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(Let Me Help You) Change Your World

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Harry first saw him on a regular Tuesday evening, huddled over one of the free bowls of peanuts at the bar and carefully nursing a single pint of beer. His back was hunched, his arms bracketing the bowl and beer like he was afraid someone was going to come and take them away from him. Technically, they should be because the peanuts were for all the pub's patrons, not a single one, but the boy looked dejected enough as it was, and Harry knew from experience that the barkeep, Andrew, was a kindly man. The pub was mostly empty anyway; no one would miss a bowl of peanuts.

Harry slipped into his usual spot, a booth in the very corner of the pub where he had a good look at the entirety of it. It had been his usual spot for well over five years now, and all the pub's patrons, regulars they all were, knew to leave it clear for him.

He sat down and placed the book he was carrying on his right side on the table, exactly half an inch from the edge. He reached into his coat and took out a carefully folded handkerchief in which was wrapped a tea infuser with his favorite combination of teas. A mug of hot water was placed in front of him just as he fished out his infuser, and it was into that that he plopped the tea. He folded the handkerchief precisely three times and placed it on the left hand side of the table, precisely half an inch from the edge. He then took the lemon and squeezed it into the water before wrapping it in a paper napkin and setting it onto the saucer. He swirled a teaspoon twice around the cup and rested it on the other side of the saucer. After wiping his hands on the handkerchief and replaced it, he picked up his book and settled in to read.

Despite the presence of the new boy, Harry's evening progressed as usual. He managed to finish precisely two chapters of his book before the boy stood from the barstool and left without a second glance. After that, he finished two more chapters without further interruption and packed up his things.

...............

On the second day, he learned that the boy was a rent boy, if the way he was dressed today--indecently low, ripped jeans, fitted waistcoat that left a good amount of arm, chest, and stomach bare, and thick eyeliner--compared to yesterday was any indication. Far be it for him to judge, Harry was pretty adept at reading people.

He didn't mind. They all had to make a living somehow.

He sat down and placed his book on the table to his right. He unwrapped his tea infuser and set it in the cup Andrew had dutifully set before him without a word. He folded his handkerchief and put it on his left. He squeezed the lemon, swirled his tea twice, and wiped his hands.

Then he started to read.

Two chapters in, a phone chimed. Harry looked up to see the boy taking the call in a low, flat voice. Someone he didn't like then. The call was short and uninformative. The boy quickly tucked the phone in the back pocket of his jeans and stood. He threw back the last of his beer and tossed a couple of coins onto the bar presumably to pay for it then drew in a deep breath.

When he turned and walked out of the door, he was a completely different person, smiling brightly and declaring, "Andre! Yer lookin' gorgeous, darling. As usual." He threw his arms around the beefy, rough-around-the-edges man--new money, Harry guessed. Very new--and allowed a grope to his jean-clad arse with a coy giggle. Then they boy climbed into the backseat of the car that drove out of sight.

...........

By the fifth night, Harry knew that the boy catered to a very specific type of clientele--the dubiously-acquired-fortune kind of clientele that was--and that he was a veritable chameleon, able to change his spots to suit the client that had bought him for the night.

That first day, he was himself in a snapback and tracksuit catering to no one but himself.

The second, a shameless tart for the beefy man that looked like he liked to surround himself with scantily clad women and fawning admirers.

On the third day, he transformed himself into this shy little thing that blushed and stuttered around a leering, balding man in his forties.

On the fourth, in a fitted V-neck shirt, leather jacket, and jeans, he was a suave young man that could sweep any woman off of her feet, possibly including the woman who picked him up.

Today, though, might be Harry's favorite look on him: a three-piece suit, black oxfords, and a hairstyle that was almost retro in its styling. The suit was too wide in the shoulders and the length of the sleeves too long--like a suit that wasn't made for him and sloppily adjusted to fit--but he was gorgeous in it nevertheless. Harry's fingers itched to take his measurements and get a proper suit done.

For that, he almost struck up a conversation with the boy, but that would have been a grave mistake. The boy would think Harry was hitting on him and would shut him out, maybe find a different pub altogether, because Harry knew he resented every one of his clients. It was to be expected. After all, very few would choose to be a prostitute if there were legitimate opportunities for income generation available to them. So since Harry wasn't in the habit of depraving people of their sanctuaries, he said nothing.

More than the boy’s resentment for his clients, though, Harry observed a palpable hate and revulsion for the person on the other side of the phone every time the boy picked it up. Harry wasn't yet sure if it was one and the same person, but from his voice and tone, it should be either the same person or people from a single group. Maybe his pimps?

A limousine pulled up outside the pub, and, as if on cue, the boy's phone rang.

"Yeah," he answered, anger dripping from the single word like acid. Harry watched surreptitiously while the boy pocketed his phone and took a deep breath and then he turned and exited the pub. This time, there was no one to greet him except a chauffeur who held the door open for him.

……………

“Watchoo readin’?”

Harry didn’t need to look up to know that the boy was speaking to him. He wasn’t even surprised that the boy had. It was inevitable. They had been in each other’s vicinity everyday for the last three weeks after all, the boy hunched over his pint and Harry going through his motions.

He looked up anyway then smiled genially and lifted up his book so that the boy could read the title.

The boy grinned back, and Harry felt exceptionally pleased for having made him do so. “Pride and Prejudice? Really?”

“It’s a classic,” Harry answered, feeling the need to justify his literature choice if only to tease the boy into laughter.

The boy huffed a small laugh. “Can you be any more ov a walking cliche? Lemme guess, you’ve read it cover to cover three times already.”

“Don’t be ridiculous,” Harry sniffed. “Two and a half.” The boy’s smile was brighter after that, and he seemed to find the will to lean over with a hand outstretched.

“Gary,” he offered.

Harry took his hand without an ounce of hesitation and returned it with a “Harry Hart. Pleased to meet you, Gary.”

When they reseated themselves in their respective chairs, Gary stared at the one in front of Harry for a short moment. Then he stood abruptly and shuffled towards it.

Harry watched him with a careful eye, unwilling to spook the boy away when he had finally made the first step towards taking a chance in befriending Harry. It was odd how Harry felt pleased at his decision to do so--he didn’t often feel the need for company and so he never really took steps to expand his circle of acquaintances.

“Oh, ‘m sorry,” Gary suddenly said, jolting back as if stung. “Am I breakin’ sum sorta… rules between--”

“No!” Harry cut him off abruptly. It only then dawned on him that his careful attention to the boy’s actions could be interpreted as rejection. “No, please. Join me. Please,” he implored, hoping to high heavens he hadn’t botched this up. Thankfully, Gary seemed appeased, if wary. Harry’d take it.

“So…” Harry prompted when Gary was silent for a whole half minute.

“‘So’ nothing,” Gary confessed. “You just seemed… nice. I think I needed a bit of nice.”

“Well, thank you. I try to be,” he answered with a measured degree of humility.

“My friends call me Eggsy,” the boy admitted shyly.

Harry smiled. “I’d say it suits you, but then I don’t really know what an ‘Eggsy’ is.” Eggsy chuckled.

“It’s wot dads call their sons when said sons decide that a dozen eggs is a proper substitute fer a shower.”

“Ah,” Harry chuckled. “Then I must say that it does suit you. I think that you can be quite the rapscallion when you want to be.”

“‘A little shit,’ you mean,” Eggsy corrected, then teased back, “‘Oo the fuck says ‘rapscallion’ anymore, old man? ‘Sides ‘ow’d you know wot I’m like? I’m a fuckin’ angel.”

“An old man’s intuition,” Harry winked. Eggsy giggled.

“So wot you do fer a livin,’ Harry?” he asked when his laughter had died down.

Harry watched the corners of his eyes crinkle as he smiled. It was such a lovely, rare sight to see. Although then again, Harry knew nothing of the boy beyond what he saw of him in the pub just before he went off to work.

Though that wasn’t to say he wasn’t open to knowing more.

“I run a grocer’s a few blocks away from here. Just a small thing for the locals,” he answered. Eggsy nodded to acknowledge his words more than to show interest, Harry was sure, because, really. What could possibly be interesting about a grocer?

To save Eggsy the hassle of feigning enthusiasm, he quickly returned the question with “What do you do for fun?” Not ‘for a living’ because it was clear that both of them knew what Eggsy did for a living. He could almost see the boy’s shoulders slump in relief.

“I… I, uh--Gymnastics,” Eggsy seemed hesitant to admit. “I enjoy… used to… gymnastics. My father used to take me to all my practices. After he… well. I stopped. I parkour when I can, but. Well, it’s not like I can make a career out of it, can I?”

It was crystal to Harry that the boy’s interest in gymnastics had been abused and corrupted in the course of his ‘employment.’ So much so that he now felt shame for enjoying it. It made Harry want to track down the man on the other end of the phone and show him what the heel of his shoe looked like up close. He didn’t because it wasn’t his place to do so.

“I believe,” Harry said, enunciating clearly, “that you can be whatever you want to be.”

Eggsy snorted a derisive laugh. “Maybe in your world where posh little gits can get away wivout bein’ called fairies coz ov daddy’s money, yeah? My world’s a whole ‘nother planet, innit?” Quietly, he added, “You and I both know what I am, Harry.”

“Well then you’ve got to change your world, don’t you, Eggsy?” Harry told him.

Eggsy looked like he wanted to argue, but there wouldn’t have been any point to that. His eyes flickered to Harry’s hand instead. “No ring,” he pointed out.

Harry allowed the topic change. “No,” he agreed.

“No Mrs. Hart waitin’ fer you at ‘ome?” Eggsy asked.

“No,” the older man repeated.

“Has there ever been?” The question was asked carefully.

“No,” Harry said for a third time.

“Oh.” And that seemed to be the end of it. Eggsy looked mildly disappointed. Or maybe he was grasping at straws for a topic of conversation, so Harry took pity on him and volunteered, “There was once another Mr. Hart, though.”

“Oh,” Eggsy repeated, and this time he seemed a lot more interested. “Did you break his heart?” he asked, half teasing.

Harry smiled a little sadly. “He broke mine.”

Eggsy was silent for a long moment before he said, almost in a whisper, “You know I see a lot ov widowed blokes.” Harry said nothing. “It’s something in yer eyes…” he explained, gesturing to his own. “Not sad, exactly. Just… lost.”

Lost is exactly how Harry felt, living day to day with no direction, no goal. Just to survive.

He supposed Eggsy knew a little about that because he looked lost too.

“So how many books have you read?” Eggsy suddenly asked brightly. The change was abrupt and startling, but it was a welcomed reprieve.

“I’m a very old, traditional man, Eggsy,” Harry answered wryly. “I’ve read a lot.”

“Ballpark,” Eggsy demanded. “Come on, Harry, gimme a number.”

Harry thought about it. He didn’t have to ballpark; he knew exactly how many books he had read throughout his life. He tilted his head and decided to tell Eggsy the truth just to see how he’d react. “Five hundred and seventy six individual titles. Many of them multiple times”

The boy’s jaw dropped.

“Seriously?”

“As a heart attack,” Harry said with a single, solemn nod. Eggsy was on the verge of grinning when his mobile suddenly went off. He startled in his seat, grabbed it, and silenced the call.

“Sorry,” he said, and then immediately after, “Five hundred and seventy six, ey? How’d you have the time fer anything else?”

Harry wanted to ask if he was going to get into trouble for that, but Eggsy was staring at him like he wanted nothing but to forget about the rest of his life. So Harry indulged him. “Not having a social life helps, I suppose,” he answered with manufactured humor in his tone.

……………

Tonight, he was once again wearing what Harry had come to think of as his ‘little boy’ persona--cargo shorts, a superhero T-shirt and coordinating hoodie, a snapback, and wide blue eyes--which infuriated Harry more than all the other personas combined. That he had to make himself appear smaller and younger if only to appeal to the tastes of (what Harry would bet large sums of money on) a sexual predator was nauseating. Only the fact that he was of-age kept Harry glued to his seat whenever said deviant showed up to collect him from the pub, a decision which was quickly wearing thin now that, for the first time, Eggsy was sat across from him in said persona.

Said wide blue eyes were turned to him, innocent in a way that they hadn’t been the last few nights when Eggsy spent with Harry the few minutes before his clients came to pick him up. Harry would bet Eggsy didn’t even realize he was doing it, so far sunk into his role that he was, the way he always did with his outfits.

It was dangerous, Harry thought, to lose yourself like that. He pitied the boy--no, he feared for him and mourned for the person he could be without the influence of his profession.

“Have you anyone to call if…?” Harry asked quietly.

Eggsy smiled sadly. “I can handle myself, Harry,” was his answer. “I’m used to it.”

But he shouldn’t have to be.

He was a dazzling young man with a big mind and an even bigger heart. He had the potential to do great things for himself and for his family. He shouldn’t have to be used to the heavy hands of his client and pimp who Harry now knew to be his stepfather.

“Give me your phone,” Harry implored. Eggsy hesitated before he handed it over.

“Save yerself as ‘Ryan New,’” he instructed while Harry typed in his number. Harry didn’t ask, but Eggsy explained anyway, “Dean’s always goin’ through it. ‘E’ll notice you right away, but my mate Ryan’s always switching numbers. Dean won’t look into it.” Harry obediently typed in ‘Ryan (new)’ as his name before handing the phone back. Eggsy inspected it briefly and then bit his lip. There was gratefulness swimming in the glimmer of his eyes when he looked up. “Don’t text or call me first,” he added when he put the phone down on the table between them.

“Of course,” Harry answered. He understood. He knew how this worked. He wasn’t happy that he had to apply what he knew, but he knew.

“Thanks,” Eggsy said with a watery grin.

His phone chimed, and he stood up without answering it just yet.

“I’ll see you tomorrow then?” he asked, bright as he could manage.

“You will,” Harry promised and afterwards watched him through the window greeting the balding old man with a shy kiss.

……………

“What happened to your face?”

He didn’t need to ask. Dean happened, of that he was sure. But he was tired of pretending this was all right, like what was happening to Eggsy was something he could ignore, he could let go like it didn’t matter.

Like Eggsy didn’t matter to Harry.

Which was an odd thought to have because he’d known Eggsy for all of a month and had been on speaking terms with him for a little over a week. By all accounts, Eggsy shouldn’t matter to Harry, but the crux of it was that Eggsy had become quite dear to him.

When he wasn’t sullen from the weight of the world, he was a flicker of brightness in Harry’s equally dim one. He was youthful and charming and a little bit bonkers, but only in the best of senses, and Harry had come to adore their evening chats.

To adore Eggsy.

He leaned over and tipped Eggsy’s chin up so that he could inspect the black eye in the pub’s dim light. Eggsy tried to tug his chin away and hide his face, but Harry only tightened his grip until he could determine, with his eyes and fingers, that the bone beneath hadn’t broken.

“Hit myself on something stupid,” the boy answered dourly, pulling back and away as soon as Harry released him. The bridge of his nose was red where it hadn’t been before, and maybe it delighted Harry somewhat that the boy wasn’t unaffected by his touch either.

“If we ask Andrew for some ice, I think we can get the color down a little,” he volunteered instead of pointing out his blush. He wasn’t a monster, after all, preying on vulnerable little things not even half his age.

“Yeah, all right.”

It was one of Eggsy’s free days off, so they spent the better part of the night chatting about nothing of importance while the bag of ice melted against Eggsy’s face and Harry’s customary tea grew cold beside his unread book. Harry soothed him with little anecdotes of his own life, gladly making a fool of himself if it meant he could make the boy drown in laughter. He comforted Eggsy with stories about James, his husband, how he had come into Harry’s life like a whirlwind of sunshine and madness and left him in devastation so many years ago that now Harry only felt resignation and numbness. He shared factoids and trivia that were gleaned only from a lifetime of experiences and listened to Eggsy wax poetical about darling little Daisy and her multitude of toys.

Like this, he could help Eggsy cast aside the darkness that had been plaguing him ever since his stepfather had taken over his life, even for a moment.

“Can I walk you home?” Harry demurred when the hour was suitably advanced. All the other patrons had left and Andrew was glancing over every few minutes, ready to pack up as soon as they did too, so Harry took pity on the man.

Eggsy, however, looked as if he wanted anything but to go back home.

There were so many reasons, so many reasons why it was a massively bad idea to do so. Nevertheless, Eggsy’s fearful look was why Harry asked with almost no hesitation, “Unless, of course, I could… offer your a place to stay for the evening?”

“God, please,” was Eggsy’s relieved answer, spoken in a rushed exhale.

“You won’t get into trouble?” Harry asked once more, but he was already collecting his things off of the table.

“I already am, aren’t I?” Eggsy pointed out, gesturing to his black eye that had gone down significantly. Harry took a moment to draw the boy closer to him and inspect it once more. If he also used that as an excuse to caress the top of Eggsy’s cheek, no one had to know but him.

Beneath him, Eggsy’s breaths stuttered and his whole body swayed into Harry’s. His eyelids fluttered halfway shut as he took in deep, measured breaths, and once more, Harry realized it was such a bad idea to invite him home.

“It’s looking better,” was Harry’s verdict as he stepped back. Eggsy looked momentarily disappointed, for which Harry felt guilty for leading the boy on, before he mumbled a thanks. Harry nodded a response and held an arm out, gesturing him out the door.

“So where to?” Eggsy asked as the cold night air enveloped them. He dug his hands into his jacket pocket and tensed his muscles as if that would ward away the cold. Harry pretended that when Eggsy moved closer, it was because he was seeking heat.

“Not far,” he answered, ”Just a few blocks down the road.”

A heavy silence encompassed them, filled with hesitation, confusion, comfort, and promise.

“You know I like being up at this hour,” Eggsy murmured.

“Do you?” Harry prompted.

“Yeah. Everythin’s so dark. Makes anythin’ seem possible, don’ it?”

Harry slanted him a glance. He stared down at his feet, a small grin on his face, mostly looking like he was trying not to be embarrassed about what he said, so Harry volunteered, “I find it difficult to sleep at night,” if only to wash away Eggsy’s embarrassment.

“Well, I get to hear your stories, don’ I? More fer me, then,” Eggsy told him, looking up with a bigger smile on his face, bright beneath a street lamp, and Harry couldn’t help but stop and enjoy it for a moment. And in the next moment, he stepped closer and cupped Eggsy’s cheek.

Once more, Eggsy’s breaths stuttered, but this time his eyes fell all the way closed and his lips parted, an invitation Harry wasn’t quite sure he could turn down any longer, God help him. He took one more step closer to bring his body within a hair’s breadth against Eggsy’s.

“May I kiss you?” Harry asked in an almost silent whisper as if he was afraid of destroying the moment, but Eggsy deserved to be asked. He deserved to choose this. He deserved to be able to say yes or no when he wanted to. He deserved more than life had given him and more than Harry could give. But this, his unhesitating compliance for whatever Eggsy wanted, this he could give.

“Yeah,” Eggsy answered simply, his eyes still shut, his lips still parted, unmoving, expectant. Harry brushed the top of his cheek with his thumb and leaned in as a car passed behind them, unnoticed by either.

He could feel Eggsy’s breaths on his mouth, the anticipation high between them, when came a sudden and loud “OI!”

Eggsy was jerked sharply out of his arms, making him cry out in surprise and pain. Between them, a man of large stature stood, looming over Eggsy who was curled over his assaulted bicep.

“Dean--” Eggsy tried to say before Dean whipped a hand across his face, snapping his head to the side and tearing another cry out of his mouth.

Harry advanced on him, red filling his vision before Eggsy begged, “No! It’s all right, it’s okay. Please,” under the misguided notion that Harry couldn’t handle himself. And okay, maybe the thought that he’d do anything for this boy was still high in his mind and so he shrunk back obediently as Eggsy was dragged into the car parked precariously over the curb.

The man--Dean--turned to him with a curiously apologetic face and a ‘what can you do?’ expression shrugged and chuckled good naturedly. Harry was of the opinion that he should be stabbed repeatedly in the face.

“‘Ere, guv. Come find me, and I can get you a good one fer yer troubles. This one ain’t up to standard, yeah?” he said, handing Harry a business card.

Harry took it wordlessly and watched them drive away with Eggsy looking forlornly back at him through the window of the backseat.

……………

He was gone the next night and the night after that.

On the first one, Harry had given him the benefit of the doubt. The next, a chance to return.

On the third, he took out Dean's card and glanced at the address.

The Black Prince.

It was a pub like all pubs: a little dark, a little dingy, and full of drunk patrons. Dean and his men weren’t to be found, but Harry only took note of the door off to one side to find them in a private room. They were louder and rowdier than the rest of the pub, full of the confidence that this was their home turf.

His entrance and approach was noted almost immediately by Dean and his boys.

“Oi, lookee ‘ere!” Dean exclaimed, spreading himself out on his seat like a king on his throne. His face bore an amused, condescending smile that tugged at Harry like an annoying itch. “Come to take me up on me offer? I got me some new ones you might like.”

He ignored him and said in an even tone, “I’m here about the boy. Eggsy.” Dean’s smile dimmed. “You’re a businessman, I understand. You need to make money to answer to your affiliates and provide for your family and your lifestyle.” Not that Harry supported it in the least, but this was the cleanest, easiest way to bail Eggsy out, his first option before he proceeded to the messier, but admittedly much more effective second option. He reached into his coat and drew out an envelope and slid it over to Dean. “To buy out Eggsy’s contract.”

Dean glared at the envelope like Harry had told him it contained warm dog shit. Then he looked up at Harry with a feigned grin on his face. “Look, mate, I understand that ‘e gives great head an’ all, it’s enough to make any man want it on a daily basis, but ‘e ain’t fer sale,” he told him with mocking amusement.

“You misunderstand, Mr. Baker,” Harry corrected. “I am not buying Eggsy contract for myself. I’m buying it for him so that I can offer him the opportunity to seek employment elsewhere. Ten thousand pounds should cover it.”

Dean burst out into hacking laugher that his men shared for a good long minute, slapping each other on the back in their amusement. Harry waited patiently.

“Guv,” Dean wheezed. “I can make that off ov ‘is pretty arse in six months, an’ ‘e’s got a few decent years in ‘im yet. ‘E ain’t worth ten thousand dollars.” Dean took a pull of his beer before saying, “Sides, ‘oo’d want a slag like ‘im t’ work fer them anyways? ‘E’s only good fer one thing an’ it ain’t ov the respectable sort.”

“I would,” Harry said, hiding the bristling feeling at the slight against Eggsy’s character. “And I pay my employees quite handsomely. He would still be bringing home a respectable income, which I am sure you wouldn’t let go to waste.”

To that, Dean scowled. “‘E ain’t fer sale,” he repeated with dangerous meaning in his voice. He slid the envelope back over to Harry and leaned over to hiss, “Now why don’ you take yer ten thousand pounds and whack yerself off ten thousand times before you come back ter me wiv it. ‘E’d be all used up by then. Maybe I’d even give ‘im ter you fer free.”

Harry stared at him for a long, long moment until Dean started sharing odd looks with his boys and snickering with them under his breath, undoubtedly feeling like they had the upper hand.

He took the money and carefully folded it. Then he pocketed it and turned away, walking toward the door in measured steps while Dean’s group broke out in raucous laughter. He stopped at the door and said loudly enough to be heard throughout the room, “Manners--” He opened and shut the door once, one of his more annoying habits that he hadn’t quite managed to overcome. “--Maketh--” Another round of opening and shutting the door. “--Man.” A final round and then he locked it. “Do you know what that means?”

He turned to assess the room, noting Dean and his men’s ‘What the fuck is he talking about?’ expressions. Of course he didn’t expect them to know what it meant, but he’ll be teaching them a lesson about it soon enough.

He approached once more and Dean and his men, all eight of them, watched him do so, tensed and poised for a fight.

So Harry gave them one.

He parried the punch aimed for his face with all the ease of swiping a fly aside, leaving his left side exposed, so Harry kneed him in the ribs, breaking two for sure, and leaving him gasping on the floor, down and out for the count.

The next two came at the same time. He deflected the knife of the guy on the right so that he stabbed his friend on Harry’s left. Both of them stunned, Harry slammed an elbow down on the back of the first’s neck to take him out while ignoring the stabbed goon writhing on the ground because the next two guys were already advancing on him with the third hovering behind.

Harry vaulted over the two men and landed himself directly in front of Dean. That’s when all four remaining men launched their attack at him.

It was with a small smile that he took them all out with a swiftness and efficiency borne only of his years and years of combat. He swung and ducked and spun with a grace remembered not by his mind, but by his body.

It was freeing, he thought, delightful to be able to sink once more into the motions and aches of battle when he doled out punches and caught a few so that he could position himself for a better angle. He captured wrists that held knives and wrenched the weapons away, breaking bones in the process so that he could use the very same weapons to scare Dean by throwing them at him.

A lanky fellow came at him last--a second in command, Harry didn’t doubt--but he went down just as easily as all the rest of them did, and then there was only Dean.

Pointing a gun at Harry.

It was an inevitability; Harry was only surprised that Dean was the only one who had one. He cocked his head at the man, giving him an approving grin for making this a better challenge.

“Who the fuck are you?” Dean screamed over the moaning of his men. It was an odd sound in that Harry didn’t often hear moaning from his opponents--they were usually left dead.

“I am a fair man, Mr. Baker,” Harry said quietly. Dean’s gun shook even though his expression was furious. “I had offered you a choice which, had you accepted it, we would have all walked away winners. But you’ve chosen poorly--over a mere ten thousand dollars may I point out?--and now, you shall walk away with nothing. Be grateful that I let you go with your life.”

I’m ‘olding the gun ‘ere!” Dean yelled.

“Indeed you are,” Harry agreed. “But it shan’t matter.”

And he moved.

He fell to the ground behind a table just as Dean started firing shot after shot at him.

...one, two, three, four, five…

He launched himself forward at the man when he hesitated, flinging the gun aside and punching his face before grabbing the wrist with the gun and holding it safely to the side while he punched Dean over and over again.

...six, seven, eight...

He bent Dean’s wrist well past what the joint would allow and reveled in the satisfying crack and Dean’s scream of pain. He took the gun away from the limp hand easily and dragged Dean to his feet, wrapping an arm tightly around his beefy neck, squeezing pained choking sounds out of him with relish.

“It’s men like you who pollute this world,” Harry hissed into his ear. He swung Dean around and slammed him up against the wall, pinning him there with a hand against his neck. Then he took the gun and forced it into Dean’s mouth, making the man’s blue eyes fill with terror as the gun nudged up against his palate.

Harry continued, “Be thankful that your familial affiliation with Eggsy has saved you from death. I would have been happy to give it to you, but I’m afraid your life is not my decision to take.” He clicked the hammer in a clear threat. “But know that the second Eggsy asks for it, I shall not hesitate. You have seen but a fraction of what I can do, Mr. Baker. If he is hurt, if his mother and sister are hurt, I shall track you down. I shall find you. There will be nowhere you can hide from me, and I will remind you again why I despise men like you.

“And when Eggsy asks me to? I will kill you as well, Mr. Baker, and I shall enjoy doing so.” Harry’s eyes flashed in promise. “Are we of an accord?”

Dean nodded frantically, tears of fear already pooling in his eyes, so Harry released him and put the gun down on a nearby table.

“Very good,” Harry nodded. “I would of course appreciate it if you didn’t let Eggsy know of this little… tête-à-tête of ours. No reason that any of this has to be shared by anyone else, no?” He tilted his head expectantly at Dean who only nodded frantically once more and so Harry turned his back to the man, unafraid of the gun that was within arm’s reach.

He stopped at the door and spoke one last time. “Let us hope I shall not be seeing you again, Mr. Baker. Good evening.”

And then he left.

……………

On an unassuming Tuesday evening, Harry sat at his regular table. He placed his book he was carrying the usual half an inch from the edge of the surface. He reached into his coat and took out his tea infuser to plop into the mug of hot water Andrew set down before him before folding the handkerchief and setting it down on the other side of the table. The lemon was squeezed into the saucer, wrapped in a paper napkin and set on the saucer. He swirled the teaspoon a precise two times around the cup and rested it on the saucer opposite the lemon. He then wiped his hands and settled in to read.

Up until a shadow blocked his light.

He looked up and smiled.

“Hello, Eggsy,” he greeted. The boy bit his lip and fidgeted at his jacket. He was none of his personas today, but Harry expected that when he saw him again, otherwise he would have had to follow through on his promise to Dean. “How are you?” he asked gently.

“I…” Eggsy started to say. “I’m not working anymore.”

Harry affected mild surprise and a warm smile. “Really? That’s wonderful.” Eggsy nodded, his lip once more caught between his teeth. “And what will you be doing from here on in?”

“That’s… Well, that’s the thing, innit?” Eggsy said, sliding into the seat opposite Harry. He still looked hesitant, but also excited and determined in the same breath. “I might go back to school fer uni.”

“That’s wonderful, Eggsy!” Harry exclaimed softly, genuinely happy for him.

Eggsy interrupted before Harry could go on, though. “Nothin’s set in stone yet, but Heathrow Gymnastics Club called yesterday t’ invite me to an audition, an’ if I qualify, they’re wilin’ t’ send me t’ a uni of my choice on scholarship.”

“I’m sure you’ll do fantastically,” Harry assured him. He received a small smile of thanks in return.

“We’ll see. I’m a bit rusty, I think, but they said it wos fine. They said that while trainin’ would ‘elp, they were lookin’ fer people with potential, wotever that means,” Eggsy said in a tone that said he wasn’t expecting much and that he’d accept it if they said no. Harry wanted to reassure him, to let him know that he’d do marvellously. Then again, Harry shouldn’t know how well Eggsy performed at gymnastics because the Harry Eggsy knew had never seen him perform. So he said nothing.

Eggsy leaned forward. “But the thing is, Harry… Few people know ‘bout my gymnastics, and those that do don’t have the pull t’ get Heathrow to look at me. ‘Cept I wos thinkin’... maybe you.” His eyes searched Harry’s face like he was trying to find an answer to a question he didn’t ask. Harry knew he’d find nothing, but if he asked, Harry wouldn’t lie to him.

He asked.

“Did you do it, Harry?”

Harry smiled gently. “I may have gotten in touch with some old friends,” he admitted, hoping that he hadn’t overstepped, and then in the next moment, he had a lapful of blond and a warm mouth pressed against his own.

He let out a startled sound that Eggsy took well advantage of, cupping the back of his neck and plunging his tongue in deeper, pressing himself into Harry who allowed it for all of a minute of weakness before he gently pried Eggsy off of him.

“I didn’t do it so that you would thank me this way,” he said firmly.

“I know,” Eggsy answered, breathless, elated, and beautiful. “I know because I don’t have to anymore. Dean’s let me go. He just… He just told me I don’t have to entertain no more. So I’m free to choose, Harry, an’ I choose this. So… so yeah. I don’t have to, but I want to.”

Harry cupped his jaw and stroked his cheek with his thumb. “I’m an old man, Eggsy. Now that you have the option, I think you should choose someone who would be better for you than I.” Eggsy stared at him like he was crazy.

“You saw me when everyone else looked at me like a piece o’ meat,” he said, slowly and clearly. “You… you helped me in so many more ways than I can count. You are charming and funny and kind. Why would your age mean you ain’t the best choice fer me?”

“I just don’t want you to limit yourself now that you have the option for so much more,” Harry told him.

“Yeah, well, it’s my choice to make, isn’t it?”

And yes. Yes, it was.

So Harry tugged him closer by the chin and coaxed out of him the prettiest of moans with his mouth.