Harry wanted to do more after Lee Unwin’s death. A medallion and the promise for one favor didn’t seem like enough compensation for a life, three lives if you counted the fact that both Michelle’s and little Gary’s lives would forever be altered. But his hands were tied, so he delivered the medallion, took the verbal thrashing, and walked out of the Unwin household with no intentions of further dampening their doorway—at least that was what Arthur believed. Chester King had made it very clear that Harry was to take no part in the Unwins’ lives, but Harry couldn’t turn away, not when Lee’s death had been his responsibility.
“It’s the risk of the job,” Merlin told him over a pint a week after Harry had delivered the medallion. “It isn’t all jokes when we ask for each trainee’s basics.”
Perhaps not, but Lee’s demise should have never happened. Unable to shake his guilt, Harry took to monitoring from afar, watching over the Unwins. Things were rocky for them, and Harry tried to alleviate some of the burden without being too obvious, but it was evident the strain of losing her husband and raising a child on her own was getting to Michelle. Grocery bills lengthened with lists of alcohol. Michelle began a prescription of anti-depressants. It was clear to Harry that she wasn’t coping well, but when the report came in about her suicide, Harry had been taken back.
He never thought she’d go so far as to take her own life, to leave her only child alone in the world. Harry spent the night in his office, a bottle of scotch in one hand and a picture of Lee and himself in the other.
“What have I done, old friend?” Harry asked the worn photograph, which was creased down the center and faded. He’d doomed Lee’s only child, the last of his legacy, to be an orphan. What the boy must be going through, to lose both his mother and father in the same year. Did he have family who would take him? Love him?
The thought choked Harry. There had been solace in watching over Gary and Michelle, to watch over the last remaining traces of Lee. It had been as if Harry hadn’t had to say goodbye.
Harry sniffed and wiped his nose with the back of his hand, a gesture he’d never do in front of anyone else, and then set both the bottle and photo down. He turned to his computer and did a search of Gary’s remaining family, to see who would take custody of the boy—of Lee’s son.
It wasn’t good, to say the least; Michelle’s only living relatives was a ninety year-old aunt from Bath. Lee had a sister in the area, but some digging around showed that she lived in the same squalor as Michelle, and if the number of police reports filed were anything to go off of, it was clear her relationship with her husband wasn’t exactly loving. No, neither prospects would do.
Harry picked up his phone and called Merlin. “I need a favor,” Harry said as soon as Merlin answered.
“Not even a hello?” He didn’t wait for Harry’s cheeky response. “I suspected you’d be calling. I got the flag for Mrs. Unwin’s death. You’re not going to ask what I think you are, are you Harry?”
“You know I am,” Harry said with a slight sniff.
“Arthur won’t like this,” Merlin pointed out, not that he sounded like he cared. As far as Merlin was concerned, Arthur could take a stroll off a pier.
“He’ll never have to know,” Harry replied, already formulating a plan in his head.
Merlin sighed, but Harry could hear the familiar tapping of keys. “You owe me,” Merlin stated five minutes later.
“I know.” And he really did.
* * * *
As far as anyone was concerned, Eggsy was his nephew, who’d been sent to live with him while his sister was recuperating in the country. If anyone checked to corroborate the story, they’d find reports of Harry’s sickly younger sibling, Victoria, on record. She was ten years his younger, a widow of three years, and had only one child, a Gary ‘Eggsy’ Collins, who was three months shy of turning eight. And if anyone asked about Gary Unwin, well, they were given a sad smile and shake of the head, the universal sign of the untimely end to life in its prime.
Harry didn’t really know what to do with Eggsy at first. Harry was an only child and the last time he dealt with someone so little had been on a rescue mission in Prague, which Harry really rather not think about—he still had a scar on his hand from where the kid had bit him.
Eggsy didn’t seem to know what to do with Harry either. He stared at Harry the first night he arrived, confusion deepening his eyes to a shade of indigo. “Who are y’?” Eggsy asked, head craned back so he could look Harry in the eyes.
“I’m your uncle, from your father’s side,” Harry explained patiently.
“No y’ ain’t,” Eggsy stated matter-of-factly, bottom lip jutting out stubbornly. “Only got an aunt on da’s side, and y’ was around before. Few months back, around Christmas.”
Harry’s mouth involuntarily twitched up into a smile. “Clever boy.” Eggsy’s shoulders straightened at the praise, but his determined look never deflated. Harry clamped a hand down on his shoulder and squeezed. “I’m a friend of your fathers, and he asked me to look after you if anything should happen to him or your mother.”
Eggsy scrunched up his nose. “How come I never saw y’ before that day?”
“Your father liked to keep his private life separate from work,” Harry answered smoothly and dropped his hand.
Eggsy’s lower lip wobbled and he dropped his gaze. “Y’ knew my dad?”
“I did,” Harry said gently.
Eggsy sniffed and wiped his nose with the sleeve of his shirt. Harry could see him fighting to keep his expression hard, to hold back the fat tears that were pooling in the corners of his eyes, but they rolled down his pudgy cheeks defiantly. Eggsy let out a shuddered sob and dug the heels of his palms into his eyes, futilely staving off tears. “Why’d he leave? Why’d he have to go—why’d mom h-have to…to…”
Harry dropped to his knees, taking Eggsy’s shoulders in both of his hands, and said, words tight in his throat, “I’m sorry Eggsy. I wish I could change what happened, but I can’t. Know, though, that you’ll never be alone again. I’m here Eggsy, and I’ll always be here for you.”
Eggsy collapsed against his chest trembling, so small and delicate that Harry was afraid to hold him too tightly, terrified the boy would break beneath his hands. He laid his cheek against the top of Eggsy’s head and held him close, letting the boy cry himself to sleep.
* * * *
Eggsy loved going to the Estate. It had become his favorite thing over the last three years since he started to live with Harry. He could still remember the first time Harry had brought him there, traveling from the little tailor shop on Savile Row to a giant mansion with an underground lair—because what else did you call it?—via a literal bullet train. How many seven year olds got to say they could do that?
Even now that he was ten, the wonder of the ride hadn’t faded—in fact, it was greater, because now Harry trusted Eggsy to make the journey himself. Eggsy would travel every day after school from his academy to the Kingsman Tailor Shop, bid Andrew good afternoon, and take the train to the Estate where Harry would be working. He wouldn’t always go straight to Harry, especially since Harry was usually in the middle of something.
No, instead Eggsy would make his rounds. He’d go and visit the other agents, makings sure to stop by Gawain, who’d have a toffee waiting, and then Lancelot and Percival, who always stopped bickering when he was around. Percival helped Eggsy with his history and Lancelot taught Eggsy how to hold a gun—much to Harry’s displeasure. Eggsy took great pains in avoiding Arthur, who he had decided on his first day of visiting Kingsman Estate, that he didn’t like the older man.
Eggsy’s last stop before he went off to find Harry—if he wasn’t there already—was Merlin’s office. He loved sitting and watching the tech wizard work on his latest invention. Sometimes he’d even let Eggsy sit and listen in as he instructed one of the agents—other times he’d send Eggsy away, ruffling his hair and promising next time. Eggsy would work on his homework, asking for help even when he didn’t’ need it, just because he liked the attention Merlin gave him.
Eggsy became a fixed presence at the estate. He stayed there as long as possible, until Harry would finally gather him up and cart him home. The only days he didn’t go to the estate were days he had gymnastics, and even then, Eggsy would usually go straight after practice unless Harry was waiting to pick him up from the gym.
* * * *
“Pancakes or French toast?” Harry asked Eggsy as the boy slipped into the chair at the breakfast nook. It amazed Harry how quickly they grew. It felt like just yesterday Eggsy had first arrived at his doorstep, only seven years old. Now he was twelve and turning into a spry young man. Gymnastics had filled him out, thickening his awkward limbs with tightly corded muscle. His face was a bit blemished from hormones, and Eggsy voiced his complaint every day about it.
“French toast,” Eggsy answered. “I’ve seen you fix pancakes. I’m not cleaning up that mess.”
“Cheeky thing.” Harry chuckled as he grabbed his apron and slipped it on. He went about preparing the French toast, humming to himself as he fixed breakfast.
“Did you love my dad?” Eggsy asked, after Harry had served the French toast and sat across from him.
Harry paused, fork and knife poised to cut into the bread soaked with syrup, and gawked at Eggsy. “W-what?”
“I saw the picture, the one of you and my dad,” Eggsy said, biting into a piece of toast. He chewed, and the seconds it took for him to swallow felt like eternity. Harry could hear his thundering heart between each smack of teeth. Eggsy swallowed and cut another bite. “You were looking at him like he was the world. Like how I see Uncle Percy look at Uncle Lancelot when he thinks no one is looking.”
Harry set his fork and knife down, drawing in a deep bracing breath. Over the years he hadn’t thought much of Lee—hadn’t allowed himself to think of him—but that didn’t mean that his feelings hadn’t lessened. He still cared fondly for the man. “Yes, I did,” Harry said, carefully, as if he were picking his way across a landmine—and perhaps he was. He’d never addressed the subject of his sexuality with Eggsy, never really considered it. What would the boy say?
“Did he love you?” Eggsy asked, continuing to eat his breakfast, carrying on the conversation as if they were discussing the weather.
“I don’t know,” Harry admitted—and perhaps that had been the most tragic part of their relationship, the fact that he’d never know what had existed between himself and Lee.
“I think he did,” Eggsy said after a moment of mulling over the food in his mouth. “He trusted you with me, didn’t he?”
Harry smiled and nodded. Neither brought the subject up again, but the air somehow grew lighter, without Harry even realizing there had been a weight to it.
* * * *
When Eggsy was thirteen he was sent home from school with a high fever. Harry had rushed home from Kingsman estate, transferring the mission he was prepping for to Percival. Eggsy rarely got sick, and over the last eight years, Harry really couldn’t think of a time that Eggsy had ever been this ill, and the thought filled him with a moment of panic, of sheer terror that he wouldn’t be able to take care of his boy.
As soon as he looked at Eggsy though, lying in bed, bundled beneath a layer of blankets, his face flushed and coated in sweat, Harry’s instincts kicked in. He took Eggsy’s temperature, then placed a cool flannel over his forehead.
“It’s okay, my dear boy,” Harry reassured Eggsy when he groaned in agony. Harry stroked damp bangs from Eggsy’s face. “I’m right here.”
He didn’t leave Eggsy’s side the entire night, even when Eggsy puked up everything he’d eaten that day onto the bed. Harry moved Eggsy to his own bed, which only dwarfed the preteen further, and put the soiled sheets and comforter in the wash. Harry made a batch of his mother’s chicken noodle soup, which he coaxed into Eggsy later, after his stomach settled.
It was a tiring night. Harry monitored Eggsy’s temperature throughout the evening ready to rush him to Kingsman estate for medical attention at any moment. It was close to midnight, and Eggsy had been dozing on and off for an hour, when Harry finally moved to leave the room. A small hand shot out and latched onto his.
“Don’t go,” Eggsy croaked from beneath the pile of blankets.
Harry’s smiled weakly. “Of course not.”
Harry went around and settled onto the bed beside Eggsy. It had been a long time since they’d shared a bed, not since the first few months of Eggsy’s arrival, and Eggsy had woken up in the middle of the night crying. Harry smiled down at Eggsy, throat swollen with emotion, and he realized that soon Eggsy would be grown and no longer need him, and while he was proud of the man the boy was becoming, the thought left him a little heart sick.
* * * *
Christmas was a quiet affair at the Hart house. Harry decorated modestly, enough to stir up some cheer, but nothing too garish. He always picked a lovely tree though, a beautiful fur that he decorated with glass baubles and ornaments that were family heirlooms. It was a grand time. Merlin would pop in for visits, and Lancelot and Percival, along with Percival’s niece Roxy, would join them for a big supper. It became a tradition for them all to gather around the holidays. Eggsy loved when Roxy came over, because she was sharp as a whip and the only one his age who seemed to have her head on straight—not many kids knew the difference between an AR15 A4 and a Heckler & Koch HK416 (Merlin’s favorite).
It was around Eggsy’s fourteenth Christmas, his seventh with Harry, that he realized his slight infatuation with Merlin may lean more towards the crush side, and that maybe, just maybe, he fancied blokes as well as birds. He’d been surprised when he learned you could like both, and he hadn’t thought much of it at first; he knew you could like blokes instead of girls, after all Percival and Lancelot were together, and he knew Harry fancied men, but he never knew you could be interested in both. Boy did that open up a door for him.
He got around to experimenting, flirting with some of the lads in his class, but it never accumulated to anything. He even tried kissing Roxy once. Got a bloody lip for that one. She clonked him real good and told him if he ever tried that again she’d beat him bloody—which he was pretty sure she’d already done.
But on his fourteenth Christmas, Harry got spirited off on a mission, so Eggsy had to go stay with Merlin.
“I can take care of myself, you know,” Eggsy had insisted as Harry prepared to leave. He jutted his bottom lip in what he was sure a petulant pout and glared defiantly at Harry. “I’m not a child anymore.”
“If you aren’t, then why are you still making that face?” Harry had admonished. He had stopped in front of Eggsy, a black bag in one hand, and laid his other hand on Eggsy’s shoulder. “It isn’t that I don’t trust you, it’s that I don’t trust the rest of the world. Please understand, son.”
It was the first time Harry had referred to Eggsy as his son, and any argument Eggsy had building up inside him. He had simply hugged Harry, made him swear he’d come back home safe, and obediently packed a bag of his own to take to Merlin’s.
It wasn’t the first time he’d been to Merlin’s house. He loved going over to the wizard’s flat. He had all the latest game systems, a killer entertainment center, and some tech that wasn’t even on the market yet. Last summer Merlin had helped Eggsy build his own computer. Merlin’s flat was Eggsy’s second—or maybe third?—home. He even had his own room.
It happened the third night Eggsy was staying at Merlin’s. If Eggsy ever thought back to the event, it really wasn’t that big of a deal, but in that moment, Eggsy had felt like his entire world had been flipped upside down. Merlin had stepped out of the bathroom as Eggsy was getting ready to go in, a towel slung low on his narrow hips. It was the first time Eggsy had ever seen the man shirtless, and my God did it steal his breath. He’d never seen so many tattoos before.
“Bloody hell,” Eggsy had gasped, staring unabashedly at the older man. “Wicked ink.”
Merlin chuckled and ruffled his hair. “Thanks, lad. Don’t tell Harry ye found out, eh? I don’t need him getting onto me about exposing you to something ungentlemanly.”
Eggsy nodded, unable to tear his eyes away. Merlin’s arms were covered in what looked like intricate Celtic armor. His chest was bare, but when he continued down the hall, Eggsy caught a glimpse of the armor turning into what looked like an intricate network of cables and wiring, as if Merlin’s back had been turned into a machine.
Eggsy proceeded into the bathroom, a feeling stirring in his gut that he’d never experienced before. This wasn’t like when he checked out the girls or blokes at his school, or when he looked at pictures on his computer. This was something carnal and wild and it left him completely giddy and breathless, and maybe even a little bit terrified.
* * * *
Eggsy went to the Olympics when he was seventeen and won a gold medal in the Rings for gymnastics. He graduated school, got kidnapped shortly after, and was rescued by a large team of Kingsman led by Harry, who massacred the entire Slovakian mob who dared touch his son. Eggsy proceeded to university (Cambridge, no less) where he went in for engineering, dated on and off for awhile, but never had a serious relationship. His longest one lasted a month with a bloke named Charlie Hesketh, but the guy was a bit of an aristocratic prick, so Eggsy dumped him.
It was shortly after Eggsy graduated from university that things started to spiral downhill. Lancelot was killed on a mission. It was hard enough to deal with the loss of a man he considered an uncle, but then Eggsy got into a row with Harry over joining Kingsman to fill the spot of Lancelot. It had been the endgame for Eggsy all along. He knew he wanted to follow in Harry’s footsteps, he’d known it since the day Harry had sat him down and explained that he was an international spy. But Harry didn’t want that for Eggsy. He wanted Eggsy to live his life free of secrets, to be able to enjoy life, and experience love and friends beyond Kingsman.
It would have all been fine if Harry hadn’t been shipped off on a mission shortly after their fight. Harry left, telling Eggsy before he did, “We’ll sort this out when I return.”
Only Harry didn’t return. Eggsy saw it all happen from Harry’s laptop. He watched Harry lose himself in savage violence. It was one of those gruesome car accidents; awful to look at, filled with so much blood and carnage, but no matter how many times he told himself to look away, he couldn’t. And then that man with the lisp shot Harry.
Eggsy screamed. He screamed and screamed and screamed. He didn’t stop until he was sure his vocal chords were shredded, and even then he felt a pathetic scream bubbling beneath the surface. He rushed to Merlin’s flat, but when the man wasn’t there, he went to Kingsman estate, a right mess. Merlin held him through the night, his own eyes misted over and red.
It came to light the next day that Arthur was behind it. No one questioned when Arthur was discovered dead in the meeting room, poisoned. It still was unclear if it was Eggsy or Merlin who had administered the deadly dose.
When Eggsy went with Merlin to collect Harry’s body, after the V-Day fiasco was done and over with, they discovered that Harry was alive and at a hospital in Kentucky. Eggsy rushed into the room and practically vaulted onto the bed, clutching Harry tightly. He was in a coma, so Harry never heard Eggsy’s sob, “You said you’d never leave me, you promised. I can’t lose another father. I need you.”
* * * *
Harry made a full recovery, but he lost his left eye and now suffered from chronic migraines. There was a tremor to his hands as well, one that hadn’t been there before, so he could no longer do field work. After a long extensive process, Harry was voted in as the new Arthur. That left two vacant spots to be filled with Kingsman: Lancelot and Galahad.
Harry bid for Eggsy. Percival bid for his niece Roxy. The training was hard, a lot harder than Eggsy had expected, but he refused to let Harry down. And if Eggsy also used his new position as a chance to flirt with Merlin, well, could anyone blame him? Merlin was a fine wine, and he’d only gotten better with age. Plus, he saw the way Merlin’s gaze lingered longer on him than the other candidates. And there were several times Eggsy was sure Merlin was standing on the other side of the two-way mirror as he showered. If Eggsy was alone, he always put on a show.
“You know, one of these days you’re going to cross a line with him and then there’ll be no turning back,” Roxy said one night after a long training sessions. The candidates were down to five.
Eggsy flashed Roxy a dimpled smile and winked. “That’s the point love.”
She threw her hands in the air and grumbled, “You’re incorrigible.”
* * * *
Roxy had been right, of course. When wasn’t she right? It was after their second to last test, when the candidates had been narrowed down to three people: Eggsy, Roxy, and a bloke named Rufus. After everyone went to bed, Eggsy snuck out of the dormitory and found Merlin in his office, studiously working away.
“Ever call it quits, mate?” Eggsy asked as he strolled in, two cups of tea in hand.
“You’re supposed to be in bed,” Merlin pointed out as he accepted the tea.
Eggsy shrugged and slipped onto the edge of his desk. “Couldn’t sleep?”
Merlin rolled his eyes and took a sip of tea. “What are ye doing here, lad? And get off my desk, it isn’t a chair.”
Eggsy huffed, set his mug down, and hopped off the desk. He retrieved a chair and brought it over, making a show of crossing his legs. He wore only a pair of low riding sweat pants and a tight white t-shirt, which left little to the imagination. “Thought I’d keep you company.”
“Ye have a long day ahead of ye tomorrow,” Merlin pointed out, setting his mug aside. “Go to bed.”
Eggsy pouted. “Come on, you use to love it when I kept you company.”
“That was when ye were eight and cute,” Merlin said, though the statement was softened by a smile.
“You saying I’m not cute?” Eggsy tipped his head to the side, stretching his neck out to expose a long column of flesh. He didn’t miss the way Merlin’s gaze gravitated to the skin, or how his stare drifted down, lingering on his well-muscled chest.
Merlin coughed in his hand and turned away. “Ye know you’re good-looking.”
Eggsy bit back a grin and scooted a little closer, leaning forward to purr in Merlin’s ear, “So you do think I’m cute?”
“What are you doing?” Merlin asked stiffly.
“Nothing,” Eggsy said, all the while slipping his hand around Merlin’s waist, feeling the hard contours of his abdomen beneath the jumper.
Merlin grabbed Eggsy’s hand to stop him. “Eggsy, go back to the dorm.”
Eggsy paused, brows knitted together. “I don’t want to.”
“Stop acting like a child.” Merlin shoved Eggsy’s hand away. Tension tightened across his shoulders.
Eggsy recoiled. “You’re right, I’m not a fucking child. So why are you treating me like I’m one? Don’t pretend that you don’t look at me like you want to fuck me.” He straightened himself, regathering his courage. “I want it, if you haven’t been able to tell.”
“You’re my best friend’s son,” Merlin snapped, turning to glare at Eggsy. All the look did was make Eggsy want him more. There was something breath-taking in the way Merlin got furious. His gray eyes grew smoky and smoldering, and desire pooled in Eggsy’s gut, running hot through his veins.
“And? I’m also a consenting adult,” Eggsy pointed out. “Harry isn’t in this equation.”
“For fuck’s sake Eggsy, I practically helped raise ye. It be wrong.”
“Tell me you don’t want me, that it’s all in my head, and I’ll walk away,” Eggsy said, hands balled against his thighs. “Because that’s the only excuse I see that has any credit here. Everything else is bullshite, and you know it.”
Merlin’s jaw tightened, ticking away as the seconds stretched out. Eggsy tried not to squirm as the silence grew louder. He could practically hear Merlin’s teeth grinding. Finally Merlin blew a long sigh through his nose and growled, “You’re going to be the death of me.”
Eggsy grinned toothily, taking that as a yes, and launched into Merlin’s lap. Their lips crashed together and it was everything Eggsy had thought it would be. When it was over and they were both stretched on the floor, naked and panting, Eggsy’s limbs stiff from the positions Merlin had held him in, bits of tech scattered on the floor, along with a broken mug and paperwork, Merlin drew Eggsy against his chest, one hand tangled in his damp hair, and said, “Your father is going to kill me when he finds out.”
“Then we best not tell him,” Eggsy said, already sliding onto Merlin’s lap. “Ready for round two, old man?”
* * * *
Harry found out, of course. Keeping things from him was next to impossible. Harry had a sixth sense for sniffing out secrets. It was almost terrifying. Merlin and Eggsy had barely gotten into a week of their relationship when Harry discovered them. It was after the final test, when Eggsy and Roxy were being initiated into Kingsman. After the ceremony, Harry had clamped a hand on Eggsy’s shoulder and said, “I’m proud of you, son.”
Merlin came over to congratulate Eggsy on becoming the newest Galahad. They’d only looked at each other, a small smile shared between them, when Harry roared, “You bastard, you slept with him!”
Merlin immediately stiffened and launched into his defense. “Harry, I can explain—”
“I’m going to murder you,” Harry growled.
Eggsy clamped a hand over his mouth to stave off the laughter. “Dad,”—laugh—“I can”—snort—“damn it, don’t kill him—”
It took Gawain and Tristan to hold Harry back. Eventually things settled down, and Eggsy took Harry aside to talk to him about the matter. He wasn’t pleased, but after Eggsy explained how much he cared for Merlin, and that he’d always been in love with the older man, and how unbelievably happy he was, Harry sighed and conceded. He never could say no to his boy.
Eggsy hugged Harry tight, whispering to his father, “Thank you, for everything.”