cheating, Eggsy, is implied.
He wants to take a knife to the seams of Harry's clothes, right here on the street if he has to, but even more than that, he wants to show Harry what he can do. Eggsy sighs and disentangles himself, biting his lower lip as the movement sets off more sparks down below.
"Good," Harry practically purrs. "Good," dropping another lingering kiss just beside Eggsy's mouth, and it's a bit pathetic how something in Eggsy both melts ands sits up, eager, at the praise.
"I'm starting to think you don't trust me, Harry," he says.
Which is what they in the business call a strategic falsehood; Eggsy's getting a feel for Harry Hart's ins and outs, and he's not surprised at all when Harry's eyes go dark and vast and deadly in the yellow light, like how Eggsy imagines the beginning of the universe looked.
He's not surprised when Harry says, "My dear boy, it's not you I don't trust."
Eggsy's learning. He ducks his eyes to hide his satisfaction.
"Be seeing you, then."
"Good night, Eggsy," Harry says, and walks away.