The stains on the bathroom mirror are suspicious and he reckons that Jamal has something to do with it, but Eggsy really doesn’t have time to deal with it because he’s already knackered and it’s not even half seven.
He eyes his reflection for the twentieth time, possibly thirtieth, but he’s not counting—really. “Boldfaced lie,” Eggsy mutters to his frowning twin, slightly arched brows furrowed enough to wrinkle his glabella, as he straightens the edges of his collar.
Remembering to breathe, Eggsy pulls on a wheat-colored jumper and double checks that he’s put on deodorant, aftershave, and brushed his teeth because he doesn’t want to be that guy on the first day of work.
You know. The smelly guy.
Nerves aflutter, Eggsy finally leaves the bathroom and nearly careens into Ryan, who is holding a rather full mug of tea. “Oi!” he shouts.
“Oi yourself,” his roommate hollers back, protectively shielding his mug. “Watch it, will you?”
Eggsy rolls his eyes. “Says the bloke still in his robe,” he huffs as he scoots past and heads down the hallway towards his bedroom.
“Yeah, whatcha doin’ up so early? It’s not even eight, mate,” Ryan tells him, following several paces behind.
“I have my first day of work,” Eggsy replies as he snatches his messenger bag from his bed, a black faux leather thing he picked up from Topshop at Oxford Circus. It looks expensive, impressive even, though it only cost fifteen pounds.
Ryan scratches his head, confused by the looks of it. “Oh yeah,” he finally says. “At that fancy gig with all them fancy folks.”
“Fancy engineerin’ folks,” Eggsy supplies, trying not to laugh.
“But you went to school for architecture, mate.”
He nods, slinging his shoulder strap across his body. “Right you are, Ryan. I was there through all them years of hard work, gluin’ my exacto blade cuts with super glue during studio, and printin’ drawings durin’ internships.”
“They teach that at the Bartlett?” his roommate asks dubiously. “Sounds like a waste to me.”
Eggsy chuckles. “Well, I need to finish payin’ off student loans somehow,” he chirps, tapping Ryan on the back as he brushes by. “Don’t have anyone else to do it for me.”
“Good luck, I suppose. And don’t fuck up!”
He finds Merlin waiting for him outside of the Aldgate East tube station clutching two cups of coffee and looking spectacularly grumpy, per usual.
“You never smile. You know that? Never,” Eggsy observes once he’s been handed his beverage, flashing his mentor a winning smile.
Merlin raises his brows over the rim of his glasses and sips his coffee. “I’m not caffeinated enough to show emotion,” he deadpans while they walk. He gives the young man a once over. “This is a vast improvement from your university days.”
“And your compliments are as sweet as ever, Professor Greaves!” Eggsy mocks. He places his free hand over his heart and bats his lashes. “Truly, you know how to make a lad blush.”
The older man rolls his eyes. “Sod off or I’ll have you fired,” he mumbles, his Scottish brogue thick.
Eggsy became acquired with visiting Professor Hamish ‘Merlin’ Greaves during his first year at the Bartlett School of Architecture. The man was brash, brilliant—hence the apt nickname—and took a liking to the orphaned student in his summer studio with an insatiable appetite for learning and natural talent like he’d never seen.
After some inquiries amongst the faculty, Merlin hired Eggsy to be his teaching assistant for his other courses the following semester, slowly building a mentorship and later, friendship, with the young man. He helped him with applying for internships and suggested that Eggsy go for his Masters of Architecture, a goal that seemed incredibly out of reach.
Merlin welcomed him to crash on his couch when Jamal and Ryan decided to be too obnoxious to live (seriously, who in their right mind throws parties on a Wednesday?), proofread his term papers, and talked him out of several nervous breakdowns while studying for the second half of the Architects Registration Board and Royal Institute of British Architects examinations.
When all was said and done, Merlin took Eggsy out for celebratory beers when he landed his first real job out of school. So what if it wasn’t with Merlin’s firm?
One day they would work side-by-side and undoubtedly drive everyone around them up a wall. Apparently, that day is now and just a few seconds, which has him all sorts of flustered.
“Thank you for this,” Eggsy says breathlessly, flushing a hysterical shade of pink. “Really, Merlin. I can’t thank you enough.”
His friend hooks his fingers around his elbow and pulls them to a stop. “You deserve this opportunity, you brilliant little shit. Now,” Merlin tells him, going to straighten Eggsy’s collar as they stand on the sidewalk, “go in there and knock them on their arses like I know you can, alright? And for fuck’s sake, breathe. Don’t want you passing out on me.”
Eggsy exhales deeply, nodding fervently. “Won’t pass out,” he promises.
“And no throwing up either,” Merlin adds as he takes out his building pass.
“When have I ever?” he asks, insulted.
His mentor chuckles, horribly amused at the young man’s panic as the lobby door opens for them. “You look like you did on opening night of senior exhibitions,” Merlin teases, presses a hand in the middle of Eggsy’s shoulders. “And you did brilliantly then, too. Remember?”
“Barely,” the young man confesses as they head towards the lifts of the lobby—a monstrosity that’s supposed to resemble a poor man’s Falling Water. “I reckon I was too busy tryin’ not to vom in the corner.” He glances at Merlin’s attire and back at his own, feeling like a penguin in a suit. “Am I too done up?”
A hand ruffles his hair, followed by warm laughter. “You look fine.”
“You sure?” Eggsy asks, motioning to his sweater and trousers. “Not too teacher’s pet or Nana’s boy?”
Merlin shrugs. “You look like a bloke starting his first day at a new job,” he answers. “By the end of the day, everyone will know what a cheeky bugger you really are.”
“You’ll tell them, no doubt,” Eggsy mutters as the lift dings, indicating that they’ve arrived at their destination.
The doors slide open to reveal an elegantly appointed office space that looks more like it’s taken a page out of a history book rather than Architectural Digest.
The walls are a tasteful wood paneling—dark stain, of course—and cream colored wallpaper with honest to god hand painted details, so light and delicate that it must have cost the owner of Kingsman Engineers a bloody fortune.
“It’s not like you haven’t been here before,” Merlin mutters as they stroll past reception and head to the bullpen, where they will be sitting.
Eggsy nods. “Wasn’t payin’ much attention to the decor.”
“Trying not to vom again?”
He rolls his eyes and ignores the comment. The principal’s offices and conference rooms are sectioned off by glass partitions that go from carpeted floor to ceiling while the rest of the space is open, a growing trend amongst companies.
Everything he sees is state-of-the-art and luxurious, including his newly appointed desk and a name tag that says, Gary Unwin.
“It’s strange to see your given name,” Merlin comments as he comes out of his office, coffee cup still in hand.
The young man snorts. “Took the words right out of my mouth,” he agreements. “I don’t even remember the last time someone’s called me Gary. I suppose no one will take a designer seriously if his name is Eggsy.”
“You reckon they’ll take you seriously anyway?”
“Wanker,” Eggsy mutters, nudging Merlin with his elbow.
He gets shown around before his colleagues start filtering in—not that he hasn’t been before, but it’s been several weeks since Eggsy’s final interview.
“This is the galley,” Merlin say with an accompanying gesture towards a kitchen area complete with a liquor cabinet. He must notice how the young man’s eyes light up. “We only crack that open on special occasions.”
“First day is a special occasion,” Eggsy hints, winking.
The older man shakes his head while he fills a mug with coffee, having finished his previous cup. “You get a Friday happy hour, if you’re lucky.”
Eggsy scoffs at this. “You act like you don’t even remotely like me, guv.” He sees Merlin goes to say something and cuts him off. “Which I know isn’t true or you’ve wouldn’t have helped me all these years, yeah?”
“Anyways,” Merlin grouses, leaving the galley with a hint of a pleased grin. “This way is where we store the plotters. Certain you remember those?”
By the time they come back to Eggsy’s desk, four other colleagues have arrived. Three of them are men and a single woman, all of them quite posh and serious looking.
The first male and possibly the youngest of the three has brown hair and beady blue eyes with a weak chin, popular amongst those of the upper echelon. He happens to glance at Eggsy and rolls his eyes at him, already deciding that he doesn’t like him.
The other two seem like they are stuck to each other like glue, one with honey-colored hair and warm brown eyes hidden behind a pair of glasses and the second with dark brown hair and the most striking blue eyes Eggsy’s ever seen. Bloody hell!
All three of them are tall, taller than Eggsy’s one hundred and seventy-seven centimeters.
The solitary female shares the second male’s honey colored hair and warm brown eyes, though she is closer to Eggsy’s age than his. She also happens to be putting her very expensive tote bag down on the desk across from his own, after draping her equally pricey coat over the back of her chair.
“Oh, good,” Merlin says. “Some of the team is here. You four, come ‘round here and be personable for a moment while I introduce you to Gary Unwin, our level one architect.” He gestures a careless hand to each person, who looks Eggsy up and down. “This is Charlie Hesketh, Percival Morton, James Lance, and Roxanne Morton. They will be as charming and welcoming as I know them to be while I join the principal’s meeting.”
The woman is the first to extend her hand. “Call me Roxy,” she says with a friendly smile.
“I’m Eggsy,” he replies.
“Eggy?” Roxy questions, raising a brow.
He shakes his head. “No, Eggsy,” he explains. “Was born on Easter Sunday.”
“Eggy?” Charlie interrupts with his fancy Oxford thermos as he leans on Eggsy’s barren desk. “And where did they dig you up?”
Roxy glares at him. “Charlie, knock it off.”
“No need to bite my head off, Roxy,” he shrugs. “I’m only making conversation, right, Eggsy?”
Eggsy inhales and nods. “Hm.”
“So, Eggy, are you Oxford or Cambridge?” Charlie inquires before going to take a sip from his thermos.
“Neither,” Eggsy answers through gritted teeth.
Charlie raises a brow, confused. “Saint Andrews?”
“Durham?” He frowns when Eggsy shakes his head. Snapping his fingers, a leer breaks out across his face. “No, wait, I think we may have met. Did you serve me at the McDonald’s in Winchester service station?”
Eggsy forces a smile. “No, but if I had,” he says pushing Charlie off his desk, “I’d given you an extra helping of secret sauce.”
“It’s definitely Saint Andrews,” Charlie snickers.
Percival clears his throat. “Actually, Unwin went to the Bartlett,” he interjects. “First class honors, right?”
“Yeah,” Eggsy answers, nodding as Charlie’s smug grin falls away. “How did you know?”
James raises his hand. “My doing,” he admits. “Class of 1999 and I subscribe to the alumni newsletter.”
“Oh hell,” Eggsy groans, blushing. “You read the…”
“Graduate spotlight, yes I did,” James says. “In fact, Merlin has it in his office. Wouldn’t stop talking about it for weeks.”
Charlie snorts, unimpressed. “I bet your parents have a shrine dedicated to you back at home.”
“My parents died when I was six,” Eggsy snaps, fighting the urge to punch this idiot in the face. “But I’m sure they would.”
“Touchy,” Charlie mumbles as he lumbers off towards another area of the office.
Roxy frowns in his direction, shaking her head. “Ignore him,” she tells Eggsy.
“I usually do,” Percival adds, leaning in. “He’s Chester King’s nephew, so he thinks he owns the place. You coming in here and having talent has gotten his knickers in a twist, plus you’re actually licensed. You can call me Percy. Only our parents call me Percival.”
Roxy nudges him, grinning. “Usually when you’re in trouble.”
“I am the very picture of good behavior,” Percy scoffs, offended. “I have no idea what you’re going on about!”
“So the principals have their powwow before the staff meeting on Mondays,” Roxy explains as she and Eggsy take a seat in the largest conference room.
Eggsy nods, watching as the rest of the firm filter into the room. “What do they usually do in the principal’s meetings?”
“Yell at each other, I reckon,” she replies with a shrug. Roxy uncaps her pen. “It’s basically a pissing contest, which Chester always wins because he signs the checks.”
He chuckles. “Is it a bit of the same in the staff meetings?”
“That usually depends on how the principal meetings go,” Roxy says, grinning. She leans in to whisper into Eggsy’s ear, the sweet floral smell of perfume faintly lingering around them. “Those are the most fun—when they get all short with one another while the rest of us just watch. It’s like watching soaps on the telly, except you get paid.”
James slumps down in front of them, turning around. “The best is when Harry comes in late and Chester has a fit because he missed the principal’s meeting…again,” he adds with glee.
“Who’s Harry?” Eggsy inquires.
“Harry Hart,” James answers. “He’s one of the structural engineering principals.”
Roxy nods. “And he’s always late.”
“Even when Merlin calls him to get his arse out of bed, he’s still late!” James whispers, shaking his head as he turns around. “It’s a truly amazing feat and drives Chester out of his mind.”
Eggsy is intrigued and scoots up to James’ shoulder. “Was he late today?”
“I didn’t even see him in his office,” the older man tells him, smiling as Percy takes a seat. “There shall be fireworks.”
The staff meeting goes on like the ones at his previous firm and it’s duller than watching paint dry.
Chester King, a distinguished gentleman approaching his early eighties, is sharp and agile like a man half his age. Eggsy reckons that his new boss isn’t very fond of him and recalls the first time they met. Chester had looked at him over the tops of his glasses as if Eggsy was a second-class citizen.
It doesn’t matter to him that the young man has an impressive educational background and portfolio, nor that he’s interned with RMJM and Aedas, then was hired at the latter seconds after completing his master’s. Forget his First Class honors, awards, and excellent references - Eggsy is neither from a prestigious family or background.
“Today Mr. Gary Unwin joins us from Aedas,” Chester announces to the staff. He finds Eggsy in the crowd and motions him to stands, much to his dismay. “Ah, there he is. Don’t be shy, young man. He is our newest level one architect with a specialty in sustainability and building information modeling. Sounds quite industrious, Mr. Unwin.”
Eggsy feels his cheeks burning, even as he makes eye contact with Merlin. “Thank you, Mr. King,” he says politely before taking a seat. He releases a ragged breath as the door to the conference room opens.
“Late, as usual, Harry,” Chester grumbles.
He notices how he’s the only one who turns to see the latest addition to the meeting come sauntering in without a care.
And who Eggsy sees is a truly beautiful specimen of a male human being. Like—beyond all of his comprehension.
Harry Hart is all long limbs hidden under tailored trousers, a button-down shirt, and an opened blazer. He carries his satchel under one arm and the morning paper in the other while he drinks from a Starbucks coffee cup. His hair is wind-blown by the tubes, no doubt, and wavy, and his dark eyes are hidden behind a pair of thick-rimmed glasses.
He seems oblivious to the interruption he’s caused as he goes to take a seat next to Merlin who is trying to suppress his laughter.
It should be illegal for someone to look that bloody good.
“Harry!” Chester bellows, his face turning pink.
The man looks up all innocent. “Yes Chester?” he inquires, voice like a damn angel.
“You’re late,” the older man tells him.
Harry glances down at his watch, raising both brows much to the amusement of the other staff. A ripple of soft laughter fills the room. “So I am,” he admits. “Terribly sorry. What did I miss?”
“The principal’s meeting, for one!”
Eggsy watches Harry shrug and turn to Merlin. “Did anything interesting happen?” he asks.
“I will fill you in later,” Merlin assures, the corners of his mouth twitching.
Chester gestures wildly to Eggsy. “And we have a new employee,” he snaps.
Harry cranes his neck. “Oh? Do we?”
“Gary,” Chester calls, motioning for Eggsy to stand up again.
He does because he doesn’t know what else to do. Plus, Eggsy really doesn’t want to be in the middle of a principal turf war on his very first day, let alone his first two hours at Kingsman Engineers. He feels Harry’s eyes on him as he stands and how it makes his knees shake.
Merlin whispers something to Harry and recognition crosses over the man’s face. It’s soft and warm, like a cup of tea after a long day. “Well, don’t be late to staff meetings and you should be just fine,” Harry tells him with a smug grin and a wink.
“Thank you, sir,” Eggsy replies as he sinks back down in his seat, baffled and so hopelessly fucked.
With a capital F.
His first week goes by in an exhausting whirlwind, as most usually do, and ends with a happy hour which most of the firm partakes in.
Even Charlie and his cronies—Digby, Nathaniel, Piers, and Hugo—join them for a bit, snickering and glaring at Eggsy from across the pub while he enjoys himself.
“See,” Merlin says over a pint. “Wasn’t so bad, was it?”
He shakes his head. “Not really,” he agrees as Percy slides a tequila shot across the bar top and shouts at Merlin, asking if he wants one.
“I’ll take his,” Harry replies, setting his satchel down next to Merlin and clapping him on the shoulder. He gives Eggsy a devastating smile that he feels all the way down to his toes. “Hamish hasn’t been able to stomach tequila since our third year at Cambridge.”
The young man’s eyes widen in disbelief. “Oh, really,” he teases, nudging Merlin with his beer mug. “I want to hear this.”
“Oh, please don’t,” Merlin begs, his ears turning pink.
“Oh, please do,” Eggsy pleads. He leans behind his mentor and pats his back. “This one always chastises me when I go out with my mates, he does. Says I ought to devote more time to my studies.”
Harry lets out a bark of laughter as he’s passed a shot and a beer. He and Eggsy clink their shot glasses with James and Percy, then down them—wincing all the while. “You should know that it difficult to get this one to studio,” he confides, flicking Merlin in the shoulder.
“Oi!” the man snaps. “Watch it, you tit!”
Eggsy laughs and laughs until his eyes are watery and he’s been handed another shot. “Nah, I want to get home in one piece,” he says. “Besides, I’m knackered and my roommates are out of town for the weekend. Damn miracle, let me tell you!”
“One more shot won’t kill you, Eggy,” Charlie comments, his smile slippery like an eel.
“Eggy?” Harry questions as Merlin snaps, “That’s enough, Hesketh! Don’t you have some club in Mayfair to get thrown out of?”
Charlie frowns. “Come on, lads,” he grumbles to his friends. “This party is lame.”
“I wouldn’t mind kicking his face in,” Merlin declares as they watch Charlie and company leave. He turns to Eggsy, giving his neck a comforting squeeze. “You good?”
He nods, not wanting to meet his mentor’s eyes. “Fine,” he replies, tracing the opening of his bottle. “Is he always like that?”
“Charlie doesn’t like competition,” Harry interjects. “And only Chester likes Charlie.” He drinks some of his beer before confusion overcomes his face. “Why on Earth did he call you Eggy?”
Later, when Eggsy has showered and tucked himself into the warmth of his bed, he reckons that he may have a bit of a crush on Mr. Harry Hart.
But only a bit, because anything more than that would be silly, and it isn’t that type of movie, bruv.
“You can stop gawking, you know,” Roxy whispers over their work table sometime during the third month of his employment.
Eggsy nearly slices an exacto blade into the tip of his finger rather than the board under his hands. “Oi!” he hisses, turning a truly delightful shade of pink judging by the dimpled grin on Roxy’s face. He clears his throat, frowning. “Wasn’t gapin’, besides.”
“Right,” she says. “You ought to remember the no dating clause Chester strictly enforces.”
They turn their heads to observe Harry and Merlin, who happen to be chatting in the latter’s office. Harry Hart and his fucking perfect body with his sleeves rolled up his strong arms and an arse that Eggsy wants to grab with his hands.
And that damned mouth that he’s pictured wrapped around his cock at night rather than his own hand.
Or those thick fingers digging into Eggsy’s hips as he fucks him from behind, whispering in that lovely voice of his.
He rolls his eyes, making a very precise cut without endangering his fingers. “I remember,” Eggsy lies because no—no—he fucking doesn’t. Eggsy didn’t bother reading the bloody employee handbook—thick like the Encyclopedia Britannica, it is—because who actually does (besides Charlie, the louse).
Not that it matters because he’s absolutely certain that Harry Hart, the walking wet dream, has some pretty bird or bloke waiting for him at home. Someone who is more age-appropriate than Eggsy’s twenty-five years and knows the difference between Prada and Gucci.
“Why does he enforce it again?” he asks, trying to sound casual.
Roxy tucks a lock of hair behind her ear. “He met his second wife while she was a secretary here. When they divorced, she got thirty percentage ownership of the company.”
“Now you’re just takin’ the piss!” Eggsy gasps, eyes wide.
She shakes her head. “Honest. You can ask Merlin about it, if you’d like.”
“Bloody hell,” he whispers. “I would almost feel bad for the man, if he weren’t such a prat like his nephew.”
Roxy’s giggling makes him smile. “Don’t feel too bad for him,” she whispers back.
“That’s a fairly easy task,” Eggsy replies, shrugging. He leans down at eye level with the board and goes about making marks with a pencil.
They continue to work in a companionable silence, neither of them noticing Merlin and Harry leaving for a conference room where the projector is set up along with refreshments.
However, the loud voice of an American male pulls Eggsy out of his headspace. He glances up from his work to see Chester laughing with a man wearing a bright orange baseball cap, accompanying jacket, a garish popped collar polo, and blue jeans. An attractive woman follows behind them, typing away on her iPad and ignoring Charlie, who is desperately trying to chat her up.
“Who’s that?” Eggsy asks, reaching for his glasses and puts them on.
Roxy stands on her tiptoes for a better view and pulls an impressed face. “Richmond Valentine,” she answers. “He’s a semiconductors billionaire, and rumor has it he’s looking to build a European headquarters. Everyone’s after the contract.”
“And Charlie’s in the meeting?” he scoffs, his mouth turned down. “Nepotism at it’s finest, yeah?”
“Do you have experience with large-scale office campuses?”
Eggsy shrugs. “Commercial buildings, but I reckon it’s more than Prince Charlie,” he admits bitterly, watching as Valentine shakes hands with Merlin, Harry, and several other engineers who have joined the meeting.
They all take a seat at the table after pouring themselves refreshments and turn their attention to the projection screen, where the Kingsman logo sits in the center surrounded by black. It is joined by Valentine’s logo and the presentation has begun, led by Harry and Merlin.
Over the course of an hour, Eggsy is distracted by the ongoings from the conference room. Richmond Valentine has a Zen quality about him while he listens, pressing his hands together in a prayer pose. When he asks questions, he becomes excitable like a child, gesturing wildly and voice coming through the glass walls.
His assistant is cool and calm, asking several questions of her own and taking notes.
The east facing façade comes on screen and Eggsy winces, immediately noticing that the executive office will be boiling hot before Valentine even steps foot inside.
Apparently, so has the billionaire, judging by his frown.
Setting down his exacto blade, Eggsy rushes over to the conference room and taps on the door, giving Merlin a jaunty wave before opening the door.
“What is it, Eggy?” Charlie snaps, folding his arms over his chest.
Valentine and his assistant look at him. “Eggy?” the man asks. “What the fuck is an Eggy?”
“I am,” Eggsy says. “Gary Unwin, sir. I noticed a design flaw with the east façade.”
“You mean the fucking oven they call my office?” Valentine says, dubiously.
He tries and fails not to grin. “Ah, that would be it, sir,” Eggsy replies. “I have a solution for that.”
“Which would tack on several million pounds, I’m sure,” Chester mutters as the young man walks over to Harry.
Eggsy ignores the comment. “Mind if I borrow this?” he asks, indicating his tablet and its pen.
“Go ahead,” Harry tells him, handing the items over.
He walks over to Valentine and his assistant. “This is something you could for both the east and west façades of the building,” Eggsy explains as he begins to draw on the rendering.
“I’m listening,” Valentine says.
“This is a vertical fin screening system,” Eggsy tells him once he’s done and reveals what he’s added. “It’s designed for concealment of a structure while providing natural ventilation and solar shading, which is what you want. It’s lightweight, affordable, and should only add perhaps several hundred thousand pounds to the design cost.”
Valentine and his assistant peer over the tablet screen, glancing at each other every so often. “It looks like fish fins,” she says in a lightly accented voice, offering him a tight smile.
“It’s fucking ridiculous,” Charlie grumbles.
Eggsy feels his stomach clench and begins to wonder if he has made a huge mistake. His palms begin to sweat, which will only be followed by his temples.
“I fucking love it!” Valentine declares, clapping his hands. “I reminds of that cartoon with the baby and the monsters and the closet doors.” He taps his assistant’s arm. “You know, Gazelle—that baby who runs around calling John Goodman kitty!”
She smiles. “You mean Monsters, Inc.”
“Yeah! I fucking love that movie!” he exclaims, drumming his hands on the table.
Eggsy tilts his head, trying to see it. “I was thinking more along the lines of A Clockwork Orange,” he says, a bit confused. “Perhaps 2001: A Space Odyssey.”
“I don’t know what the fuck that is,” Valentine tells him. He looks up at Eggsy. “What’s your name again?”
“Unwin,” he stutters, nearly whispering. “Gary Unwin.”
Harry steps in, saving Eggsy from further embarrassment. “Mr. Unwin is our newest level one architect. He recently joined us from Aedas.”
“Don’t care!” Valentine says dismissively as he points to Eggsy. “I want him instead of him.” The billionaire moves his finger to Charlie.
He makes a noise of protest, his eyes shifting to Charlie who looks positively enraged. “But, sir,” Eggsy tries to say.
“If I am hearing you correctly,” Chester replies quite carefully, “you will give us the design contract if I switch out Charlie for Gary?”
Valentine and his assistant—Gazelle, apparently—exchange another look and then nod. “That’s exactly what I’m saying.”
Well, fuck if that ain’t a plot twist.
Eggsy secludes himself in the men’s lavatory while Charlie whines and bitches in his uncle’s office.
He’s being generous with the term and has actually locked himself inside a stall, hugging his knees to his chest while he stares at the door. A cold sweat makes his skin sticky and Eggsy swears if he moves an iota, he may be sick.
When he walked into the conference, Eggsy never had the intention to be on the project, let alone steal it out from under Charlie. All he wanted to do was suggest something he knew about—something he studied and could do in his sleep—and possibly show everyone what an unqualified twat his colleague was.
The door to the lavatory opens and foot falls come after.
“Eggsy?” It’s Merlin, thank Christ. If it was someone else, like Harry or Chester, or worse, Charlie, he’d have to pretend he wasn’t here. “Are you going to come out?”
He shifts, feeling a twinge in his back. “Is Charlie still havin’ it out with his uncle?”
“Is the Pope Catholic?” Merlin answers.
Eggsy swallows, dropping his head against the stall. “I’m goin’ to stay here, thanks.”
“You can’t stay in there all night,” Merlin tells him, trying to figure out which stall he’s hiding in.
“Oi! I am deeply offended that you’re underestimating my ability to avoid confrontation like the plague, mate,” Eggsy retorts, pouting.
The stall door rattles as Merlin’s knuckles rapt on it. “You’ll need to go home at some point, lad.”
“The tile is very comfortable. You’d be surprised.”
Merlin groans. “I know,” he grumbles. “I picked it out during the remodel. Now come out here, you little berk!”
“Rather not,” Eggsy says, flicking a piece of lint off his jeans.
“I have a screwdriver and I am not above using it, Gary Unwin!” his mentor threatens, banging on the door.
Eggsy scrambles to his feet in an instant, not wanting to temper Merlin’s good graces, and opens the stall only to find that he’s been duped as the older man drags him out of the bathroom. “That’s cheating!” he yells. “You’s a right arsehole, Merlin! Do you even know how to use a screwdriver?”
“Of course,” his mentor scoffs, glaring at him as they cross the empty floor and go into his office. He deposits Eggsy into a chair and shuts the door. “Congratulations, you have managed to assist Harry and me in landing a multi-billion dollar contract with the Valentine Corporation.”
His jaw goes slack. “Did you say…” Eggsy stammers.
“Yes,” Merlin replies, nodding. “Richmond Valentine’s legal department is forwarding the contract over tomorrow morning.”
“Roxy said that it was just a bunch of rumors!”
The older man laughs as he leans against the edge of his desk. “Most of these things are,” Merlin assures. “With that said, I originally wanted you on the project, but Charlie got wind of it and complained to Chester before I could ask you.”
“I’m just a level one architect,” Eggsy tells him, still baffled. “Charlie has loads more experience than me and—”
Merlin shakes his head. “And considerably less talent. And knowledge, for that matter. He can’t think outside of the box, nor can he think on his feet, which you demonstrated quite flawlessly during today’s meeting.”
“I didn’t mean to give Charlie the boot!” Eggsy counters, slouching in his seat. “Bloody hell! Who doesn’t put up something to deflect the sun in the first place? It’s fucking amateur hour.”
Someone knocks on the door and Merlin gestures for them to come in. “Have I come at a bad time?” Harry inquires. “Evening, Gary. I take it that you’ve heard the good news?”
“He’s still a bit beside himself,” Merlin tells him, turning his stare to Eggsy. “So you’re on the project team, then?”
Eggsy shifts his eyes between his mentor and the object of his masturbatory fantasies. He can definitely do this - work late nights and early hours, go to site walks, and more meetings than he can count.
If it means spending more time with Harry and listening to his dry wit and catching a whiff of his cologne every now and again, so be it. Eggsy can suck it up.
He can totally suck it up even if he wants to actually to be doing it to Harry’s cock. Same difference.
“Yeah,” Eggsy answers. “Sounds great.”
God, sometimes he wishes he would learn to keep his fucking mouth shut.