Regent Street is busy all the time. Eggsy plans it out carefully. The bus he'll get from his mum's, drop off mid-afternoon when people are back in their offices, cut through the quieter residential bits of Mayfair, find the Kingsman shopfront, go in.
The bloke behind the counter looks up, gives him a slow up and down, and says, "How can I help you?" very politely.
"I'm looking for Harry Hart," Eggsy says, best accent povvo as fuck in the austere officer's-club surroundings.
"I'm Harry Hart," Harry Hart says. He's old, smart. He looks nice and he stands behind his counter like he's still at parade rest.
"You knew my dad," Eggsy says. "He was in your unit. My unit."
Deep breath, steady hands, steady hands -
"I need a job."
His boss is called Merlin, and his boss is called Chester King.
“You won’t like the owner,” Harry says. “Nobody likes him. But he’s mostly retired and not here very often so you only need to meet him this once.”
Chester King is grumpy and smells of booze and looks at Eggsy like he’s just scraped him off the bottom of his shoe. Eggsy says yes, sir and no, sir, and when Merlin has finished doing most of the talking, Eggsy has a job.
“First,” Harry says, “you’re going to need a couple of our suits.”
“I can’t afford these suits,” Eggsy says automatically. He stopped being ashamed of being poor years ago. Actually, he isn’t so poor now - he’s got savings since he came out of the Marines - but they’re for rent so he can live by himself and for Daisy and Mum and, stashed away in an account he doesn’t keep the paperwork for, his just-in-cases money. It’s not for suits.
“There won’t be a charge,” Harry says. “Those of us who work in this shop, Eggsy, are also an advertisement for its wares.”
He raises his eyebrow and looks at Eggsy in the mirror. Eggsy looks at Eggsy in the mirror. He doesn’t look so bad. The suit is a bit shiny and it doesn’t fit Eggsy second-skin the way Harry’s fits him and his tie was three quid from Tesco because his nicest tie, his regiment tie, is in a box at the bottom of the wardrobe, but he looks neat and tidy and the overall effect isn’t that bad. Maybe. With a quick glance, passing him on the street.
“Yeah, but -” he says anyway.
“Think of it as a uniform,” Harry says quietly. “If that helps.”
Eggsy doesn’t say anything. Uniform means belonging. He doesn’t know if he belongs at Kingsman, yet.
Harry says, “The navy pinstripe and a mid-weight charcoal to start, I think. Come along; fitting room one is free.”
Harry has lovely hands. Which is weird, because hands are just hands, aren’t they? Eggsy’s hands are good hands, they can strip and reassemble an SA80 in under four minutes, they can make Daisy a bottle and stroke her hair til she goes to sleep, he can paint a wall and type a letter and pick up conkers with Ryan and Jamal like when they were kids. Mum’s hands used to be nice; Dean’s were horrible; he doesn’t remember his dad’s.
But Harry puts his hands on Eggsy, measures him up for his posh suit like he deserves to have something nice, tells Eggsy what he’s going to do before he does it especially when he goes round behind Eggsy and Eggsy tenses up, and they’re just - lovely hands, big and warm with clean pink nails, lovely.
Eggsy hadn’t particularly thought he’d like tailoring, or be good at it. He’d just needed a job, and his CO had tipped him the wink about Harry. But he finds bespoke is - nice. It has a system. Measure, pattern, baste, tailor. And then there's a suit, perfectly fitting and just right, and if it's not perfectly fitting and just right it's back a step and back another and go again until it is right. Nice.
Not that Eggsy does that. Eggsy isn’t allowed anywhere near a pair of scissors, a bolt of cloth, or a customer.
"You haven't got my tea right yet," Harry says. "I'm not going to let you loose on the bloody clientele."
"Maybe if you didn't take your tea like a prat," Eggsy says. He has his tea creosote, with three sugars. Harry's taste in tea is finely wrought and exacting, like the rest of him.
"You're the most wretched apprentice I've ever had," Harry says.
"I'm the only apprentice you've ever had," Eggsy reminds him.
"I remember why daily," Harry says.
"Leave the lad alone," Merlin says indistinctly, round a mouthful of chocolate digestive. "We get tax relief for him."
What Eggsy does do:
Hoovers and dusts and polishes. It’s not really satisfying, because nothing ever gets mucky enough to need a good clean, but he comes in at 8am, an hour and a half before the shop opens, and gets everything ready and gleaming and put in its place, and when Merlin comes in he nods approvingly and says, “looking good, Eggsy,” and when Harry comes in he says, “is there any coffee on,” because he’s a complete toad in the mornings, and then at about 11am he’ll look up and say, “it looks very nice in here, Eggsy, thank you,” and Eggsy will smile.
Hangs around Christopher, who works upstairs and cuts patterns all day. The only sound allowed in the pattern room is Radio Four, apart from when Christopher has his break, and then he shows Eggsy the archive. Kingsman keeps every pattern they’ve ever cut and Eggsy looks at the notes on the suits they made for film stars and royalty. Christopher gets them out and then gets the pattern he cut for Eggsy and tells him about where they’re the same, where they’re different, so Eggsy starts to understand how the bits fit together, what looks wrong and what little things might look inconsequential but once the suit is on a person, on the right person, where it’s supposed to be, come together to make it beautiful.
Sews tiny pointless cushions. It's Christopher who starts Eggsy on that, as well, sets him up with scrap fabric on the spare machine in the corner and gives him stuff to practice. It irritates Eggsy at first, the tiny little stitches, unpicking what he gets wrong, but after a while he finds that if he sits down at the machine with a stiff neck by the end he's loose and feeling better, focus steady for an hour or two and something in his hands that he's made, that's better than it was before. He stuffs his little cushions with offcuts of wool and sews them up and keeps them in his pocket and squeezes them when he feels stressed out.
Makes friends with Roxy. She’s at Central St Martin’s and wants to work at Alexander McQueen when she’s finished her degree and covers the shop floor on Tuesdays, Harry’s day off. He goes back to hers on Tuesday evenings and she cooks stir fries, she comes over to his on Sunday and he makes a roast; they’ve done the whole of The West Wing and The Wire and they’ve just started Breaking Bad.
Naps on the comfy settee in fitting room three. He doesn’t - sleep very well. He doesn’t get to sleep, or he does get to sleep and then wakes up at three in the morning and doesn’t get back to sleep, or he’s up at five, no point trying to get back off, going for runs in the grey light before dawn. It’s an accident the first time he falls asleep at work, he’s sorting cufflinks and tie pins because Harry’s going to show him how they dress the window tomorrow and is letting him pick out some of the details, and it’s warm and quiet, just the sound of Harry pottering round the shop and - faintly - Merlin in the back office swearing at his accounting software, and the next thing he knows Harry is calling his name softly, kneeling just out of arm’s reach, and he scrambles up and goes, “fuck, Harry, I’m so sorry,” and Harry says, “no harm done, Eggsy, the sofa’s always here if you need it. I’ve closed up,” and Eggsy just - smiles at him, feeling sleepy and relaxed, they just smile at each other.
Looks after Daisy on Saturday nights, when his mum goes out, and on Thursday, when she goes to see Dean in Brixton Prison. He takes Daisy up to Kingsman once and Harry says, “And who is this lovely young lady?” and beams at her, picks her up even though she’s got grubby hands from the banana she was eating on the bus, and from then on Harry is her favourite person and Eggsy spends several of what’s supposed to be his day off in the shop, watching Harry play with her, watching him show her that not all grown men shout and hit.
Goes on improving trips with Harry. Harry takes him to the Fashion and Textile Museum, where they discuss fabric supply chains, and then to the pub; to the Summer Exhibition down the road at the RA, where they discuss aesthetics and style, and then to the pub; to the V&A, where they discuss the development of men’s clothing since the 1600s (“Savile Row,” Harry says grandly, “is not in the business of mere fashion,”), and then to the pub.
Eggsy's not a different person in a bespoke suit. That'd be silly. He's not different. He's just - the best version of himself, somehow. The cut of the jacket makes him stand straighter. The shine of his shoes if he mooches along reminds him to hold his head high. The name on the label inside, Kingsman, makes him proud; the fact that he sewed it in himself, overseen by Harry, and it's straight and perfect, makes him proud.
It makes him think, when he walks past his old school on the way to his mum's. All the kids outside, sleeves rolled up and ties off and trousers breaking a bit too long or a bit too short over scuffed shoes. What he'd tell them, about why he's dressed the way he is.
When Eggsy’s been at Kingsman nine months, Harry decrees he’s seen and done enough of the different steps: he’s ready to be involved in the whole bespoke process, from the initial discussions with the client right through to sending the suit out the door in one of Kingsman’s linen hunter green suit bags.
For Harry himself.
“No pressure,” Eggsy says. Harry is so, so picky. He has all these ideas.
“Nothing wrong with high expectations,” Harry says, injured. “I’m not picky.”
“No, you’re picky,” Merlin says. “You’ll be fine, Eggsy. Harry’ll be breathing down your neck the whole time.”
“I’ll be giving appropriate supervision,” Harry says. He smiles at Eggsy and says, “But you will be fine. I have every confidence in you.”
Eggsy actually thinks he believes him.
The first time he measures Harry up, he drops the measuring tape three times.
“Settle down,” Harry says. “What on earth do you think I’m going to do to you? It’s just measurements. You’re doing well.”
The tailor traditionally does at much of his measuring as possible from the side and the back. That’s how Eggsy’s watched Harry doing it, professional and discreet.
He does the jacket length and half back that way; Harry raises his arms for Eggsy to loop the tape around his chest. He’s warm and firm under his pristine white shirt. Eggsy does the crown to cuff measurement and their hands brush, Harry’s fingers curl around his almost imperceptibly.
He moves round more to the front of Harry and wraps the measuring tape round his waist, snug, ducking his head down like he just has to to get the number.
It’s the most intimate he’s felt with anyone for - months, years. The first time he’s touched anyone but Daisy and his mum since he got back from active service, from the rough affection of his squad.
His hands falter and Harry looks down at him, concerned. He’s so close; his eyes are dark and kind and he smells like herbs and vanilla. Eggsy shuts his eyes, overwhelmed, and when Harry’s arms slide round his body and urge him closer he goes, leans into Harry’s shoulder and is embraced.
“Darling,” Harry murmurs, his lips at Eggsy’s temple. “My darling boy.”
“I’d like to take you for dinner,” Harry says, pulling his jacket back on after the measuring and shooting his cuffs. Eggsy looks at the paper in his hand, the measurements with a number noted down for each one, puts it away in the blue folder he’s started with his notes and ideas for Harry’s suit. “Will you?”
“I’d love to,” Eggsy says.
Harry takes him to a pizza restaurant in Belgravia, a small place with plastic tablecloths where he asks after the waiters’ kids in Italian, licks his fingers neatly when he gets them covered in balsamic while dipping bread, and recommends Eggsy try a chicken cacciatore that turns out to be delicious.
They talk about fabrics: Harry hasn’t been decided on what he’s going to have Eggsy make him but a couple of glasses of red in and Eggsy finally manages to persuade him to go with this sharkskin worsted Eggsy’s fallen in love with but Harry considers ‘racy’, soft and a dark blue - not quite navy - with a very faint pale blue Prince of Wales check. Harry’s getting a new tweed suit as well for winter, and so is Eggsy, but they’ve agreed with Christopher that won’t do for Eggsy’s first go: tweed is harder to work with and it's going to be enough of a challenge for Eggsy to get the check lined up, his first time. Double breasted, of course, and double vents and a bit of a cutaway at the collar, the classic features Harry prefers.
(“You're the professional, you know what's up and coming in menswear," Harry had said. "It’s part of your job to ask the client if they want to try something a little different, each suit you make."
"Would you like to try something a little different in your new suit, Mr Hart?" Eggsy had said, dutifully.
"Absolutely not," Harry'd said, grinning. "My suits are perfect the way they are, thanks. Like me."
Eggsy had rolled his eyes, but he'd agreed, secretly: nothing he could do could make Harry look better than he already did.)
It’s a nice night, a great night, and Harry looks at him intently on the pavement outside afterwards. His eyes drop to Eggsy’s lips and Eggsy can see him thinking about it, and then he kisses Eggsy on the cheek and puts him in a taxi (pays the driver and all). Eggsy wonders if he’s misread what the evening was about, touches the spot high on his cheekbone Harry had kissed, surely too lingering to be paternal.
His phone trills in his pocket and he gets it out, opens up the new text message.
Thank you for a lovely date, H.
Not misread. He touches his cheek again, realises he's still smiling.
The next few weeks are an exercise in delayed gratification.
First, the suit.
Second, not the suit.
He works closely with Christopher on making the pattern, sketches out with him each morning and lunchtime what he's going to do next. If he really gets stuck he's got Harry's existing pattern to look out and try to figure out what he needs to do; if he really really gets stuck he's got the man himself to talk it through.
Over dinner, usually, three or four times a week now. He asks for the first time about Harry's military service, in the Gulf; and Harry tells him about his dad. And other things, about what it was like when Harry was growing up, about Eggsy's childhood and how he got a discharge so he could try and be there for Daisy's. He tells Harry things he never thought he'd tell anyone and afterwards Harry looks at him just the same, gives him the chaste kiss goodnight just the same.
(Eggsy always goes straight home and has a wank practically as soon as he's in the front door, but it doesn't sound so romantic then and everything else is, he loves that Harry is sure of himself, is sure of Eggsy, thinks he's worth waiting for.)
Getting his hands on Harry turns out to be a really good motivator for getting his pattern done and moving on to fitting. It takes weeks to get to the point of having a baste Christopher is happy with, most of it spent wrestling with the heavy canvas that structures the jacket.
The first time Harry puts it on and gets up on the fitting stage has Eggsy dry-mouthed. Partly with the anxiety, what if it’s all wrong once it’s on or what if Harry doesn’t like it, and partly because he gets to touch, gets to pull the fabric round Harry and learn him under Eggsy’s palms, gets to take his time. Partly because he’s just watched Harry strip down, watching Eggsy while he did it, and if he should’ve looked stupid in his white shirt with its crumpled tails where it was tucked in and his dress socks and suspenders, well, nobody’d told Harry that because he looks powerfully sexy, strong legs and tie off with his shirt unbuttoned past the collarbones, just about the most of Harry’s skin Eggsy has ever seen.
Harry looks composed but when Eggsy touches his skin for the first time he’s trembling and Eggsy is filled with the need to do this right, to be good. Harry sits down on the settee with him for a bit after the first one, pulls him in with an arm round his shoulders, and Eggsy hides his face in Harry’s neck for a bit and breathes.
Subsequent fittings are better, and worse. It’s the highlight of his week and Christopher praises his progress, puts hours and hours into working with him until they start to see a suit emerge from the outline, but only Eggsy knows it’s because of the love and care he’s putting into every stitch, because every moment he’s tailoring he’s thinking of how good it’s going to feel to look at Harry and know Eggsy dressed him, that he’s wearing something Eggsy made for him.
(“I hope you won’t be feeling up actual customers quite so much,” Harry says, amused. “No, go on, have a good grope if you like. I work hard on that arse, someone else might as well appreciate it for once.”)
Much to his delight, Harry likes it. Like, really likes it. He likes showing off, he likes that Eggsy wants to touch him, he likes, Eggsy is pretty sure, the whole greedy process of getting a new suit.
(“This,” Eggsy says, drawing one finger softly up the bulge that’s appeared at the groin of the fabric, “is going to ruin the line of your new trousers if you’re not careful.”
Harry looks down at him with eyes gone heavy and cat-got-cream, tilts Eggsy’s face up towards his. “Is now a time for being careful?” he asks. He takes the pins Eggsy had clenched in his teeth waiting to be used and puts them on his open palm instead, thumbs Eggsy’s lower lip.)
Eggsy finishes the suit on a Tuesday, Christopher downstairs minding the counter while Eggsy works in the cutting room upstairs. He hangs it up to get the full-length effect and then sits at the workbench for a while and looks at it.
“It’s good work,” Merlin says, behind him. Eggsy startles, looks round, and Merlin comes further in, touches him gently on the shoulder. “Harry’s going to be proud of you, lad. We all are.”
“Thanks,” Eggsy says. “Thank you.”
He makes the reservations, for the next night, and when Harry comes in the next morning - once he’s out of his usual fugue state - Eggsy guides him into fitting room one, where the suit is ready.
“Oh,” Harry says, breath catching in a way that makes Eggsy’s chest squeeze tight with pleasure. “Eggsy, it looks wonderful." He steps up to it, putting his glasses on, and Eggsy waits in a state of almost unbearable tension while he examines it in detail, turning it over and inside out to look at the seams and construction and crouching down to turn under the cuffs, and then finally taking off his own jacket and slipping the new one on, checking the fit, moving his arms.
Harry looks up with a blinding smile and reaches for Eggsy and Eggsy steps into his arms natural as anything, to be hugged within an inch of his life. "Bloody well done," Harry says into his ear, warm breath catching his lobe and stirring his hair, and Eggsy feels another pleasurable shiver, lower.
He takes Harry for dinner, in his new suit - which looks fucking fabulous, by the way - and then Harry takes him home.
They go to a Cecil Beaton exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery, a couple of weeks later, Friday night after work. It's popular; busy.
Eggsy finds Harry deep in thought in front of a photo of Laurence Olivier in a suit with sharply cut lapels and a pointy pocket square.
He slips his hand into Harry's and Harry glances down at him and smiles.