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stooping down to spoil the slain

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Harry's introduction to lepidoptera happened at an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting.

The group consisted of twenty shaking addicts gathered in the back room of a cafe; there were some office workers and a couple Information Technology gents, one man wearing overalls who clearly had just gotten off-shift from some sort of janitorial job, and Edgar Pruitt, the Assassin of Bournemouth.

Harry's cover-- exquisitely assembled by Merlin himself-- was as a Junior Bank Manager for the Bank of London, Helms Branch. She had a local address attached to her alias, a wedding license, and registered insurance payments for a 1987 BMW. She was supposedly on leave from her job to get her head together.

The nonexistent husband was back in Helms. Divorce was on the horizon. If Harry's cover could just stop drinking she might salvage it, but stiff upper lip and all that, at least she won't lose her car.

Her turn to spin the bullshit ended and the janitor began to speak. Harry discreetly watched Edgar Pruitt shift in his chair, inspect everyone in the room one red-faced bloke and jittery woman at a time, then stare down at his hands.

Those were the hands that killed people for vast quantities of money, then doused the corpses in a ethanol solution and pinned them spread flat on great big slabs of press board. He was a butterfly collector, see, and stuck with what he knew.

Fast forward to noon o'clock on one of the many Thursdays after V-Day, and Harry is sitting in a sterile office wearing tailored tweed trousers, a linen shirt with the sleeves rolled just past elbow, and a long-suffering frown. There's an array of pinned butterflies on the wall that she's staring at. The arrangement isn't as nice as hers, naturally, but it holds her interest.

"I do not wish for them to be removed," she says for the third time. Perhaps the fourth time. Regardless: again.

"But Sir, this is the perfect opportunity--" Doctor Helmut, rated surgeon and all around go-to-guy for the Kingsman employees, persists.

"Thank you, but no," she interrupts.

Doctor Helmut holds up one hand to ward her off. "Sir, this is the perfect time, and you do wish for yourself to remain viable for current missions, yes?"

He smiles in a rather supercilious way. Harry grins back, shows no teeth, speaks without showing the slightest hint of enamel either, "As interesting as this all is, Doctor--"

She stops speaking because Eggsy wanders in with his hands in his pockets, completely ruining the line of the fabric.

"Oh for the love of-- Knock, dear boy."

Eggsy stops, looks around, checks the doorway behind him. He grins brightly at her when he turns back round. "There's no door, I'm clear."

He eyes Doctor Helmut, raises both eyebrows at Harry in question.

"Plotting my next medically induced coma," she snaps in explanation, then at his horrified expression, corrects herself, "Bionic eye."

"Here's a lad!" Doctor Helmut says much too loud for the room. Harry doesn't flinch, she glares instead, and the good Doctor looks a bit put out by that. He sniffs and focuses on Eggsy. "Tell your Mentor here that she'd do much better with a bit of those lines taken out while we still have something to work with, right?"

Harry fondly remembers how she killed the Assassin of Bournemouth by stepping on his genitalia with a poison-laced stiletto heel, then arranged him like one of his own victims and left the whole array for the local police to find.

She wonders if she could copycat herself on Doctor Helmut, and if Merlin would help her burn the body after.

"Her choice, mate," Eggsy shrugs, much to everyone else's surprise.

Not that Harry expected Eggsy to tell her she was a rank hag that needed work done, not at all. But she didn't expect the steel in his jaw and the glint in his eye.

"Yes, well," Doctor Helmut sputters, then flaps a dismissive hand at Eggsy. "If you're not going to assist, do remove yourself from this consultation."

Eggsy grins, sharp. "Not assist you, you mean?."

"I told you to get her, damnit!" Merlin shouts from somewhere down the corridor.

Eggsy leans back to pop his head out and shouts-- Harry assumes back at Merlin-- "The doc 'ere is tellin' Harry she's got a mug he can fix. Can I hit 'im?"

"He can't do anything she doesn't want him to, now get her and get back out here!"

Eggsy looks at Harry and shrugs, ignores the Doctor completely.

Harry's mouth twists into a grin against her will, but there it goes.

"I see you're overruled, Doctor," she murmurs, and rises to leave the office before Merlin explodes because she killed someone on the Service's payroll.

# # #

What happened for Harry after V-Day could never be called waking up. Regained consciousness, perhaps. Rousing from a medically induced coma with a great deal of hacking and coughing and swearing, more accurate. But it all amounted to the same thing: Harry opened her eye to take in the light, noticed that she had a searing pain in her head, a tingly numbness everywhere else, and that there was a wondrous array of water-stained ceiling tiles over her.

Her loud throat-noises is what drew the doctors to her side, and after a lot of murmuring and consolation she was given a syringe-full of morphine straight to her IV line and she was blissfully back in the blackness.

When Eggsy comes along to pick her up six days later, she's sitting up with her feet firm on the floor as she waits. He gives her a once-over without saying a word, then affects abject young-person devastation.

"It's only an eye and a bit of skull," she tells him as she struggles to take her feet.

Eggsy doesn't stop looking horrible, but he does grin and help her stand from the bed, so hear hear, mission accomplished and all that rot.

# # #

Once upon a time, in a decade far far away, Charles King hit on Harry like a freight train.

She was not the least bit impressed. He was married, and under review for some sort of poor decision making, and she had no interest taking up with an Agent Kay on his way out of the agency.

Years passed. Chester was promoted to Arthur. During the swearing in ceremony Chester looked Harry in the eye and grinned, slowly and deliberately. She proceeded to tell Merlin everything about the situation so that if Chester tried anything, she would have a record of complaint should she have to eviscerate him.

"I assume he never recovered from that slight of mine, and technically it could have possibly contributed to him sending me off to my death," she editorialises as she sits in the driver's seat of a black sedan parked across the street from the front-gates of a rich Italian Politico's Mansion.

"That. Is. Rank," Eggsy pronounces over the comms right as the door to the safe he was cracking swings open to reveal the illustrious innards.

"Take the silver canister and move the blue box in front of the hole the absence makes," Harry orders, then sighs and inspects her nails. She keeps them short out of preference for work, but she's been lazy lately and they almost look stereotypically feminine. "And I agree, Chester was always a rank, as you say, individual."

"Well I'm right disgusted," Eggsy says.

Merlin makes a coughing noise on the line; Harry bites back a grin.

"What I find properly disgusting about this situation is not the bit of history here, but the fact that you both are using an open line for a bit of see-and-say," Merlin grinds out. Then as an afterthought he adds, "Damnit."

"But it is always so lovely to hear references to by predecessor," a new voice says over the comms. Eggsy swears and drops his stolen swag on his foot. Harry palms her forehead and resolutely does not groan.

"Did you just drop uranium?" Arthur asks. She doesn't sound censorious, just mildly interested.

Merlin's voice in the background: "Yes, yes the blighter did."

"No worries, the uranium is absolutely protected by..." Eggsy trails off.

"A silver-lined dry ice container with a two centimetre thick casing of lead," Harry finishes for him with a sigh.

"Lovely," Arthur drawls. Harry grins; Eggsy curses low and muffled, starts to find his way out of the mansion.

"Just checking in?" Harry asks, not really caring one way or the other.

"Not at all. I was wondering if you're up to a bit of shopping for me on your way back to the jet?"

Merlin squawks something indistinct. Eggsy grumbles on the line over a stubbed toe. Harry peers out the window to see if he's fallen off the second storey balcony yet.

"Not at all, what are you looking for?"

Arthur says something to Merlin off the comm, then her voice comes back sharper, louder. "See if you can pick up some bomb schematics out of a neo-nazi's townhouse safe, will you? Merlin is forwarding the address."

Eggsy stumbles over the wall and drops like a sack of bricks onto the sidewalk. Harry sighs and starts the car as he limps over to the car.

He tries to slide in like he isn't hurting, then hunches at her stern look.

"Arthur, we would be delighted," she says and starts to drive.

# # #

"I understand you will be out of commission for three weeks after this, yes?" Arthur asks with a softly French accent. She's just as easy-going and pleased with life in person, even as she towers over Harry who sits in a wheelchair as she sulks. Paris Division was in an uproar over losing her, apparently, and Harry can see why on the good days.

"Yes, yes," Harry grumbles and adjusts the fold of the thin gown the nurse "helpfully" provided before leaving her in a stark freezing room to contemplate all the ways surgery can go wrong, especially when headed by a surgeon hell bent on ironing out wrinkles.

Speaking of-- "I specified only an eye is to be put in, by and by."

Arthur stops her inspection of a poster detailing proper sanitary practises by anaesthesiologists and inclines her head towards Harry. "You don't trust Merlin to follow through on his threats?"

Harry relaxes her shoulders. Of course he's already told her about the issue with the surgeon, of course he took care of it.

"Apologies. Mite nervous to be in this setting, you see."

Arthur holds up a hand. "Goes without saying. No bother, Galahad."

Someone knocks rapidly on the door. Eggsy's voice calls on the other side, "Oi, you got your kit on yet?"

"Do come in Cardoc," Arthur answers before Harry can say otherwise. She grins down at Harry as Eggsy stumbles in.

Arthur, being a tall, statuesque black woman with an immaculate shaved head, towers over everyone in headquarters, and it isn't more obvious to Harry when Eggsy is standing next to their boss wearing a tracksuit and offering his fist to bump.

Arthur returns the fistbump with ceremony and leaves the room as quietly as she entered.

Eggsy drops into a chair next to Harry's and automatically takes her hand. She bats him away and folds her hands in her lap, refuses to look at him.

"I see you can knock when Arthur is present. I approve."

"Didn't know she was here, right?" Eggsy sticks his tongue out in concentration and makes a grab at her hand again.

Harry smacks him in the jaw to repel the attack. He falls out of the chair with great drama and grumbles at the temperature of the floor.

"Then you are learning," she says, dry as a desert. "How astonishing."

Eggsy's eyes narrow as he affects a crouch. He follows that up with, as he hums the Mission: Impossible theme, crawling all bandy-legged back to her. By the time he's close enough to grab her hand again, she's laughing herself too sick to stop him.

The laughter slows so she can breathe; she musters up a stern a look as possible and tries to tug her hand free, but not so much that he actually lets go.

"It's not weak to have a spot of comfort, yeah?" this boy says with a grin as he sits on the cold tilework and holds her hand in both of his.

"Is this comfort for me or you?" she croaks.

He squeezes her hand in response.

# # #

Three weeks indeed, but also three days plus before her next mission, and it's a meagre handling job for her again while Eggsy schmoozes his way across a ballroom in the same hotel she's set up her equipment in.

On an array of monitors that fold out of a very nouveau riche-looking set of discreetly-modified Louis Vuitton luggage is the flickering feeds of security cameras, Eggsy's own glasses set, and the transmission of the local society papers that has taken to livestreaming on their website in addition to providing Vogue, et al, photographs of the event.

"No, don't talk to him, approach the fellow with the moustache and act gruff but welcoming. Military, my boy."

"You should be down here," Eggsy mutters, then does as she asks.

She waits for him to engage in small chat with the General, then grins as he moves on without her prompting. "A man in an eyepatch is rakish. A woman in an eyepatch is an abomination."

"You can't use that excuse forever, yeah?" The glasses don't reflect it, but it's extremely likely that Eggsy is rolling his eyes at her. "Merlin's getting the mod together, you'll look right as rain soonish-like."

"You'll see me in a ball gown soon enough." She sips at her lukewarm tea and frowns at the cup. How long ago did she make this?

Eggsy pauses at the table of hors d'oeuvres that he affectionately called "cattle grounds" earlier in the week when they were in Egypt. "Can I get ya to go undercover at a Go-Go club?"

"Done that already I'm afraid," she says as she fiddles with the electric kettle set on the end table within arm's reach. It's out of water, she'll have to get up to go refill it in the bathroom sink. "You missed it by some twenty-five years."

The ominous sound of Eggsy choking on a devilled egg echoes from the speakers, and he coughs out a short laugh. "No."

Harry returns with her filled kettle and plugs it back in to let it boil.

"My apologies, but it's the truth."

Eggsy finishes coughing up a lung and scuttles away from the food. He makes a beeline for the alcohol across the room, to Harry's dismay.

"I'm gettin' Merlin to get me the vid of that, you be warned."

Harry sighs. "Have him retrieve the footage of my mission at a Renaissance Faire while you're at it. The jousting was horrible to watch but entertaining in hindsight."

# # #

Merlin has no office. He has a bullpen for him and his active handlers set up like all those flashy lurid stages in the movies, and he stands in the centre, cackling and rubbing his hands together a lot.

He's not rubbing his hands right now because he's got legitimate paperwork in them, but his eyes are laughing. His eyes are.

Harry claimed his personal chair when she came in, and is tossing a bright orange ball up in the air, catching it, and tossing it back. Merlin is always pretending to be a mad scientist from a Bond film, she doesn't bother being upset anymore.

"I lost quite a bit of muscle mass," she says to the ceiling. Toss the ball. Catch it. Toss. Catch. "All of my suits need to be refitted."

"Sounds ghastly, however will you cope?" Merlin mumbles.

She drops the ball to the floor and lolls her head against the back of her chair listlessly. A mug of tea is on the table next to her, she hasn't touched it yet because it's Merlin's favourite blend and likely tastes like sheep's innards, but she thinks it might be time to try it.

"Oh, the usual way," she mumbles absently and picks up the mug to peer into it. "Alcohol."

Merlin hums and flips through three pages in her medical report too quick to read them. "I put you back on this roster, you're back in as Eggsy's mentor full time."

Harry stops contemplating her tea and stares at him for a moment.

"Yes, naturally. Why the warning?"

He waves one hand majestically; two handlers nearby notice and hunch their shoulders in fear. "The boy's attached to you like a bloody limpet. You'll have to deal with it if you want effective missions."

"Hero worship is hardly something to be ominous about," she scoffs.

"Boy's tits over arse, bit worse than hero worship methinks."

"Ooh, you methinks, do you?" Harry swigs back the last of her tea. Wretched indeed. "He'll get over it. He's young."

Merlin rolls his eyes at her.

"We'll see, eh?"

# # #

She finds Eggsy on the Shooting Range out near the treeline. Percival is taking notes on a clipboard while Roxy and Eggsy test a new model of shotgun on targets mounted on a pulley system.

Eggsy yanks off his earmuffs and leaves Roxy alone with a vast array of ammunition when he catches sight of Harry.

"You're fit for field yet?" he asks.

Harry raises her eyebrows and considers the tattered targets strewn about the grasses. Most likely Roxy's work. "Arthur's reviewing," she admits, "but there's no reason for a refusal, I've been assured."

"That means we go out together, yeah? Rox and Percy do it."

Harry is very much wary about this line of thought. "Yes, Eggsy."

Eggsy pumps his fist and whoops. Harry leans back to avoid his dancing and looks to Roxy, who grins and shrugs at her.

How interestingly terrifying..

# # #

They have three missions of Harry on full active duty, then power through three more. The seventh is the one that goes tits up, and Harry has to step carefully over the bloodied corpses so she doesn't soil the hemming on her trousers.

"Did you have to shoot him in the nadgers?" Merlin shrieks over the comms. "Did you have to shoot them all in the nadgers?!"

Eggsy leans on the throne that the late-Mafioso had put in for aesthetic purposes and watches Harry as she pokes around. He looks wary. Or in pain. She can't tell which.

"Uh, Harry?"

She stops rummaging through Bodyguard #4's pockets and shows Eggsy her gloved hands. Then she withdraws the man's wallet, pulls out the assortment of freshly laundered money, and drops the faux leather wallet back onto the corpse's face.

"For the maximum amount of plausible deniability, my dear," she says, enunciating loudly over the massive exhaust fans that are running to filter out the smoke from the fires going on in the back of the warehouse, "we always make it look like a robbery."


She pockets the money and moves onto the next one, crouches carefully and avoids the open-top of the man's skull. She raises an eyebrow at Eggsy as she looks for a wallet, clicks off Merlin's audio line mid-vindictive with a flick of a finger.

"It'll be a few minutes more. Are you sure you shouldn't be sitting down?"

Eggsy looks most decidedly green and is holding on to the back of the throne, probably to keep the pressure off one of his legs. He grins weakly and shakes his head. It makes the green pallor of his skin ripple under the lights.

She clucks her tongue at him, then hurries to get through the corpses. Last thing she needs is to clean up vomit when she'd worked so much on keeping a clean crime scene.

Twenty minutes later they're outside and in the rental car. Eggsy lists to the side, presses his face to the glass of the side window. He's not paying attention to where they're going, Harry notices. She debates chastising him on the oversight, then spots a Pawn Shop and parks across the street from the doors.

Eggsy snaps awake when she unbuckles her seat belt.


"Hold on for a moment, please," she tells him and slams the car door closed behind her.

The pawnbroker is behind the counter when she enters the shop. She approaches as a shark does prey, and he stares back, cold as stone.

"Have you a Windows 8 laptop available, perchance?"

She's back to the car with her purchase, paid for with the literal bloody money of a henchperson. She dumps the plastic bag into Eggsy's lap and hurries them back to Kingsman. Eggsy sleeps for the entire four hour drive clutching the HP 2000 laptop and drooling.

Medical deems Eggsy fit to leave after they adorn him with stitches and a soft cast encased with a plastic exoskeleton to keep the weight off his ankle. He hobbles out of there fully drugged and grinning at Harry when she offers to escort him home so he doesn't wander into traffic.

"You're the best, Harry," he shouts in her ear. She winces and leads him up to the subway entrance and Merlin's side office, but takes a small detour at Merlin's desk.

Eggsy's awkward as hell following her, but she steadies him automatically and gets the pawn shop special open and left in the centre of Merlin's cluttered desk. Then she hustles him to the maintenance closet opposite to hide.

"We gonna be in here long?" Eggsy slurs at her with a furrowed brow. He leans against the wall opposite to her, she braces herself on the wall with her forearms so she can peer out the crack left in the door. The boy's awfully warm, just radiating heat. Harry absently wonders if he's got a fever from the antibiotics.

She forgets about Eggsy's heat problem when Merlin comes in carrying his Handler Regulation Cuppa and muttering to himself about dry socks. He spots the new laptop immediately and makes an interested noise, sets his mug down onto the table, switches the laptop on.

The loading screen for the Windows 8 OS pops up, and Merlin makes a noise like a hippopotamus giving birth.

At Eggsy's appalled look, Harry decides to explain: "His first psychotic break was over the blue screen of death on a Windows 95 system. After Windows ME, it's just gotten worse."

Eggsy side-eyes her and says, slowly, "Right."

"Who left this abomination here?!" Merlin roars, "Who?!"

# # #

They take out a cell of Her Royal Majesty's home-grown terrorists. Funded by a local constabulary, according to Merlin. And also receiving supplementary funding from the chip shop down the street, if the garbage littering their slovenly little hideaway is any indication.

Harry has the gall to be disgusted that the supposed law and order is doing this; Eggsy just shrugs at every expression of ick, says at one point during the bloodbath, "Pigs are pigs are pigs, Harry."

Finally they're down to three left, and of course that's when they bust out the concussive grenades.

Harry goes flying after the grenade goes off, lands on her ass and skids until she hits the opposite wall. Her ears are ringing too much to know what's going on, but she staggers and sways back to the origin point to find Eggsy shooting and flapping his mouth about like he's shouting.

There's one left alive. He's white and paunchy and covered in blood, but he's alive. Harry sticks a finger in her ear and twiddles it around to try and clear it so she can hear what Eggsy and Merlin are saying. All it sounds of is rhubarb rhubarb rhubarb with a few recognisable syllables peppered unintelligibly in.

"--he fucking almost killed her!" Eggsy shouts.

"Don't see why you have to turn into a one-man Barbarian horde though!" Merlin shouts back.

Harry trains her gun on the remaining terrorist and swallows a lot to make her ears pop.

Eggsy notices she's there and says "Oh, hi Harry."

"See? She can take care of herself," Merlin says wryly.

"I know that!" Eggsy hisses. Harry continues to stare at him, he stares back. A bit less vehement, he continues, "I just don't want her shot again, is that too much to ask?"

Harry tilts her head to the side, takes in the scene. Eggsy with his wide eyes and his flushed face and the fully aerated corpses at his feet. She thinks, "Oh," and shoots the final terrorist in the throat.

"Weren't we supposed to keep one alive?" Eggsy asks faintly.

"Damn right you were, what--" Merlin says.

Harry ignores both of them and leans forward to Eggsy, grabs him round the nape of his neck with her non-gun hand, and kisses him hard. Covered in blood and mortar dust and smoke, she presses close and hums and says, "All right, I get it," into Eggsy's mouth.

Eggsy kisses her back just as hard, then breaks away to breath and says, "Oh thank fuck."

"This isn't recommended," Merlin announces over the comm, "So I'm leaving you to it."

The line clicks off and Harry grins at Eggsy.

Eggsy grins at Harry, brilliant and shining and exactly how he has since day one of their acquaintance.

Harry thinks, "Oh," again. Then she leans back in.

# # #

Eggsy's first mission in the United States is based in the mountainous region of Virgina. For convenience, Harry and Eggsy make out the entire plane ride over the Atlantic.

At the mission site they have to wait six hours for the inhabitants of the parked caravan in the woods to leave for the local watering hole six miles down a dirt track before they can approach, and then it turns out that Harry has to proceed on her own.

"My shoulders are too broad," Eggsy whines at Merlin over the comms as Harry squirms her way under the Caravan through a small hole in the rubbish surrounding the base. If they didn't have to cover their tracks they could just move the rusted refuse, but no, Merlin would have a fit, can't possibly do that.

She finds the surveillance equipment set up under where the television apparently resides inside the living structure and pokes at the exposed bits.

"The wires have been gnawed on."

"Ah, that would do it," Merlin says.

Eggsy starts to feed a small cloth-wrapped toolkit up her leg as far as he can shove it. She twists at the waist to grab at it, grunts when her head connects with a support beam of wood from the underside of the caravan.

"We're in a backwater country that considers a bloodless version of a gladiator arena spectacle as prime sport, and you didn't think that we needed wireless equipment?"

Merlin snorts at her. "Wireless takes more power to run, and you are in the lower orifice of the nation, as you said."

"I said backwater, not orifice."

Eggsy's face is visible through the hole she crawled through. He looks concerned.

"I thought their football was a riff on rugby? Are you dissing rugby, Harry?"

Harry rolls her eyes and returns herself to the position to deal with the problem. Unfortunately she sees something new that causes her to hesitate.

"No, but what I am doing is leaving. There's a raccoon down here, and I don't think it's pleased."

"Oh bloody hell, Eggsy pull her out!"

Eggsy grabs at her ankles and tugs at them. "Protect your face! Cover it with your hands and shimmy backwards!"

"Shimmy?" Merlin roars. "What the bloody fuck, lad--"