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“I heard that you were having a little trouble with the diplomacy aspect of your training,” Harry said. It seemed kinder than you failed that portion of your exam so thoroughly that Merlin called me about it, though that was also true.

Merlin preferred not to send candidates to their sponsors for help if he could possibly avoid it, but he didn’t have time for personalized instruction either. No one was sent home for doing poorly on the early examinations because they were meant only to demonstrate a candidate’s general aptitude, but failing even one outright was generally considered a sure sign that they wouldn’t last long. Some Kingsman agents spent years grooming their candidates under the guise of language tutoring and world tours and so forth- but Eggsy, being the very definition of an impulse choice, was at an incredible disadvantage in this area.  

Still, Merlin wouldn’t have spoken to Harry about it- wouldn’t have told him exactly where Eggsy was going to be and when he was going to be there- unless there was something in Eggsy’s performance on the rest of the test, or perhaps in Eggsy himself, that had made Merlin want Eggsy to succeed despite his apparent shortcomings.

Which was how Harry came to find Eggsy in the far corner of the library in the Kingsman manor, his head bent over a book.

When Eggsy heard Harry’s voice, a smile tugged at his lips but for a second, then two, he didn’t look up. “Hey, Harry,” Eggsy said, finally meeting his gaze. “Or- er- am I supposed to call you Galahad?” The smile stayed mainly confined to his eyes for another moment before it broke free, a little mischievous, a little shy.

“Harry is fine.”

“Right then. Didn’t know if I was gonna see you around much.”

“Not too much, no,” Harry replied. He settled next to the table, reaching out to toy with the cover of Eggsy’s book a bit. Eggsy was looking in the wrong place there if he wanted to understand where he had gone wrong on the test, but Harry was pleased to see him trying. “But I did want to check in with you, about how things have been going. That was good work with the mirror, by the way.”  

“Thanks, Harry.” Eggsy seemed to appreciate the compliment, but then that little smile slipped off his face altogether. “Not enough to save Amelia, though, was it?”

“Ah,” Harry said. Now that he knew to look for it, Harry could see the tension in Eggsy's shoulders and the sad weight behind his eyes. How had he not noticed those things immediately? How had he not guessed what would be in Eggsy's mind?

Harry cursed himself for those thoughts almost the moment he entertained them. Exactly how long had he known Eggsy, all told? Three hours? Less? He was far from qualified to know what Eggsy might be troubled by- especially considering that he had hardly been living in paradise when Harry found him. And his own reaction to seeing Eggsy so distressed- the way his gut roiled and his chest felt tight- was both uncalled for and inconvenient. And yet… well, Harry did not make a habit of lying to himself, and he had to admit that there had been moments- in the pub and in the tailor’s shop- when Eggsy had looked at him with a light in his eyes that it would be entirely too easy to become addicted to. 

Harry wanted to cheer him, to at least give him some form of sage advice, but what could it be? It didn’t do to be too flippant about Amelia’s ‘death’, though there was technically no way to prevent it. Had the candidates bothered to save Amelia she would just have stayed with them until they did slip up at some other time. Merlin had put a lot of time and thought into how to teach the candidates certain lessons without actually hurting anybody, and this one would ultimately be worthless if Eggsy worked out that Amelia was perfectly fine from Harry’s lack of reaction.

True, Eggsy might think that Harry was simply dismissive of casualties in general, and that was a lesson too- Harry had, thanks to his own efforts and primarily by his own choice, become sufficiently focused on the big picture that the individuals involved did sometimes go by the wayside- but not perhaps the right one for Eggsy at this time.

The fact that teaching it to him might rather… dim Harry in Eggsy’s view was entirely beside the point, of course.

Pulling out the chair across from Eggsy, Harry sat down in front of him, close enough that their knees brushed. “It’s a dangerous trial process for a dangerous job. Most of your competitors were far better prepared for that than you were. I rather threw you in at the deep end, I know that now. If it has made something that would always be hard even harder, I apologize. If you’re rethinking this…”

“No,” Eggsy said quickly. “It’s just that… somebody’s dead and I’m alive and I ain’t figured out what to do with that yet.”  

Harry felt something in his expression go soft and gentle without his even intending it to. He knew that feeling. In his mind’s eye, he could still see Lee’s face after the grenade. Harry sometimes thought he could forget everything else he knew and still not forget that. Harry reached out- telegraphing his intentions with more care than he had back at the pub- and rested a hand on Eggsy’s shoulder. “Use it,” he said, and squeezed lightly before lifting his hand to briefly cup the back of Eggsy’s neck.

He could feel how Eggsy relaxed into his touch. Harry wasn’t tactile by nature, but he had a suspicion that Eggsy was- or at least that he could be, if he felt secure enough to indulge the impulse- and, more than that, Harry could see now that Eggsy was gentler than Harry had given him credit for being after reading his file and seeing his reaction to the display at the pub.

A little uncertainly, Harry drew Eggsy closer to him. Eggsy went with remarkable ease, and in only a second Harry had that face pressed into his neck and those arms twined around his middle. He cradled Eggsy’s neck, fingers slipping over warm skin, and wrapped his other arm around Eggsy’s shoulders. Eggsy’s uniform was still new and he smelled primarily of the soap the Kingsman laundry favored and the shampoo they gave trainees. Pleasant. Clean.

Harry had seen Merlin’s footage from when the dormitory flooded- he knew that Eggsy was all lean muscle, so he was surprised by how soft Eggsy went in his arms. He’s so young, Harry thought, an unexpected surge of protectiveness going through him. He tightened his grip on Eggsy without meaning to. Despite Eggsy’s immediate protest when Harry had offered him a way out, Harry wondered, briefly, if he might not have been a poor choice for Lancelot after all.

There was nothing for it, of course. Harry hadn’t lied when he told Eggsy that he saw great potential in him, and Eggsy would succeed or he wouldn’t. All Harry could do now was wait and see.

Harry pulled away first, clearing his throat. “Well then,” he said. “Shall we talk about your diplomacy training?”

*   *   *

Eggsy stood clumsily when Harry helped him up off the tracks, and he half stumbled into Harry’s chest. “Sorry,” he said, voice a little hoarse.

“No need to apologize,” Harry replied, catching him easily. The medical branch had perfected the particular drug cocktail they used on the candidates to work fast and then wear off quickly- but even so Eggsy would need a few minutes to orient himself, especially after the burst of adrenaline thinking he was about to die would have given him. He was shaking faintly- also a reasonable response to the events of the day. Without thinking Harry let his hand go around Eggsy’s waist, and then he was embracing Eggsy more than supporting him.

Briefly, Eggsy melted against him, nose pressing into Harry’s shoulder. Harry felt him inhale- and then Eggsy disengaged, moving away with a faint flush of color high on his cheeks. “Thanks, Harry,” he said awkwardly.

“Of course,” Harry replied, a heaviness in his gut that he couldn’t quite explain.

He could hardly say that he and his candidate had grown apart during his coma when he and his candidate had barely known one another before it. But there had certainly been a distance between them since then that Harry was sure hadn’t been there in the beginning. And now there was the way that Eggsy wrapped his arms protectively around himself, drawing back from Harry more than just physically. He had come farther than Harry had sometimes expected him to, and- thanks to the coma- with almost no assistance from Harry. Harry was proud of him for that. But he also thought about how it had felt to hold Eggsy properly, how well Eggsy had fit in his arms, and mourned for what he had lost without completely knowing what it had even been in the first place.

“So,” Eggsy said, jarring Harry free of that train of thought. “Charlie?”

“Right,” Harry replied, letting Eggsy walk forward without assistance even when he looked a little unsteady on his feet. “Charlie.”

*   *   *

Harry had a lot of experience with almost dying, and when Valentine had pointed that gun at his head it had not felt like a close call to Harry; it had felt like the end of the line.

So Harry was surprised when he opened his eyes again and found himself in the almost entirely familiar surroundings of the Kingsman medical wing.

Almost, because there was a bed next to his, and Eggsy Unwin was asleep in it.

Harry allowed himself to forgo pushing the call button left close to hand for a full minute, just so he could look at Eggsy as he struggled to make sense of what he saw. The pain medication he had clearly been pumped with wasn’t doing much to help him in that regard. Eggsy was curled on his side, dressed in track clothes. His hair looked newly wet- had he just showered? There was, Harry thought, an almost-healed bruise on his face, but otherwise Eggsy looked perfectly healthy. He probably wasn’t in the medical wing for his own benefit. For Harry’s, then? Harry had been shot in the head, and- even assuming he had been barely grazed and Valentine and his people hadn’t tried at all to finish him off- he hadn’t exactly been unhurt when he walked out of that church. If he had been roused from a medically induced sleep to a schedule, the medical staff would be here already, which made it likely that they hadn’t known when- or, depending on the actual extent of his injuries, if- he would wake up.

Which, in turn, meant that if Eggsy had been coming to sit with him, waiting for him to wake up, he had been waiting for quite a while. The track clothes Eggsy had on were Kingsman issue. Had he been training, taken a shower, come back to sit with Harry a while and fallen asleep? The positioning of the bed suggested not only that this was not the first time he had done so, but also that the medical staff had also been unusually accommodating to him. Doubtless he had wormed his way into their hearts somehow- but was he a Kingsman? And if so, how had that happened?

Merlin could and did offer positions in the other divisions to promising candidates who had failed some of the later tests, particularly the dog test. Merlin had even told Harry that he thought Eggsy would make an excellent driver if he did not become Lancelot- but Arthur would never have let Eggsy in, not after he had turned a gun on him and stolen a car. Not without considerable badgering, anyway, and Harry had been prepared to try his best- but he must have been sleeping for a long time, and it was difficult to imagine their illustrious leader putting off a decision like whether or not to banish Eggsy from their ranks until Harry was well enough to contest it.

Eggsy’s eyes opened, and for a second all Harry could see was blue-green shock. “Harry,” Eggsy said, shooting up. “You’re awake. Uh- someone? Help?” He was at Harry’s side in a flash. “Sorry,” he said. “It’s the middle of the night, bruv. Skeleton crew and all.”

Then what are you doing here? Harry didn’t ask. “I’m not worried,” he said, voice grating out of him almost unrecognizable.

Eggsy winced in sympathy, offering an ice chip.

Harry tolerantly let Eggsy feed it to him.

“Valentine’s dead,” Eggsy reported. Harry nodded, unsurprised. He was alive and the world seemed to be spinning on more or less as it always had. It was difficult to believe that a man like Richmond Valentine could have been made to stop any other way.

A doctor appeared soon enough to check Harry over. She apprised him of his medical situation while Eggsy told him about the current status of Kingsman and the planet. He had been dead to the world a week and a half- not so bad. Valentine had turned the SIM cards on for only a few minutes before he had been stopped and the damage had been the most profound in countries with little gun control- not much surprise there. Arthur had betrayed them to Valentine and died for it- that was more surprising, but perhaps not as much as it should have been. Harry would have a hell of a scar on his temple and another on his back, and he also had several bruised ribs but was expected to make a full recovery- good news. A lot of world leaders had allied themselves with Valentine and were now also dead, leaving almost every country on the planet working frantically to replace their governments- less good news, but things could certainly have been much worse.

“It’s all hands on deck,” Eggsy told him. “Merlin made me an agent.”

There was something desperate in Eggsy’s eyes that Harry couldn’t quite fathom until suddenly he realized: “He made you Galahad.”          

Eggsy nodded miserably. “Told him it was yours.”

“I have an idea that Merlin has something else in mind for me,” Harry sighed out, his future stuck behind a desk as Arthur stretching out in front of him. Merlin would have temporarily taken on the post with Chester King dead and Harry, as the most senior knight, unconscious. He wouldn’t have enjoyed it. So of course he had been plotting to leave Harry with no choice in the matter, and giving Galahad to Eggsy… well, every little bit helped. “It’s all right, Eggsy,” Harry said. “I… I couldn’t have asked for a better successor.”

Eggsy nodded again, but his expression did not clear.

Harry regarded Eggsy as the doctor slipped away to report to Merlin. He remembered, with sudden painful clarity, one of the last things he had said to Eggsy. “You do know that-” Harry course corrected- “Eggsy, what I said about your father-” Harry course corrected again, he didn’t normally have this much difficulty following through, though that was rather part of the problem in this case- “I didn’t mean for you to think that I-”  

“I know,” Eggsy said almost immediately. “I mean, I worked that out. You explained it after Amelia, remember? I said I didn’t know what to do with it, the fact that she died and I lived. You said to use it. I reckon you been using my dad for longer than I can properly remember. It’d be pretty self-centered to suddenly think you just meant me.”

Harry went still. Whenever he thought Eggsy was through surprising him, he said something like this.  "You're right, of course." Harry coughed. "That I had been… using it."  He reached out to Eggsy, resting a hand on his shoulder.  "But if it was a self-centered thought it was also entirely natural. I should never have left things as I did.”

Eggsy’s smile was tight, but Harry thought it looked genuine.

“Please never doubt that I am proud of you, or that I care for you.” Harry let his fingers close around the collar of Eggsy’s tracksuit and gave it a tug.  

With a tiny sound halfway between a sigh and whine, Eggsy launched forward, careful of Harry’s still-tender ribs as he hugged him.  

For a second, Harry stayed stiff against Eggsy- because even though he had invited it Harry was still startled by the alacrity with which Eggsy embraced him, because he had thought after what happened last time that Eggsy wasn’t interested in physical affection from him, because he had convinced himself that he preferred it that way, and after the church he genuinely did. He still remembered the sick sticky feeling of all that blood drying on his hands, and suddenly he hated to see them on Eggsy. But then he let the embrace happen all the same, let his hands come to rest at the back of Eggsy’s neck and in the space between his shoulder blades.

Eggsy’s cool, damp hair carded through Harry’s fingers. He seemed a little chilled in general, and yet the closeness of him warmed Harry in places he hadn’t realized were cold. “Everything will be all right now,” Harry said. Eventually, whatever Valentine had done to the world, it would be.

*   *   *

“We’ll be all right,” Harry told Eggsy, the refrain becoming horribly, stupidly, familiar. “Merlin should have missed us already, and Lancelot and Percival will be here to retrieve us soon.”

Eggsy gave what appeared to be the most dignified sniff in his repertoire. “I ain’t speaking to you, Harry.”

Harry let out an exaggerated sigh, his face pressed into Eggsy’s hair. He was bruised and Eggsy was chilled to the bone, half-naked since Harry had stripped him out of his wet suit, the result of being thrown into a snowdrift by a man who had intended to kill him- and probably would have, had Harry not gotten to him first.

Harry, by virtue of being Arthur, didn’t spend much time in the field anymore. Merlin hadn’t had much choice but to send Harry out on this one, however- given that the contact had been an old school friend of Harry’s- and he had elected to send Eggsy along with him. Besides the expected apprehension over Harry’s first time in the field since he had almost died, Eggsy had seemed rather sanguine about the whole business- looking forward to going on a mission with Harry, Harry had thought.

And then it had all gone wrong in a reasonably predictable fashion- Harry’s old school friend was many things, but good at choosing compatriots had never been one of them, and in this case his plot to kidnap Harry for the sizable ransom he was supposedly worth had ended badly for him when the men he was working with had decided that they would get more without his involvement. And now he was dead and Eggsy was angry with Harry- though not quite so angry that he wasn’t letting Harry share body heat with him, which was a mixed blessing in itself.

“How long might I expect the silent treatment to last?” Harry asked casually.

“A while, I dunno.” Eggsy had his teeth clamped almost shut to keep from shivering. “Unless you wanna tell me just what the fuck you were thinking.”

“I thought that was relatively evident,” Harry said. Lied. He couldn’t explain what he had done to his own satisfaction- how then could he expect Eggsy to understand it? Technically both of them had bulletproof suits; technically Harry bruised more easily and healed more slowly than Eggsy did. Logically speaking, Harry had made a bad call. But logic hadn’t really entered into Harry’s thinking- if indeed it could be said that he was thinking at all- when their would-be captors had decided to shoot the young man they assumed was Harry’s bodyguard and Harry had pushed him out of the way, taking the bullet instead.

He was sore, but even with the faux-silent treatment Harry wasn’t sorry he’d done it. He was only sorry that he now had to think about why.  

Harry had already known that he cared about Eggsy, perhaps too much- but now, holding that shivering, smaller form against his chest and wishing he could have Eggsy closer still, he also knew that it was more than that. He was falling in love with Eggsy. Had already fallen, most likely. He had called it misplaced attraction- for who wouldn’t be attracted to Eggsy?- a few times. He had called it other things, too. Whatever the man on the receiving end of hero worship felt, perhaps: as though he were some sort of giant and better, better than he had ever been or could ever hope to be. But of course it was more than that, because Eggsy was more than that. He was more than beautiful, more than a bright candle in a rather dim life- and more than some stunned acolyte that Harry had somehow tricked into following him. He was... everything. 

Thinking that Eggsy had cost them their paycheck, the men had tossed him out into the snow to make their second attempt on his life, committing the ultimately fatal error of turning their backs on Harry. Harry had not killed anyone since the church; his reluctance to do violence had blown away like so much smoke at the first hint of Eggsy being in danger. And now they were alone- except for the dead bodies outside, of course- in a ski cabin with no power, and Harry had the perfect, horrible excuse to hold Eggsy in his arms and wonder just how this had happened to him.

“Thought you was dead same as they did,” Eggsy admitted, his tone caught between resentful and just plain miserable. “Knew the suit was bulletproof and it wasn’t your head, not this time, but… for a second I really thought...”

“Hush,” Harry said, as soothingly as he felt able. “I’m fine. We’re both fine.”

“Can you at least tell me you won’t do nothing like that again?”

“No,” Harry told him apologetically. With his lips buried in Eggsy’s hair, it felt like a kiss. Like far too many kisses. “I can’t tell you that.” For now all he could do was draw Eggsy closer to him and wait for rescue- but when they made it back HQ it would be another question. Harry would need to pull himself together, figure out just what he was going to do about these feelings for Eggsy.

Eggsy made an unhappy sound.

“We’re both fine,” Harry assured him again. For the most part, he even believed it.

*   *   *

What Harry ‘did’ about his feelings was ultimately… nothing. They would fade or they wouldn’t. Something would happen to force the issue or it wouldn’t. Harry certainly couldn’t act on what he felt, he knew that much. What the wide gap in years and background made difficult Harry’s position as Arthur made impossible. To be clear, none of that would stop Harry if Eggsy wanted him- he would move heaven and earth to give Eggsy what he wanted, especially if what he wanted was Harry- but it did mean that Harry didn’t dare… impose on him, no matter how much he sometimes wished to. If Eggsy did want him, he would have to make the first move.

For the most part, Harry managed to keep the whole business from his mind.

Except sometimes- like now- when Eggsy was before him and Harry couldn’t quite keep his eyes from devouring the sight of Eggsy like he was a feast and Harry was starving. Once he had accepted that he was in love with Eggsy, Harry’s mind had gone into overdrive cataloging all the things that he loved about him, and he couldn’t seem to get it to stop.

In one respect it was to Harry’s advantage; he was hyper-aware of Eggsy now, so when he came into Harry’s office after a mission looking… not quite right, Harry noticed immediately.

He put aside the report he was reading. “Are you all right, Eggsy?”

Eggsy shrugged. “You read my report.” Harry had; the three civilian deaths Eggsy was struggling with had been unavoidable, Harry knew that much. Watching Eggsy shove his hands into his pockets to keep from fidgeting, Harry also knew that it wasn’t that simple. “I know I did everything I could. But that don’t always help.”

“I understand that,” Harry said when it became obvious that Eggsy wouldn’t speak again. He did, after all. The Sun covers- the underlying knowledge of all the people who went about their lives never knowing the danger they had been in- helped, but it never did away with the guilt altogether, not when things didn't completely go his way. Harry knew how difficult it could be better than most- and Eggsy… well, Eggsy looked the way he had over Amelia, what felt like a lifetime ago now.

Eggsy’s hands came out of his pockets to wrap around his chest.

“Come here, Eggsy,” Harry said. Eggsy frowned a little, but he obeyed. Harry rose and met him, enfolding him in a hug. Eggsy remained stiff and uncertain against him for perhaps a second before he relaxed and let Harry hold him.

The closeness helped Eggsy, Harry was sure it did- but that didn’t keep a new breed of guilt from growing in him. He enjoyed holding Eggsy, far too much. It was in moments like these, when Harry was forced to acknowledge how much Eggsy must have wanted for a person in authority who actually looked out for his welfare, for a father figure- and didn’t that term sit uncomfortably in his stomach?- that he wished he had never realized how he really felt about Eggsy. Wished- failing that- that he’d put more distance between the two of them while he had the chance. After Harry had been made Arthur but before what happened at the ski cabin, Eggsy had been awkward around him for a while- as if he had thought that Harry was now too busy or too important to take an interest in him. If Harry had put paid to such displays of physical affection between them then, things might have been different now. He could still withdraw from Eggsy, of course- if he wanted to. But he emphatically did not, and what was more he knew that it would hurt Eggsy if he tried- certainly far more than it hurt Harry to stifle his more romantic impulses when Eggsy was close to him.

They were still there, of course- Harry wanted to press kisses into Eggsy’s soft hair or pink lips or the tender knuckles on his hands. Harry wanted to sit back down in his chair and pull Eggsy into his lap, or perhaps set Eggsy up on his desk and from that angle lavish more kisses on the smooth expanse of his throat.  Harry wanted a great many things.  

But he did none of them- and it was just as well, because someone rapped on the door.

Eggsy couldn’t seem to draw away from Harry fast enough. No one in Kingsman apart from Eggsy ever forgot to wait to be asked inside before walking into Harry’s office, so the odds that some agent or other would catch them in a mildly compromising position were vanishingly small- but that apparently didn’t stop Eggsy from worrying. Perhaps he was afraid to be seen by his colleagues as someone who needed- or even simply wanted- a hug from his boss after a difficult mission. Harry understood how important appearances were in the world Eggsy came from- they were hardly less so in Kingsman. It wasn’t an unreasonable concern. But that didn’t explain the faint, guilty flush coloring Eggsy’s cheeks. Was he afraid that someone walking in might take the hug for more than it was? If so, Harry could have told him not to bother worrying. Most of Eggsy’s fellow agents thought they were lovers already. It was the kind of rumor Harry knew nothing could be done about- he had even found it funny before the ski cabin. He didn’t find it funny anymore, but there was still no way to stop tongues from wagging.

Harry said none of that. He waited for Eggsy to make his way to the right side of Harry’s desk and sit down as though he had never been doing to anything different.  Then he called out, “Come in.”

*   *   *

The injuries Harry had sustained in Kentucky had ultimately been relatively minor, but he still had his bad days- specifically headaches that made him feel as though his head was going to split in two down the ugly scar that Valentine’s bullet had left him with. The roaring and throbbing in his ears, the light sensitivity, and the nausea were all part of a single delightful package- one the Kingsman doctors had assured him would become steadily less and less common as time went on. They were right, of course- but only once or twice a month still felt like once or twice too often whenever it actually happened to him.

Harry was still leaning over the toilet when he heard the light knock on his bedroom door. “Harry?” he heard Eggsy’s voice saying. “Harry?”

Harry winced, which only seemed make his head ache even more.

He had forgotten that Eggsy had stayed over that night- something about wanting to give the bruises he had gotten on his last mission a little more time to heal before he returned to the house he shared with his mother, as Harry recalled. Honestly, Harry didn’t always pay too much attention to Eggsy’s reasons when he asked to spend the night in Harry’s home, caught up as he was in the mingled pleasure and pain of having Eggsy so near.

Had Harry disturbed him all the way in the guest room? Harry couldn’t be sure, but it was late- so late it was almost morning- and between the nightmare that had woken him so suddenly and this, Harry didn’t doubt that he could have been quieter.

The door opened a crack and Eggsy peered inside, his expression contorting when he saw Harry on floor.  

Harry ignored Eggsy’s look of sympathy as best he could. “Did I wake you?” he asked, pulling back from the toilet to lean against the wall. He closed his eyes.

“I was awake,” Eggsy said. Harry heard a kind of stubborn simplicity in his tone that could have meant that he was lying and Harry had woken him, or that he had had a nightmare of his own but didn’t wish to own to it. Through the pounding in his head, Harry could hear Eggsy come closer, hear the rustle of his pajama bottoms as he dropped into a crouch at Harry’s side. “Can I get you anything?”

Harry shook his head. “It’s just a headache,” he said, just before another wave of nausea hit and rather belied the ‘just’ part.

He retched for a while, the fact that there was nothing substantial left in his stomach somehow making it worse. He hated the way he couldn’t catch his breath, the little whine that seemed to come out of his mouth without his giving it permission to.

“Shush,” Eggsy murmured, rubbing his back. “Breathing like that ain’t helping, love, trust me. Breathe with me, okay? In and out, yeah? In and out.”

It helped, for all it made Harry feel like child, and when he finally leaned back again, Eggsy went with him. When Harry didn’t shrug him off, Eggsy huddled closer, wrapping himself around Harry’s back. No matter what pain Harry was in, it seemed Eggsy always felt good- warm where Harry was chilled and cool where he was overheated.

“You don’t have to be strong for me all the time, Harry,” Eggsy said. “Okay?” His nose pressed into Harry’s shoulder. “I’m here for you too.”

Harry didn’t reply, he wasn’t sure how to. He leaned back against Eggsy and closed his eyes, and Eggsy just held him tighter. 

*   *   *

Harry woke the next morning back in his bed, but still in Eggsy’s arms. Disturbingly, he didn’t recall when or how that had happened. Harry’s headache was gone and he felt warm, secure. That in itself wasn't much of a surprise- Eggsy was curled around him, somehow managing to play the big spoon despite all the height Harry had on him. A smile tugged at Harry's lips briefly, then faded.  

He might not remember much from the night before, but he remembered Eggsy rubbing his back and calling him love very clearly. He told himself that Eggsy must have made a habit of both while caring for his little sister when she was ill, that it didn’t mean anything more than that.

For some reason, a part of Harry was slow to believe it.

Carefully, Harry disengaged- taking his time so as not to wake Eggsy. He climbed out of bed and pulled on his robe before setting about his morning routine. Normally, it pleased Harry that Eggsy slept so soundly in his presence; a spy learned quickly to wake at nearly any sound, and Harry suspected that Eggsy had gotten that particular lesson long before Kingsman. Today it just made him feel guilty. Eggsy must have been very tired, and that was at least partially Harry's fault.

Harry went downstairs and made a pot of coffee. He had even started on breakfast by the time Eggsy finally joined him.  

“Hey,” Eggsy said, still a little sleepily. “You feeling better?”

“Much better.” Harry conjured a smile. “Thank you.”

Eggsy hovered just outside the kitchen. Harry recognized the look on his face even if he couldn’t guess the cause: Eggsy was struggling with something, trying to make up his mind what to do about it. Harry had time to think that Eggsy was rarely so indecisive before Eggsy moved, unexpectedly throwing his arms around Harry’s middle and hugging him hard. Harry turned off the burners to give Eggsy his full attention, his own arms going around Eggsy before he had even decided that they should. At this point, it felt automatic. One of his hands flattened across Eggsy’s lower back while the other cupped the nape of his neck, fingertips trailing through his hair.  

Harry allowed himself, briefly, to press his nose into the top of Eggsy’s head. His hair smelled like Harry’s shampoo. “What’s this for?” he asked. They might have been becoming steadily more tactile with one another of late, but there was always a reason.

“I got something I need to tell you,” Eggsy replied. Harry felt him shrug. “Not sure if you’ll wanna do this anymore once I do.”

“Ah.” Harry swallowed heavily. “Well. You might as well tell me, then.”

For a while though, Eggsy didn’t speak. Finally, voice muffled by Harry’s robe, he said, “I don’t really know where to start.  See, I- fuck. Maybe I better just show you?” He drew back enough to meet Harry's gaze, brows lifted, eyes somber.  

Harry nodded, giving permission.

Eggsy set his jaw, leaned up, and kissed Harry softly.

It wasn’t a long kiss, just the softest pressure and then it was over. But it was difficult to mistake Eggsy’s intent, or the tenderness in his eyes. “Oh.  How-" Harry licked his lips and he could almost taste… "How long have you-”  

Eggsy shrugged. “Dunno. Always, I guess?” He ducked his head. “Everything was different after you got hurt the first time- Professor Arnold? I realized it was more than I thought and it messed me up a little. Couldn’t decide if it hurt more when you touched me or when you didn’t. But… I been sure what I want for a while now and it's to be with you. It’s what you want I ain’t sure of. But I am sure that you can’t- you can’t be how you are with me without giving me ideas, and after last night…” Light fingers played over Harry’s lapels, picking at some kind of invisible lint. “Fuck. I’m messing this up.” He met Harry’s eyes again, steady at last. “What I’m trying to say is that I’m fucking mad for you, Harry Hart, and I need you to know that.  Whatever it means.”

Harry just stared at Eggsy for a long moment, turning what he had said over in his mind and wondering how much he had hurt Eggsy by realizing his own feelings in so clumsy a fashion and by insisting to himself that he would not act on them without a clear signal from Eggsy that he felt the same. In the end, he had missed signals, hadn't he? Probably quite a few, and all because he was too caught up in his own guilt and assumptions to see what was right in front of him. “Eggsy,” he finally managed. “I’m so sorry.”

Eggsy’s mouth twisted. “Yeah. ‘Course.” He backed away. “Ain’t like I expected you to-”

Harry caught Eggsy around the waist with one hand and touched his face with the other, his forefinger tracing the curve of Eggsy’s eyebrow while his thumb brushed over Eggsy’s half-open mouth. “I’m so sorry I made you wait this long,” Harry said, and kissed Eggsy.

Eggsy returned the kiss with unhurried sweetness, the touch of his lips as unbelievably warm and right as his embrace had always been. When he drew away his eyes were sparkling and a wide smile broke across his face.  "You too?"

“Me too,” Harry said, and laughed, and pulled Eggsy into his arms.