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Bend and Stretch

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“Terribly sorry to interrupt,” Harry says mildly. The young man occupied with breaking into his car has the decency to look abashed.

And then before Harry can say anything else he goes legging it off into the night: swinging round a lamppost, bounding halfway up a wall and pulling himself the rest of the way, sprinting along it, executing a flawless vault down and somersault handspring onto the footpath that runs alongside and two metres below the gymnasium car park, and running swiftly into the distance, horrible sports cap glowing white in the gloom.

“Well,” Harry says to the car. “That was exciting.”

The car doesn't admit to an opinion.

***

Two nights later he comes outside to a very similar scene, with the addition that the young man is dangling, surly-faced, from the hands of a uniformed officer of the law.

“Good evening,” Harry says, drawing on his finest military bearing and poshest accent. “I see you’ve found my driver. How can we help you?”

“Your driver?” the constable says, giving Harry a deeply dubious expression. She takes in his suit, shined shoes, and carefully regimented hair and sighs.

The would-be car thief is giving Harry a very similar face. The light thrown by the streetlamp gives his fine bone structure and generous full lips a beatific warm glow at odds with the panicked look in his eyes.

“Of course,” Harry says, summoning up every claim he's ever had to suavity and giving her a small all grown-ups together smile. “He was getting into my car, wasn't he?”

She gives the young man a little shake. “Unwin?”

The young man - Unwin, and evidently something of a usual suspect - gives Harry another long distrustful look and says, slowly, “I told you I wasn't doing nothing wrong.”

The officer purses her lips but seems to accept she can't do anything further. She drops Unwin unceremoniously and he squirrels away from her, closer to Harry, narrow shoulders hunching in the hoodie he's wearing, too thin for the cold autumn night. She gives a sharp nod and walks away, reaching for the radio at her shoulder, the crackling it makes fading as she gets further away.

“Well, then,” Harry says pleasantly, and rests a speculative eye on the young man.

“Fanks,” he says, looking after her; it's absent, not even really registering Harry as there. “Would've been prison, this time.”

He turns around and looks at Harry properly. He looks defensive for a moment and then he straightens up and visibly pulls a brash, streetsmart mask over his troubled, pretty face. “What you do that for? You don't know me.”

“I have a proposition for you,” Harry says, and Unwin’s face flashes with anger before it’s replaced by a watchful blankness. Harry takes a small but reassuring step back as he turns and gestures at the gym. “Did you know we train British Gymnastics national team candidates here?”

***

“I think this is a bad idea,” Merlin announces. Eggsy slouches and his pretty face takes on a sneering expression.

“I think young Eggsy here will work out very well,” Harry says. He was rather surprised Eggsy turned up this morning, to be honest, but he's pleased he did. He doesn't put a hand on Eggsy's shoulder, but he stands near and he's almost subconsciously aware that Eggsy leans very slightly closer. “Two hundred quid a week, we've agreed.”

Merlin looks livid. “Harry -”

“I’m going to introduce Eggsy round,” Harry interrupts. “Want to come?”

***

Charlie is the most terrible little arsehole, but he’s had the best training and coaches money could buy since he was very small; now, like Eggsy in his early twenties, he’s bloody good at gymnastics. Between him and Roxy, British Gymnastics are hopeful they might even have another Olympic medal or two to show off in the next few years.

“This is a fucking joke,” Charlie says, looking Eggsy up and down. “Are you fucking joking?”

“Language, Charlie, please,” Harry says mildly. “Mr Unwin has kindly agreed to teach you his skills.”

“He looks like he just crawled out from under the nearest rock,” Charlie says, with the elaborately dismissive rudeness only extremely good breeding can instill. He glowers at Harry. “What can I learn from that? Bloody Dad’s going to hear about this.”

He stomps off. Eggsy, Harry, Merlin, and Roxy watch as the young spotter at the uneven bars offers him the chalk, fearfully, and he snaps something at her and takes off his jacket.

“I think it sounds fun,” Roxy says, politely, although the look she gives Harry is rather careful. She’s a wonderful talent, is Roxy, her movements crisp and beautiful and flawlessly executed, and with plenty of personality when she forgets her well-brought-up self-consciousness: but Harry has been searching for a while for some way to add a bit more fun and a bit less nerviness to her work; something to really set her apart from the other women. She holds her hand out to Eggsy and says, “Hi, Eggsy. I’m Roxanne, but call me Roxy.”

“Hiya,” Eggsy says, and shakes her hand. Harry’s pleased to see his gaze doesn’t waver from her face, no distasteful perving on Roxy’s well-honed body in her tight practice leotard and stretchy yoga pants.

“Roxy, why don’t you make a start on your warm-ups,” Harry says. “Eggsy, I thought today you might just stay with me, see how we do things around here, and then perhaps later you’d favour us with a small display of your work.”

“Yeah, whatever,” Eggsy says, with all the enthusiasm of a man on the way in front of a firing squad.

Harry nods and says, “We usually start with a cup of tea.” He leads Eggsy through the open, rather charmless space of the gym, with its sets of apparatus in rows and the two sprung floors. He turns at the door of the small kitchen and rest area to let Eggsy know he can help himself to the refreshments.

Eggsy’s gaze rises rather slowly from Harry’s arse: he goes an awkward dull red, and follows Harry into the kitchen.

How very interesting.

***

There's a great deal more distasteful perving going on by the afternoon; Harry isn't proud of himself, but what can one do, faced with such temptation?

“Do you mind?” Roxy says anxiously, patting Eggsy on the shoulder. “It's just easier to understand what you're actually doing in a physiological sense, if you're wearing this.”

Eggsy shrugs. He looks rather self-conscious, his shoulders rounded and his hands hovering over his crotch area - a mistake, as it rather draws the eye, and Harry has to turn a choke on air into a coughing fit, giving Merlin an excuse to hit him ‘helpfully’ and quite hard between the shoulder blades - but he's looking sweetly at Roxy and appears to have decided he likes her, and therefore, apparently, nothing is too much trouble.

The outfit is revealing. Harry is perfectly used to seeing spectacularly built young men wearing not much, of course, but something about Eggsy's brash attitude and obvious unfamiliarity with the clothing seems to emphasise it, adding a piquant sensuality.

He's wearing the usual tight singlet, a little too small and suggesting the flatness of his stomach and flawlessly defined pecs and hard little nipples, broader shoulders and a stockier chest than Harry would have expected, given that Eggsy looked almost skinny in his awful street clothes; he'd been expecting a leaner, even wiry strength but Eggsy is pleasingly solid. What's hidden is almost more exciting than his flaunted, bare arms, smooth biceps down to hairy powerful forearms. Eggsy has surprisingly elegant, small hands.

As for the leggings - well, Harry takes a long look at how they lovingly hug the shapely, taut muscle of Eggsy's thighs and has to think about something else for fear of embarrassing himself.

“S’all right,” Eggsy says diffidently. He gives Harry a swift glance, an expectant gleam in his eyes; Harry stares back, keeping his eyes austerely above collarbone level, and Eggsy says almost combatively, “I'll show you what I can do then, yeah?”

Harry clears the apparatus for him and the gymnasts cluster with bright-eyed nosiness. Apart from Charlie: he's standing in the door of the changing room, stiff with anger.

Harry is curious to see what Eggsy plans to show off. There's a big difference between what Eggsy does, the lovely flow and dynamism and spontaneity of using whatever crosses his path to move around and over and keep going forward, and the control and skill of learning each static apparatus the gymnasts compete on.

The lad has a swagger to him, an unerring physical confidence Harry can't help but find highly attractive; he clearly isn't worried about what he's going to do as a display. He's been watching Eggsy all day, watching him take in the room, possibilities and distances, with evaluating eyes, watching him get close to the pieces of equipment and then dart away before anyone could really notice him.

“Okay?” Eggsy says to him.

“Please,” Harry says and gestures, “the floor is yours.” Roxy, hovering, gives Eggsy a supportive grin and Harry escorts her to the centre of the room where she allows herself to be folded into the pack of younger girls who worship her as a goddess.

Eggsy gives him a cheeky smile and a wink, and is off.

He is - amazing. There's no other word for it, Harry is breathless with the lyricism and grace of Eggsy's movements as he swings and vaults and bounds round the room as if part bird, light and easy and as comfortable flinging himself through the air as he is on his feet, or indeed on his hands, arms straining as he lowers himself, body flawlessly straight and legs poised, before rebounding back into a handspring.

More to the point, there's an infectious joy to him that makes Harry smile with delight and novelty. Eggsy is grinning as he goes through a fluid routine, his muscles flexing and his lithe form twisting and bending, the thrill of what he’s doing writ through every lovely line of his body.

The trust he has in himself is absolute: the room breaks into immediate applause when he throws himself fearlessly backwards off the pommel horse, turns in the air and lands in a smooth back roll, flips up and kicks off the wall at impressive height, somersaults back over the pommel and sprints for the high bar which he curls and curves around like a kid messing on the swings.

He drops off the high bar, does a half-twist, and lands on three points, feet splayed and hand just lightly touching the ground in front of him, balanced and poised. That seems to be the end of five minutes of flawless, breathless freerunning and everyone claps; not politely but enthusiastically.

Harry can’t help but notice what an extremely advantageous position it is for showing off Eggsy’s round, high arse - and, having noticed, can’t help but wonder what those firm cheeks would feel like under his hands, Harry massaging and stroking them, pulling them apart to lick and fuck between. Eggsy comes across cocky but he has that unexpected vein of sweetness he’s shown with Roxy: Harry feels with slightly dizzying surety it wouldn’t be so very hard to make the lad beg.

“So?” Eggsy says challengingly, returning to Harry. He turns and gives a pointed stare to where Charlie is leaning in a doorway, visibly furious. There's no doubting Eggsy's skill, informal as it is - and that he has a charismatic speed and watchability that’s far from Charlie's technically wonderful but soulless performances.

Eggsy is breathing hard, beaming with boyish happiness at the excited reception, glowing with sweat and flushed charmingly pink. He's grabbed his hoodie and holds it casually in front of himself, but not before Harry notices a bulge at the groin of his tight leggings that wasn't there before and almost goes dry-mouthed, not only at the sight but at the idea that the flashy, absurdly competent display was a turn-on for Eggsy, that he enjoyed himself, perhaps enjoyed being watched.

He's the most beautiful, sexiest thing Harry has ever seen, and Harry is absolutely fucked with how badly he wants to fuck him.

Eggsy looks at him and double-takes and Harry realises too late that everything he was thinking is emblazoned across his face. Eggsy stares at him and smiles with slow, tentative welcome.

Roxy clears her throat. They both ignore her and Harry smiles back and says in a low voice, “That was marvellous, Eggsy. Thank you.”

Eggsy blossoms under the praise and Harry looks into his green eyes and has a sinking feeling he might not be going to stop at simple lust.

***

It’s strange how quickly Eggsy becomes a fixture. He comes back once that first week, three times the next, and the following week he's there every day, hanging around when Merlin opens up, apparently, and ready with a cup of tea when Harry rolls in - only slightly later.

Harry doesn't comment on it, just asks Merlin to up the amount of cash in the white envelopes he leaves in Eggsy's hoodie pocket on a Friday afternoon.

Eggsy seems to need a while to trust, but once he does - he smiles and chats and has a sweet, generous nature, the furthest thing from the lout Harry found trying to nick his car not once but twice, so shiny Harry almost worries about touching him in case he leaves smeary fingerprints.

He would worry, that is, but - Eggsy so responds so nicely to it, the fleeting touches on his shoulders and back, the casual conversation, any kindness or care or attention he's shown by any of the staff or gymnasts, as if his heart were an open door just waiting for people to walk through.

The only fly in the ointment is Charlie.

Eggsy is working mostly with Roxy and Harry, and then by the fifth week by extension the older teenagers who want to follow the techniques and moves Roxy uses. Roxy comes on marvellously under Eggsy's gentle tutelage and - barring one day when she comes in with bruised and scraped knees and has to be told strictly that it is not the idea that she actually go out freerunning in the cold hard world - very soon her routines are starting to get that little bit of sparkle and confidence Harry wanted, an edge to her moves, a more daring approach to risk.

Charlie refuses to have anything whatsoever to do with Eggsy, and Harry does indeed have to endure several long rants from Hesketh Senior on the precious potential of his only son and outrage and how dare you and blah blah blah. (Hesketh Senior is rarely in the country for more than twelve hours together, so it's all phonecalls: Harry drops the phone on the desk to witter on and gets on with some competition paperwork.)

But Charlie's recalcitrance isn't a surprise. The surprise is in Eggsy's aptitude for helping with the younger gymnasts. It's Merlin who points it out to Harry, coming over to him where he's just finished walking one of the up-and-comers through a modification of his rings routine, and nodding to the other side of the gym.

“He’s got quite the touch with the weans, your Eggsy.”

Rather startled, Harry looks over to see Eggsy standing with Roxy and Angelina, only nine but one of their more gifted girls - if she could be convinced of it. Angelina is smiling up at Eggsy while the three of them chat; next, Eggsy demonstrates a kicky, bouncing one-armed handstand with dramatically arching back and his legs bending round into the same curve as a counterbalance. Angelina tries it and Harry watches her usually-serious little face turn open and giggling as Roxy and Eggsy hang onto her ankles and show her what to do.

“He’s like this with all of them?” Harry says. He’d wonder how he missed it, but he has a nagging suspicion the answer might be that he only has eyes for Eggsy and seldom for whomsoever he happens to be talking to, and he doesn’t wish to follow that train of thought too far down the tracks with Merlin and his cynical little mind standing next to him and judging away.

“He is,” Merlin says; he’s giving Harry a disapproving gimlet look, and almost certainly judging away anyway.

“That’s just what I planned,” Harry lies. “Give them all another perspective on gymnastics. Bring a bit of fun back into it.”

“And what about you?” Merlin says.

“What about me?”

“Are you having fun, Harry?”

“Oh, yes,” Harry says. “A professional and appropriate amount of fun. Seeing my gymnasts improve is lots of fun.”

“That is a pleasant young man,” Merlin says with a flat, unimpressed stare. “He prevented at least three lots of tears in Gazelle’s sixes to nines this morning and we’re getting more boys in the under-fifteens classes every week he’s here. Apparently this freerunning is the latest thing; we’re cool at last, Harry.”

“Just what we've always wanted,” Harry says, guiltily aware that while he doesn't trouble himself with the usual hobbyist intake, it's that commercial side of the gym that subsidises the work he does training and guiding the ones with competitive-level skill. “He's very flexible.”

He must have said that last in a slightly too dreamy-eyed way because Merlin gives him an unimpressed look and goes on as if he hasn't spoken. “I’m going to ask Eggsy if he’s interested in the coach training programme. I’ve got my eye on you, you dirty old scrote.”

“He’s a big boy,” Harry points out, although he’s rather touched at Merlin’s deciding to take Eggsy under his wing - and pleased, as well. Harry is Head Coach but everyone knows perfectly well it’s Merlin who keeps the place going, knows every bureaucratic twist and turn of national and international competitive gymnastics, as well as where all the bodies are buried. If Harry’s belief in Eggsy’s potential is grounded in reality rather than just rampant shag-bias, Merlin’s advocacy and help will be invaluable. “But I’ve no intention of toying with him.”

“All right,” Merlin says in an unbecoming, begrudging sort of way. “But I better not find any evidence of my gym equipment being used for immoral purposes, Harry, I know what you’re like.”

“How dare you,” Harry says unconvincingly.

Merlin heads off, grumbling, and Harry goes over to where Angelina is looking quite transformed by success and attention. “That looked very good,” he says to her. “Might be a nice move for your beam routine.”

“Thanks, Harry!” she chirps, and dashes off.

“Speaking of beam routine…” Roxy says. “I should go back to work. Can we go through the switch leap to walkover again? It’s not quite feeling right.”

“Of course,” he says. “I’ll be along shortly.”

And that leaves them alone.

“Is it okay?” Eggsy says warily, looking at Harry like he expects to be told off, already puffing himself up to put on a show of not caring, if the answer is ‘no’. “Me showing Angelina and the other kids some stuff?”

“It’s fine,” Harry says, briefly surprised at the way his voice drops into a soft, reassuring tone, although he must admit he likes how it makes Eggsy relax. “Do you enjoy working with children?”

“Better than prison, innit,” Eggsy says, with big innocent eyes, and goes so far as to snigger when Harry gives him an ironic look. “No, yeah, it’s nice, helping the little ones,” he says, then very casually, “how big do you start them?”

“The youngest class is four-year-olds,” Harry tells him. “It's just running about and a bit of tumbling, but it's a start.” He studies Eggsy for a moment, the way he hangs on the words and looks disappointed when Harry says four, and says, doubtfully, “Do you - have a child?”

Eggsy breaks into a wide, unbearably sweet and affectionate smile, and even as Harry is ridiculously touched he can't lie there's a wave of disappointment at the idea of Eggsy being in a relationship, having a family of his own already.

“Yeah, I got my little sister, Daisy,” he says enthusiastically, and Harry can smile back. “She's two.”

“Two is a bit small for classes,” Harry admits. “But you should bring her round, introduce us.”

“Yeah?” Eggsy says, and Harry feels legitimately quite faint as that adorable smile is turned on him, becomes something intimate. “I wasn't sure if, you know.”

“Of course,” Harry says. “No harm in getting to know the place, and in a couple of years she could start lessons.”

“In a couple of years?” Eggsy says. He gives Harry a look from under his eyelashes that could be coy, but Harry isn't sure; he thinks it might be more like uncertainty, really not having ever thought that far ahead possibly about anything at all, disbelief that Harry could really be thinking that far ahead, about Eggsy.

“Of course,” he says again. “You’re already becoming part of the furniture.”

“Am I?” Eggsy says, and Harry confirms it only partly because it’s true, and much more to make Eggsy smile again.

***

Of course, ‘part of the furniture’ in a gymnastics club means nothing so much as a person who actually does gymnastics. Even if he only qualifies as a teacher for the little ones, Eggsy needs to have considerably more grasp of technique and approved exercises than he has currently, with his self-taught, Youtube-honed freerunning experience.

Harry realises Roxy has oh-so-kindly taken it upon herself to start to bestow some of these skills upon Eggsy when he walks in on the two of them messing around on the pommel horse.

Nothing wrong with that. Or, really, with Eggsy's shirtlessness as he practices, his smooth strong upper body gleaming pale with sweat in the early morning sun slanting into the concourse from the high windows.

Harry tips up his travel mug in desperation, and sighs when there's no more coffee to fortify him to deal with this unexpected assault on his equanimity, so early in the day.

“Morning, Harry,” Merlin calls from the office door. He’s smirking.

Roxy and Eggsy turn at hearing him and Roxy waves. Eggsy leans on the pommel horse and grins up at Harry with an adorable pink tinge on his cheekbones. His hair is damp and raked carelessly off his forehead; Harry’s fingers itch with wanting to run through it.

“Looking good, Eggsy,” Merlin says as he joins them.

“Feeling good, Merlin,” Eggsy says, and he looks like he feels very good indeed, entirely comfortable and at home in the gym, in the tight practice clothes and handling the apparatus familiarly. Harry is suffused with a quiet, warm delight at it. As well as some other pleasant, tingling feelings. Slightly further south.

“I’ve been trying to show Eggsy some moves,” Roxy says. She pats the pommel horse and adds slyly, “Although of course since it’s not part of the women’s competition…”

She twinkles up at Harry and Eggsy looks hopeful. Harry is obviously lagging slightly behind because Merlin hoots and says, “That’s the way! How about it, Harry? Show the lad how it’s done.”

“Yeah,” Eggsy says. “Been waiting to see what you can do, Harry.” His eyes are very vivid, a darkened emerald; he’s looking at Harry like they’re suddenly the only two people in the whole wide room.

“Very well, then,” Harry says, after just a moment too long gazing at one another. “Anything to educate.” He hands the mug to Merlin, undoes his jacket button and goes over to the chalk stand.

“Oh, no,” Roxy says, laughing. “Surely not in your suit, Harry?”

“Certainly in my suit,” Harry says with dignity, dusting up his hands, the milky-bland smell transporting him instantly back to his own competitive days, thirty years and more ago now. He’s well aware most of the gym’s population finds his habit of showing up every day in an immaculate bespoke suit, shirt, and tie to be peculiar at best, but he’s a traditionalist: being properly attired is about showing his sport and his gymnasts the respect they deserve. “My suit is more than equal to the challenge.” Since he’s not exactly going to be doing the perfect splits he used to be able to in his younger days, at least.

“Shut up!” Eggsy says, delighted. “You really gonna whizz about dressed like that?” He drags his gaze up and down Harry slowly, like he’s enjoying the permissiveness of the moment.

“Give the man some space,” Merlin says and shoos Eggsy and Roxy back a few steps. Roxy’s eyes are bright with professional interest: Harry’s never performed for her before, never put on a show for any of the young people he’s coaching at the moment.

The look in Eggsy’s eyes is interest too, of a more personal kind, and his gaze rests heavy between Harry’s shoulder blades, making Harry throw a little flourish into his movements as he does some brief stretching, warms up his arms and thighs.

He does test the range of motion of the suit, but it’s so well made and beautifully-fitted that it’s fine for his purposes. It’s all vanity: he does keep his hand in, late at night once everyone has left, and he’s rather proud still to have the same waist and neck measurements as when he left the army.

“For England, Lizzie and St George,” he says and gives the three of them a little bow before he hoists himself slowly up onto the pommel, feeling his arms strain against the fabric of his shirt and jacket sleeves. He tenses his stomach muscles and swings straight into a short straightforward routine focusing on moving smoothly along the horse and circling with power rather than flashy scissoring legs and flairs.

He finishes with a poker-straight controlled handstand and topples slowly to a solid dismount.

Then he turns around and favours his clapping audience with a cool smile as he brushes down his jacket and shoots his cuffs. Merlin rolls his eyes but Roxy is looking impressed and Eggsy - Eggsy looks positively starry-eyed.

Harry can’t resist spreading his arms. “As you can see, the suit is quite unharmed. Ye of little faith.”

Eggsy takes the offered opportunity to look Harry over, his gaze so hot Harry swears it almost has the weight of a touch on his skin. Eggsy says raspily, “Yeah, it looks good.”

“Bloody nora,” Merlin mutters. “Roxy, would you mind stepping into my office for a moment? I’d like to go over your practice schedule.”

“God, yes,” she says fervently, eyeing Harry skeptically. “I mean, yes, of course.”

They make their escape and Eggsy steps up to Harry, his eyes gleaming. “Is you gonna teach me how to do all that shit, then? You know, for my exams.”

“No time like the present,” Harry says softly. He does take his jacket off now and throws it over the end of the horse. Eggsy looks like he’s barely breathing, follows Harry as he goes back to the chalk stand. “Have you ever used anything to improve your grip when freerunning?”

“No,” Eggsy says. He lets Harry take his hands in his and guide them into the bowl and Harry swallows as his fingers curl tentatively around Harry’s, in the chalk dust. “Gloves, sometimes. When it’s cold.”

“You’ll find it helpful,” Harry says briskly. “Useful habit to get into.”

“Okay,” Eggsy says, and rubs and claps his hands in the chalk the way he saw Harry do earlier; a quick learner, Harry notes with approval. Harry turns back to the apparatus and is pulled back by a hesitant, “Harry -”

“Yes?” he prompts, when Eggsy doesn’t seem inclined to go on.

“Nothing,” Eggsy says, looking a bit mulish. Harry raises an eyebrow and waits and Eggsy blurts, “If I fall on my arse or something -”

Harry laughs. “You will,” he says dryly. “Everyone does. Part of the learning process.” Eggsy looks genuinely torn between relief and affront and Harry doesn’t need to make an effort for his voice to go gentle as he adds, “Don’t worry.”

Eggsy gives him a narrow-eyed look, and then one of his sweet smiles as he seems to decide Harry really won't laugh at him. As if Harry could, with the memory of that look keeping him warm.

“Hop up here,” Harry says, patting the horse. “We’ll start with the basic motion, mounting and dismounting come later.”

“I'm always up for learning how to mount,” Eggsy murmurs, pulls himself easily to a sit between the pommels and slants another look at Harry, mixed coyness and uncertainty; a vague reach towards seduction. And pointless, since Harry will have his hands all over Eggsy in short order: what else do they need?

“First you learn this,” Harry says in a low voice. He vaults easily over the horse and lands lightly behind Eggsy, stepping up behind his back.

Harry places his hands over Eggsy's and positions them in a tight grip round the pommel, his fingers sliding between Eggsy’s. Eggsy heaves an unsteady breath and looks down; his back along Harry’s front is warm and vital and his eyelashes cast spiky shadows along his fine, high cheekbones; Harry wants to press kisses along the extraordinary line of his jaw.

“Lift yourself here,” Harry says. “Steady from the core, look straight ahead, legs out front, pointed toes. You’re aiming for strong continuous lines through the arms and back. Think about demonstrating strength to the judges.”

“Like this?” Eggsy says. He throws a flirty, irrepressible look at Harry and flexes his arms, taking his weight onto his firm grip on the pommels slowly, with perfect control, his muscles working beautifully. Harry finds he’s breathing rather shallowly and forces himself to take a slow steady breath; he can smell Eggsy’s clean fresh scent as he starts to sweat.

Eggsy is every bit the picture of the elegant, dynamic gymnast, but more than that he’s completely himself, confident to the point of cockiness and with a sense of bouncy, uncontained power, like he’s about to fling himself into movement even as he holds the pose.

“Exactly like that,” Harry says. His hands are roaming and he finds his palm sliding flat on the sweat-sheened plane of Eggsy’s taut stomach, feeling the tension and fluttering in his muscles as he holds a crisp 90 degree bend at the hips.

Eggsy makes a bitten-off moan and his elbows give out. He crashes onto his arse and gives Harry an accusing look.

Harry bites his lip on a rueful smile and Eggsy dissolves into a sweet responding grin. He leans back a tiny bit; not resting against Harry, but close enough that the idea is there in both of them. Harry can feel the phantom weight of Eggsy’s head on his breastbone, imagine folding Eggsy into his arms, Eggsy’s head tucked under his chin.

God, it would be good. But they’re in public and Harry is dimly aware of the bustle of the gym coming to morning life around them.

He steps back and says at something resembling normal pitch and volume, “You can see the way of it, anyway. The next step would usually be to learn the leg circles and moves on the floor before transferring back up to the apparatus, but I daresay you're ahead of the curve there. Teaching anything is mainly about breaking down the steps and moves, tailored to the student.”

“Yeah,” Eggsy says. “Thanks, Harry. Pretty flattered to have got you here this early in the morning.”

“Noticed that, did you,” Harry says dryly. He’s almost always here before ten, for God’s sake. Just because Merlin gets in basically in the middle of the night. “I can always make an exception, if you’d like.”

“Oh, yeah,” Eggsy says, brightening. “If you don’t mind. I know I got loads to learn.” His words are matter-of-fact but his smile is something inviting, even secret; more appealing than it should be.

“I don’t mind at all,” he says, instead of saying something neutral and businesslike.

“Harry!”

Speaking of mornings, there’s a rude awakening. Harry turns slowly, conscious of Eggsy sliding off the horse in the corner of his vision, grabbing a t-shirt and pulling it on over a chest flushed burning red with embarrassment.

“Good morning,” he says.

“If you're quite finished,” Charlie spits. “Sorry to interrupt this important work, Coach -”

“Charlie,” Harry says, in a low commanding tone. He rests a disapproving, steady look on the wretched little pissant and Charlie at least subsides into silence, although he keeps the sullen, furious expression. “I'm perfectly aware we’re coming up to your time. I'll join you on the main floor shortly.”

He's abruptly rather tired, the rush of working with Eggsy replaced by the headache that's managing Charlie's shitty attitude as much as nurturing his talent. He gives Eggsy a brief nod, acknowledged by a jerk of Eggsy's head, and heads for the kitchen to make another quick coffee to help him through Charlie's floor routine session.

He slows when he hears Charlie go over to Eggsy, registering the drip of disdain and ugly jealousy in his voice before he makes out the tail end of the words, “Lingering like some big steaming shit that won't flush -”

How fucking dare he. Harry is surprised by the strength of the anger and sheer dislike that cuts through him when he understands what he's hearing and he turns smartly on his heel.

Eggsy catches his eye and shakes his head. He’s squaring up calmly but he doesn't look even as bothered as Harry is, looks as if the cruel, vulgar comment is rolling off him without leaving a stain. He sounds almost amused as he says, “How about you shut the fuck up?”

Harry cuts in. “Charlie!” he says, letting his tone whipcrack his displeasure and authority.

Charlie turns not with any guilt, only regret at having been caught, his would-be handsome face caught in a sneer. “Oh, come on, Harry. He's a complete sodding waste of time, you must see that.”

“I don't,” Harry says clearly. “Not that it's any of your bloody business. This is not the kind of language or behaviour we tolerate in this gym.”

He's distantly aware of Eggsy fading out of the conversation, moving away as if it's nothing to do with him. Of course, nobody ends up with freerunning skills such as Eggsy has without being the kind of person who knows which battles to pick and when to vacate the field.

“You must be joking,” Charlie says. “I'm your top gymnast!”

“Things can change,” Harry says and Charlie at last is stared down, although his jaw is set in a way that suggests the argument isn't won. “Manners maketh man, Charlie. Do you know what that means?”

***

The private lessons prove excellent motivation to get into work a bit earlier.

Once Eggsy has a grasp on the basics of the pommel, they move to floor work. This seems to be both more natural for Eggsy and more difficult to grasp - if there ain't no wall to go over, what's the point, Harry? - and in any case he doesn’t need to be able to do the more complicated and precise twists and somersaults, just recognise and name them. Initially Roxy acts as willing model, and then some of the teenage boys who’ve started to slope around after Eggsy help as well, the ones who will never set the gymnastics world alight but are good enough to be regionally or even nationally competitive.

They’re useful for guiding Eggsy to understand the role of the coach, as much psychological as it is technical: it doesn’t take long before Harry starts to hear Eggsy taking on the younger boys the way Harry does the older, showing them a move and then encouraging them on, quiet patience in every line of the body that otherwise all but vibrates with energy.

He’s a quick study. He doesn’t need Harry, not really.

But they carry on. Sitting with Eggsy on the sprung floor, providing resistance for his stretches; helping him jump up and both of them collapsing into laughter when Eggsy needs a push to get swinging on the still rings; helping Eggsy into the harness so he can fling himself high and fast into a vault.

Outside, as well. Taking Eggsy for lunch and sharing information and, yes, all right, the most outrageous gossip Harry knows on who’s who in British gymnastics; letting Eggsy perch on his desk and helping him fill out the reams of paperwork to get Eggsy approved for working with children and on the roster as one of their trainee coaches; following Eggsy to the places where Eggsy likes to practice his freerunning and watching with heart in mouth and cock hard in trousers while Eggsy races through fearless, beautiful sequences to an intricate, instinctive map that seems to live in his head and hands and feet.

And always, his hands on Eggsy's body, Eggsy's ragged breathing and sweat-slick skin, his pushing himself to new feats that he only seems to understand as special when he sees Harry's smile. Even outside lesson times, Eggsy stands slightly too close, fixes his gaze brazenly on Harry's mouth as they chat. He's an engaging young man, and if Harry wonders sometimes what brought him to a place where he was so close to going to prison, he never asks.

He's not entirely sure what they're doing. Some days it feels like amusement, a dance where the music will never end; others it seems like nothing so much as deliciously extended foreplay that will end, must end, in bed. It's mostly enjoyable: he's content to wait it out.

***

Eggsy has been with them about two months when Harry is sitting in Merlin’s office going over the Worlds qualification schedules, when little Natasha flings open the door of the office, looking torn between being scandalously excited and upset, and blurts, “Eggsy and Charlie are fighting!”

“What?” Merlin exclaims, biting down on the swearing just in time, but Harry is already out of his seat and racing into the concourse.

He'd hoped she was overreacting but shit, they are, already down on the bare hard floor between the apparatus and grappling, rolling around with a circle of bloodthirsty teenage beasts egging them on and Roxy standing on the sidelines and yelling at them to stop, although wisely keeping her distance.

Harry has no such concerns and dives into the fray, followed swiftly by Merlin. Eggsy and Charlie have youth and rage on their sides but Harry and Merlin have bulk, experience and grim righteousness on theirs and in short order Harry is holding back a struggling Eggsy, arms iron-band tight around his heaving chest - not the way he’s imagined having Eggsy in his arms, a distant dismayed part of him notes - and Merlin has Charlie pushed back from the ring with one hand on his chest and the other on his wrist.

“Settle down,” Harry says in Eggsy's ear. “Bloody stop, Eggsy, what the fuck were you thinking?” Eggsy doesn't stop trying to frantically break Harry's hold but his breathing slows a little and he turns his face into Harry as if he's listening, calming down. Harry feels his arms soften despite himself, even though he’s so disappointed and angry he can barely choke the words out.

“He fucking started it!” Charlie shouts, bloody-nosed, “Fucking chav, he's got no right to be here!” and Merlin looks round, stone-faced, catches Harry's eye and jerks his head unsubtly.

Christ but he doesn't actually want to throw Eggsy out. Not bodily, not now, not at all.

He does it anyway.

***

“What the fuck, Eggsy?” Harry says when they’re outside, letting Eggsy go. He’s not shouting, gentlemen do not shout in public, but he can hear how hard his voice is, laced with curt disapproval and flat disbelief. “You throw away this opportunity, for a fucking punch-up?”

He wants Eggsy to have a sensible explanation, but even if he can explain there can be no excuse: the situation is so much more complex than a trainee coach fighting with one of the gymnasts under their care, but on paper - it can't look anything but bad.

“I ain’t done nuffin’,” Eggsy says, seemingly on reflex, facing Harry with a dead-eyed glare. Harry searches for the Eggsy he knows underneath the defensiveness, and he thinks he finds it; just a touch, something injured and despairing under Eggsy’s crossed arms and the stubborn set of his mouth, and despite his anger it's automatic to reach for Eggsy.

He's so used now to Eggsy moving welcomingly into his touch that it hurts when Eggsy flinches away like a scared animal and his hand falls uselessly between them.

“Why did you do it?” Harry says, meaning it only in general terms, but Eggsy seems to take it as blame and he rears back further, his eyes wide and hurt for a bare moment before anger sweeps him.

“Yeah, the chav started it, innit,” he says bitterly. “Fucking should have known.”

Eggsy is looking at Harry as if he's been - as if he's the one who’s disappointed Eggsy, let him down, and Harry hurts with both betrayal and the nagging sense that there's something here he doesn't understand, why he's lost Eggsy's trust so horribly quickly.

Eggsy gives him a last look and turns away, exploding into movement the way Harry has seen so many time. Harry calls after him, echoed by, “Eggsy!”

Roxy is hurrying out of the gym, immediately hunching against the cold in her thin leotard. She stops beside Harry, staring after Eggsy's running figure with a look of mixed fury and dismay.

“Did he start it?” Harry says quietly.

“No!” She says immediately, indignant and defensive on Eggsy's behalf. “I mean - yes, sort of, but - didn't he tell you?”

“No,” Harry says but she's already carrying on, her words tumbling over one another in her urgency to excuse Eggsy.

“Angelina bumped into Charlie while he was doing his floor exercises, she shouldn't have been there but you know what the little ones are like, and Charlie just went off on her! It was awful, he was horrible, he called her a stupid little bitch and said she should give up gymnastics now since she can't even walk straight! Didn't you see her crying?”

“No,” Harry says. “I went straight to Eggsy.”

She looks at him and he may be paranoid but it feels accusing. “I'm going in, it's cold,” she says. “I'll ring Eggsy later. He can come back, Harry?”

“I don't see how we can,” Harry says hopelessly. “Coaches can't go round beating up the gymnasts, Roxy.”

“It's Charlie you should be getting rid of,” she says sharply.

He draws himself up. “Thank you, Roxy. Beam practice, if you would; set a good example.”

She looks upset but the cold wins out. She stares after Eggsy for a moment and then trails inside.

He looks after Eggsy for rather longer before he follows her.

***

“Harry?” Roxy pokes her head round the door of the office where he and Merlin are finishing off for the evening and getting ready to go for a well-deserved pint; soothing the troubled feelings of the kids in the aftermath of the fight had taken ages and Merlin has been on tenterhooks all day waiting for the inevitable tirade from Hesketh Senior, which oddly has yet to come.

Harry dredges up a smile for her. “Yes?”

She steps into the office. Her hands are clasped demurely in front of her body but tension is running through her; he thinks it's only her superb control that's stopping her from wringing her hands.

“I'm worried about Eggsy,” she says. “I've been texting him all day and then I tried to ring, but he's not answering.”

“I think perhaps we should give him a bit of time to calm down,” Merlin interjects gently. “We still need to work out what to do ourselves, Roxy. Give the lad some space.”

Harry is watching her more closely. He says, “What are you worried about? Tell me, Roxy.”

“It’s his step-dad,” she blurts. “He's never said that much but I think he's - not very nice to Eggsy.”

Harry shares a grim look with Merlin, already rising out of his seat. “I’ll go round and talk to him.”

“Harry,” Merlin says, but it's a weak protest at best, a troubled expression on his face, one Harry echoes internally: although he and Eggsy have become close in a way, he's never been so forward as to enquire into Eggsy's home life – other than to ask after Eggsy's young sister, once Eggsy had mentioned her – and Eggsy has never volunteered any information to him.

Harry finds his coat and scarf and puts them on. “Thanks, Roxy,” he says.

She gives him a small, grateful smile. “Let me know how he is.”

***

The estate Eggsy where Eggsy lives is insalubrious at best, a Brutalist monument to sixties idealism brought down to earth by the wastrel pile of youths at the bottom of the stairs. Harry gives them a polite smile and they shuffle aside to let him through, disinterested.

Eggsy's flat is on the second level, with a dispiriting grey view over the balconied walkway. Harry can see how he ended up so good at freerunning: partly because if he lived here he too might have taken to leaping off high objects for fun, but he can see how the levels and walls and street furniture of the estate would be a perfect playground for Eggsy's skills. Harry walks along until he reaches the number Merlin had given him and Eggsy’s shade seems to pace him along the wall.

He hesitates at the door. It's heavy wood, multiple locks and a metal grate over it for extra protection, but even with that he can hear the sounds of an argument beyond, including the familiar strains of Eggsy's voice, higher pitched and more desperate than he's used to, in distress.

Harry means to rap smartly on the door but it becomes a hard banging on the door with a closed fist quite without him meaning it to, driven by Eggsy's sounds on the other side of the door.

Why the fuck had Roxy known what it would mean to Eggsy to be thrown out of the gym, and Harry had done it without anything like the same understanding? He's been so intent on the flirting game he and Eggsy have been playing, but he'd had enough clues. Eggsy is so much more to him than an enjoyably anticipated conquest: he should have known.

There's no answer and he hammers on the door again. The noises from inside have quietened at least, the row interrupted, and Harry plants himself on the walkway and prepares for a wait.

He waits another few moments and starts an authoritative rhythmic pounding on the door.

It's thrown open and he's prepared to be stern until he sees a downtrodden-looking blonde, pretty if one looks beyond the lack of grooming and the panic and exhaustion painted on her face, like she wants nothing more than to hide away under the bedcovers and sleep life away. She looks him up and down, with a glimmer of recognition of who might be showing up on her doorstep in a suit like his, and her expression is one of dread.

Eggsy's mother. She's likely not Unwin, if she remarried, so he pastes on a pleasant smile and says, “Good evening, Madam. I'm looking for Eggsy.”

She casts a frightened look to her side and is gracelessly shoved from the door with a small, bitten-off yelp.

Harry's ready for it and he steps forward swiftly, so the cruel-looking man who takes her place is already on the back foot, falling back in surprise. Harry doesn't usually use his height and breadth to bully but he's certainly capable of it and he does it now, stepping quickly into the house like he has an absolute right to be there and looking around for Eggsy.

“Harry?” Eggsy says and he turns to the doorway leading to the rest of the flat, sparing no more than a glance for the messy, shabby room.

Eggsy looks equally messy, the sweaty training vest he's still wearing torn at the neck as if he's been grabbed, his hair disarrayed. There's a bruise forming high on his cheek, dark and vicious, and blood under his nose, more bruises on the winter-pale skin of his upper arms, and Harry feels scarlet with anger and guilt. Even more so at the look on Eggsy's face, mingled shame and surprise and pleasure at seeing Harry.

“Eggsy,” he says and his tone comes out with all the gentleness he feels for Eggsy. “I came to see if you were all right.”

“He ain't all right,” the stepfather snarls and Harry swings back around to him with his best expression of utter disdain and superiority. “You the posh bastard from the gym then? Where's his hundred quid a week he was giving me gonna come from now, Mister Posh Bastard?”

Jesus. A hundred a week is a decent chunk of what Harry has been paying Eggsy – although he doesn't doubt it's been a small price to pay if it's kept this charmless lout off Eggsy's back. He doesn't even have to think to know that much of the rest has been going to Eggsy's mother and the child.

“I've come to speak with Eggsy about his future with us,” he says coolly. “Mr...?”

“Baker,” Baker says. He squares up to Harry and Harry meets him slowly, although it pains him to turn away from Eggsy just now. There was violence here just before he arrived; it's still in the air. “You want Muggsy here, you talk wiv' me, Mister Posh Bastard.”

He runs an insultingly speculative eye up and down Harry's expensive coat and the suit underneath, and Harry can see the moment he leaps to his greedy disgusting conclusion. “I don't know what he been doing for you, but I can get more than a hundred quid a week for his arse down Smith Street, so his price just went up, mate.”

Harry ponders that offer for a minute, a quite nice cleansing rage permeating his entire body and making his breath come short and his heart race, and then gives the only business response he thinks possible: a punch to the face.

“Harry!” Eggsy cries out again but Harry is more than equal to a lazy lager-soaked street brawler. He dodges the return punch Baker aims at him smartly, grabs his fist and ducks under it, round behind Baker's back and gets his forearm choking-hard around the throat, bending the hand he's holding back until they both know the wrist is moments from snapping.

“Dean!” the mother screams and Harry is abruptly reminded where he is. He drops Baker unceremoniously and leaves him on the floor, cradling his wrist and coughing and looking up at Harry with blazing resentful eyes. Harry looks down at him and lets the knowledge that he could have killed Baker quite easily and would again fill his face and his stance.

“Get out!” the mother yells. She's crying and she throws herself down next to her husband, trying to cradle him even as he pushes her away, swearing through a croaky throat.

“Of course, Madam,” Harry says. “Eggsy?”

He looks at Eggsy and for a moment he isn't sure whether Eggsy will come. This home of his is horrible, of course, but it's what he knows, and he sees in Eggsy's expression that he realises he can't come back to Baker if he leaves now with Harry, not without facing even worse abuse than before. By coming here Harry has placed himself within that world, even if in Eggsy's defence. And Eggsy has his pride.

Eggsy nods slowly and Harry reaches for him; not that Eggsy is so injured he needs assistance to cross the room, but he suddenly feels it's very important to have his hands on Eggsy, even just for a moment, feel his warmth. Eggsy takes his hand and squeezes his fingers tightly. Harry can feel him shaking.

“Mum?” Eggsy says, pleading and apology in his voice, and Harry looks away for a moment. Whatever passes between mother and son, Eggsy leads them out of the door without another word.

***

The cabbie looks terribly relieved when Harry gets back, stubs out his cigarette and all but leaps back into the driver's seat, although not without a dubious look at Eggsy, now wearing Harry's coat. But like a good chap he stays bought by the double rate Harry offered him to wait and within moments they're in the cab and pulling away, watched by a grave chorus of curtain-twitchers.

“We going back to the gym?” Eggsy says, after a few minutes of staring out of the window.

“I thought, to my house,” Harry says delicately. “If that's okay?”

“Yeah, please,” Eggsy says. “That sounds good.”

There's another silence, a little more comfortable, and Eggsy ventures, “I didn't know you could fight like that.”

Harry looks at him sharply but he doesn't look or sound put off by Harry's capacity for violence, as he'd feared; actually looks rather impressed, and even – somewhat turned on? The creature. Harry approves, although it leaves his credibility regarding Eggsy fighting with Charlie in tatters.

“I don't make a habit of it,” he says truthfully. “I left competitive gymnastics to join the Army. Family tradition.”

“I didn't think of you having a family,” Eggsy says, with a welcome flicker of interest. “I thought you was hatched.”

“Well, perhaps one day you'll meet them,” Harry says carefully, and Eggsy manages a smile.

***

The cab drops them off at the top of the mews and Harry escorts Eggsy down the cobbles with a gentle hand on his lower back. Eggsy presses into it and falls into step with him, looking at the small houses on either side.

“Knew you'd be filthy rich,” Eggsy says, slight chippiness about it.

Harry shrugs. These days most of his money – or the family's money, really, since he's not exactly raking it in – is tied up in the house, and other than one or two extravagances, like the suits and the black cabs when he doesn’t fancy driving, he doesn't live like someone filthy rich, but it is an awful lot of money: there's not much he can do about that.

“Although not rich enough to decorate,” Eggsy says when they get into the house, after a swift look round that looks rather like he's casing the place to rob. He grins up at Harry; Harry's besotted enough it draws the sting as intended.

“Why try to improve upon perfection?” Harry says. His little house is a bit old-fashioned, perhaps, but it suits him, like settling his classic double-breasted grey pinstripe jacket over his shoulders in the morning.

Eggsy glances at Harry for permission and then wanders round the small hall, opening doors and peering through into the dining room and kitchen beyond, the bathroom and study. Harry watches, oddly enchanted by it: Eggsy in his coat, still clutching it round himself unconsciously, in Harry's house. Harry doesn't generally care to have people in his home but Eggsy looks very right and feels right; Harry is suffused with a quiet contentment.

“It's nice,” Eggsy pronounces when he's had a good look round the ground floor. “Apart from that dog.”

“I was very fond of that dog,” Harry says. “I like to have him near.”

“In the bog, though, Harry.”

“His greatest sadness in life was that he was too small to drink out of the lavatory, so I put him there to give him victory over it in death.”

“You freak,” Eggsy says, but he sounds rather impressed, laughing, rather than harsh.

“The sitting room is upstairs,” Harry says. “Why don't you go and sit down and I'll bring up something to patch you up a bit.”

Eggsy looks surprised and touches his nose and the dried blood beneath as if he'd forgotten, winces; an echo of the anger washes back through Harry, at the idea Eggsy is so used to being hurt he finds it easy to disregard pain.

He calms it with putting the kettle on for tea and a deliberate focus on pulling together his first aid kit from the drawers and cupboards where the bits and bobs of it have ended up. A bowl of warm water and a flannel, and a tea towel wrapped in a bundle around several ice cubes; an antiseptic spray and a box of paracetamol; a tube of arnica cream, two years out of date but probably can't do any harm.

He puts it all on a tray, adds the mugs of tea (an extra sugar in Eggsy's for shock), and carries it up. He pauses in the doorway and just looks at Eggsy, planted on the sofa with his head back on the squashy cushion and his eyes closed, Harry's coat over himself like a blanket. He not only looks like he belongs there – Eggsy looks like he feels he belongs there and suddenly calmness is easy to find.

He puts the tray down and sits next to Eggsy, rouses him gently with a hand on his knee and a low call of his name, in case he really is so shattered Harry should just let him sleep for a while. Eggsy starts into wakefulness but there's no wondering or adjustment when he sees Harry, only a drowsy soft smile that Harry returns helplessly.

He hands the tea to Eggsy first and Eggsy takes a couple of long slurps, watching Harry wet the flannel and wring it out.

“This might sting a bit,” Harry warns, and Eggsy rests his mug on the arm of the chair and submits to Harry sponging his face as gently as he can, cleaning the blood from his nose. Eggsy hisses in between his teeth but doesn't otherwise react until Harry is holding the flannel over the bridge of his nose; not broken, luckily, but the shiner is going to be impressive.

“What Dean said, about - when he thought you was -” Eggsy trails off and Harry sees his chest heave with frustration and embarrassment.

“Dean said nothing worth paying any attention to,” Harry says briefly. “He’s a wretch and a wankstain.”

Eggsy snorts and when Harry takes the flannel away to wring it out and dab Eggsy with a dry corner, he’s smiling. “Yeah, he is that.”

Harry reaches for the arnica and smears a little on Eggsy's cheek, covering the bruise with as much care as he's capable of.

Eggsy lowers his eyes to try to watch. Harry is so focused on his task he almost misses it when Eggsy says, very low, “I thought I was hearing things, when I heard you at the door. I thought I wasn't never going to see you again, Harry.”

He reaches out, hesitant, and Harry turns his hand palm up ready in his lap as Eggsy slides their fingers together.

Harry feels the peculiar sweet warmth of knowing a long-held dear wish about to come to fruition and he says, “I'm a bit harder to get rid of than that, my dear boy.”

Eggsy looks up at him again. His hand is trembling very slightly but he's smiling, brilliantly, his eyes hot with reassurance and cautious joy.

They're sitting very close, now. Harry raises his hand to Eggsy’s uninjured cheek, daring, and feels a helpless smile break over his face when Eggsy nudges against Harry’s palm. It's different, feels almost dangerous, touching Eggsy like this, with entirely open affection and desire, not merely the touches to move here or there, do this or that.

It's much better, addictingly better. Eggsy tilts up, and Harry tilts down, and they're kissing, tentative and slow.

“Eggsy,” Harry murmurs, drawing away only just far enough to rest their foreheads together.

“Yeah,” Eggsy says, and that appears to be all the conversation he needs: he slides his fingers into Harry's hair and Harry lets himself be pulled back into long deep kisses that tumble one to the other into the next, the headiest sweetest kisses Harry can remember, and Eggsy soft and safe under his hands.

***

“There's a spare room,” Harry offers.

“A spare room?” Eggsy repeats. “I ain't shagged anyone else for months while I been chasing after you, and you've got a spare room?”

“Many apologies,” Harry says, and makes an extravagant gesture to the door of his own room. “My bed is your bed.”

“That's more like it,” Eggsy says smugly.

***

The mood is rather different by the time they climb into bed together. Eggsy has had some painkillers, but he's visibly stiff and sore. He comes to bed with no shirt, breathing deep and meeting Harry's eyes almost defiantly: his chest has one or two mean-looking scars, a fresh bruise over the ribs.

Harry says nothing, but reaches once more for the arnica and Eggsy lies on the bed, covers drawn away, and allows Harry to smooth cream over it, his gaze resting hungrily on Harry's face as he bends to his task.

When he's finished Eggsy wraps himself sinuously around Harry and kisses him again, passionate hungry thrilling kisses that make desire wrack its way through Harry's whole body. Harry lets his hands run all over Eggsy, admittedly sensual now, enjoying the opportunity to touch so freely what he's coveted for so long.

Eggsy is even more of a delight than he'd imagined: smooth and warm over hard muscle he'd known, but he hadn't understood the yearning way Eggsy would press up to him, the glorious length of him naked under Harry's hands, that he'd throw himself as wholeheartedly into snogging Harry as he flings himself round an urban landscape.

Neither of them are feeling terribly acrobatic but Harry discovers it’s even better to have their first time together like this, easy and languid and full of slow touches and whispers and laughter, no tricks, enjoying one another simply, neither of them especially trying to impress. It's enough just to have Eggsy so close, offering up whatever Harry cares to ask him for, gorgeously sweet in intimacy.

They end with Eggsy sprawled over Harry and Harry's hands on his wonderful, wonderful luscious bum, one of the few places he hasn't already had his hands on, urging Eggsy to grind their cocks frantically together until Eggsy stills and comes, crying out, and Harry can thrust with purpose up against him and follow.

He doesn't have the heart to move Eggsy after, although they're sweaty and come-covered and frankly a little bit disgusting. Eggsy puts his head on Harry's shoulder and sighs contentedly, snuggling down onto Harry's chest, and Harry kisses his forehead and holds him close and is happy.

***

Harry rings in the next two days as unwell. It's almost true: certainly he finds himself entirely unable to get out of bed.

***

Once Eggsy's face is a little healed they make plans to return to the gym.

“Just once more,” Eggsy says wistfully. “Another last go on the equipment.”

Harry crawls up behind him on the bed where Eggsy's sitting to put his socks on and puts his arms round Eggsy from behind, kissing the back of his head. Eggsy relaxes back against him and sighs.

“It's not going to be a last go,” he says firmly. “This will all be sorted out, Eggsy. It'll be fine.”

“Used to things going your way?” Eggsy says with a little laugh. “Spoilt bugger.”

“Constantly,” Harry says. “Don't worry.”

Eggsy leans against his shoulder and looks up at him, parts his lips and wets the bottom one temptingly, and Harry gives him the kiss he's asking for, lingering and fond.

***

They're there very early – far too early for Harry, he's not sure he's seen this time of the morning since the military – and Eggsy wastes no time flinging his outer clothes off and going through his warm-up routine.

Harry's seen it any number of times but this time he enjoys being able to lean up against the horse and make no effort to hide that he's enjoying the view, helped along by Eggsy's sultry smile and heavy-lidded eyes when he looks in Harry's direction, the way he moves through his twists and stretches with slow, showy strength. There's a bulge in his leggings by the time he's finished, an obvious delicious outline trapped against his lower belly: Harry’s early suspicion was entirely true, Eggsy likes being looked at; and Harry likes looking at him, so it's all terribly convenient.

Eggsy finishes and prowls his way up to Harry, a magnificent animal specimen with his eyes bright with exertion and lust and his muscles pumped and sheened. Harry straightens up with his most provoking smile and lets Eggsy press against him and open Harry's mouth with his tongue.

“You're on my apparatus,” Eggsy says. He's smiling irrepressibly; he seems almost always to be smiling when he looks at Harry, and it inevitably means Harry smiles at him too, and he's sure the two of them look a perfect pair of fools, but somehow can't bring himself to give a single tiny fuck about it.

“Am I?” Harry says, luxuriating in the teasing of new lovers. He makes a show of biting his lip like an ingenue and Eggsy's eyes darken as he leans up for another passionate kiss.

Harry is just getting lost in the kiss and then Eggsy is gone, bouncing one-armed onto the end of the pommel, and Harry laughs as a flawless scissor turn becomes an arching knee over his head and Eggsy's strong thighs wrapped around his waist from behind. A quick snuggle up, a stretching kiss, and Harry submits to Eggsy's feet pushing craftily against his arse.

He takes a few steps, far enough to be able to watch Eggsy's full routine. Eggsy gleams at him - and swings into action.

He's flawless, breathtaking; Harry can't keep his eyes off him, all technique and dash mixed with Eggsy's own charisma and intuition for what makes a performance. Harry's gaze can't decide where to settle, skipping from Eggsy's biceps flexing as he holds himself on the pommels to his swinging legs as he circles, to his intent face as he moves through the routine, vigorous and confident.

He ends with a solidly held dismount, arms up as Harry taught him, and Harry's legs are already carrying him up to push Eggsy up against the horse and take his mouth, pouring every moment of the last few months of frustrated passion into the kiss. Eggsy responds in kind, already hard against Harry's thigh and trying to climb Harry like a high rope, biting frantic kisses that speak eloquently of how much they've longed for one another.

Eggsy rubs his prick against Harry more meaningfully and Harry groans. “We’ll have to be quick,” he cautions, but the idea of consummation here where they’ve spent so much time together - it’s compelling, his dick very interested indeed, already pressing stiff against his trousers.

“I can be dead quick,” Eggsy promises. “Come on, Harry, I’m fucking gagging for it.”

“Ah, romance,” Harry says. He gives Eggsy a last hard kiss and spins him, pushes him down over the horse; Eggsy shivers and goes abruptly soft and liquid over it with Harry’s hand on the back of his neck.

Harry undoes his own trousers with shaking hands, finds the lube he’d rather bashfully put in his jacket pocket earlier, just in case, and slicks himself. Eggsy reaches back and parts his cheeks obligingly and Harry stares longingly at the obscenely displayed tight little hole, but - “Haven’t time, darling,” ignoring Eggsy’s disappointed groan and arse wiggle. He smears lube between Eggsy’s thighs instead, fits his cock in the hot little space Eggsy makes for him, pressing his heavy thighs together.

He lets out an explosive breath when Eggsy squeezes around his prick, pleasure racing up his spine hard and fast, and runs his hand up the tense gorgeous line of Eggsy’s back, rucking up his thin cotton vest. With the other hand he reaches round, finding Eggsy’s cock already achingly hard and leaking for Harry, and he jerks and skids the head of his cock up against the softness of Eggsy’s balls.

“Come on,” Eggsy says, voice frayed with excitement, arches his back and then ripples along his whole body, pushing the roundness of his arse back into Harry’s groin and tensing and fluttering his thighs around Harry’s cock.

Harry’s never particularly been an exhibitionist. The idea of being caught drives him on with mingled lust and worry; Christ, but Eggsy makes him do extraordinary things. He bends over Eggsy, kisses the nape of his neck where the hair grows in little whorls and slides his hand along Eggsy’s arm to clutch their fingers together, feels Eggsy shudder and sweat against his chest, clothes wrinkling between them, Eggsy’s moans vibrating through them both.

The horse is rocking under them with the force of Harry’s thrusts between Eggsy’s thighs. He barely has to move his fist around Eggsy’s cock, their motion fucking Eggsy through his tight grip. Eggsy makes a sharp choked cry that Harry has already learned to recognise and he swears, thinking of the equipment, pulls away and swings Eggsy back around, props Eggsy trembling against the horse and kneels to take Eggsy’s cock in his mouth, his leg draped over Harry’s shoulder and tightening against his back, heel digging in. He feels Eggsy brace against the horse with one arm and slide his fingers into Harry’s hair as he sucks and sucks and swallows Eggsy’s come.

He’s desperate by the time Eggsy is whining with overstimulation and he pulls Eggsy’s other leg over his shoulder and rises urgently, bends Eggsy gracefully double in his post-climax laziness and holds his legs together and slides back between his thighs. Too awkward to kiss but he stares at Eggsy’s glazed pleasured green eyes and fucks forward, drops his head and breathes through it as orgasm crashes its way through his body, like air rushing past his face in a twirling high bar release, freed.

He hauls Eggsy up more securely onto the horse before he lets his legs go, feeling rather wobbly. Eggsy knocks his head back against the leather and laughs breathlessly and Harry dips down for an unco-ordinated kiss, leans over Eggsy and strokes his hair back over his face.

It's a fine sight, the taut muscles of Eggsy's thighs painted in Harry's come, his softening cock plump against his neat curls; not as fine as Eggsy’s heavily blinking gaze locked to his.

***

They're rather messy, and the early birds will start arriving soon. Harry helps Eggsy pull his trackies back up over his legs, enough for him to make it to the shower. Eggsy leans against him when he's re-dressed, going up on his toes for a hug.

“Dear boy,” Harry says softly, nuzzling Eggsy's cheek. Eggsy gives a tight moan and bares his neck and Harry can't help but start to kiss down it, even though he at least is done – damn those extra decades – and in any case they really can't risk it.

“Ahem,” Merlin says. Eggsy jumps a mile in Harry's arms and his collarbone sends Harry's jaw clacking painfully shut.

“Eggsy,” Merlin says. “Nice to see you, son. Although it would have been nicer not to see so much of you.”

“Er, yeah,” Eggsy says, disentangling himself not quite so fast as he might have done. Harry smiles into his neck and gives Eggsy's forehead a smacking kiss as they part. “Is it? I mean, cheers, bruv. You an' all.”

“I know he's not supposed to be here,” Harry says, giving Merlin his most innocent and pacifying expression. “I thought, if we could -”

Merlin puts a hand over his mouth and says cheerfully to Eggsy, “You know who else thinks it would be nice to see you?”

Eggsy glances at Harry, who raises an eyebrow. He says, “I dunno, who?”

“Angelina's daddy,” Merlin says with an air of vast satisfaction. “Angelina's daddy doesn't condone fighting, of course, but unofficially he'd like to shake you by the hand, lad. And you know what about Angelina's daddy?”

“No?”

“Angelina's daddy works for a firm that is a very big client of the firm of no less than Charlie's daddy,” Merlin says.

No,” Harry says, overjoyed. “So Hesketh Senior -”

“Rang up to apologise – apologise, Harry, I'm sorry you missed it, it was fucking spectacular – for his son's behaviour, assure me of course Charlie would be finding a new gym, and also offer me a very large donation in return for keeping all this a bit quiet and carrying on as normal.”

“Which includes Eggsy continuing his training?” Harry checks. He looks at Eggsy, who is smiling his little, real smile; he meets Harry's eyes and the look on his face is so disbelieving and happy Harry would swear he feels his old heart flutter.

“Which includes Eggsy continuing his training,” Merlin says. “Might even be a bit of a bonus in it for you, Eggsy. Given the very large donation.”

“'S'alright, mate,” Eggsy says, smirking. “Harry give me a very large donation already.”

“That is far more than I wanted to know,” Merlin says. “And Harry – what did I say about abusing my gym apparatus, you rollicking bloody pervert?”

“To do it as often as possible?” Harry says airily, and watches over Merlin’s shoulder as a beautiful grin spreads irresistibly over Eggsy’s handsome face. He holds out his hand and Eggsy comes to him for an obnoxiously sweet slow kiss.

Important matters thus taken care of, he grins smugly into Merlin's rolling-eyes face and adds, “Really, Merlin. You just need to learn to be a bit more flexible.”

END