“Galahad,” Merlin said, going for as casual an effect as possible. “You’re late, sir.”
“Am I?” Agent Galahad- Harry Hart- asked as he flopped elegantly down into the chair on the other side of Merlin’s desk. His tone was very much that of a man who knew exactly how late he was. His tone was likewise that of a man trying to get a rise out of the person he was talking to.
Merlin resolved not to give Hart the satisfaction.
Merlin was one of Kingsman’s most newly acquired handlers, but he had already jumped into the job with both feet. Merlin had an uncle in Kingsman and he had wanted to work for them for most of his life. They did, after all, have the best toys. He thought of himself almost exclusively as Merlin now, that was how badly he'd wanted to have that title and- perhaps more importantly- how badly he'd wanted to get away from who he used to be.
Most Kingsman agents didn't handle change very well, and they had accordingly given him a hard time. Merlin was willing to earn their respect and he considered himself to be making good progress in that direction- but Galahad was something else altogether. While Merlin had been training to be a handler, the trials for Galahad had been in full swing. Merlin had been given plenty of opportunities to see the candidates in action. He hadn’t thought much of most of them, but Hart- with his mop of curly hair and his quick temper- had been particularly unpromising in Merlin’s view. Resourceful, but far too pleased with himself and terribly inclined toward showing off. He’d hoped Hart would fail one of the loyalty tests, because he had known from the beginning that the dog test wouldn’t stop him. Someone like Hart didn’t get that far and balk. He just didn’t.
But Hart- Galahad, now- had made it to the dog test after all. He’d passed it while the other remaining candidate floundered, and here they both were, newly minted Kingsman together. Merlin didn’t like it, but he intended to make the best of a bad situation all the same.
“You are,” he said firmly. He had absolutely no intention of beginning their future relationship- whatever it was going to be- by losing some kind of meager battle of wills.
Galahad held his eyes for a long moment. “Well then,” he said when the moment ended. “I offer a thousand apologies. It won’t happen again.”
Merlin honestly couldn’t tell if Galahad was being sincere or not. He decided to leave the question for another day.
Galahad seemed likewise inclined, because he changed the subject. “Why exactly am I here?”
“I’ve been tasked with writing up your file. I need to find out what sort of missions will and won’t be a good fit for you- what your skills and personal limits are, that sort of thing.”
Galahad smirked. “I don’t have any limits,” he said, and winked.
Merlin didn’t entirely believe him, but he decided to put that one aside for the moment as well. Perhaps after a difficult mission or two the bravado would be gone and they could actually get to work. He shuffled through his papers a bit more, muttering, “And here I thought Galahad was the pure one.”
“Was purity what Kingsman was looking for? Lancelot never mentioned that.”
“I suppose he wouldn’t have,” Merlin replied. Sending Galahad out into the field under-prepared would be risky, but he decided right then and there that it would be worth it. He smiled. “Well, then. You’re ready to get started, aren’t you?”
Galahad smiled back. Again it was impossible to tell if he was being genuine, or if that smile was exactly as friendly as Merlin’s was. “I believe I am.”
* * *
“Late again,” Merlin muttered, many months later. He made a mark in his notebook from where he stood in the doorway, watching Galahad waltz into Morgana’s office almost ten minutes after he was supposed to.
Galahad, in the midst of sitting down in the seat opposite Morgana, went still. “Are you… keeping a tally about this?” he asked. He sounded as if he couldn’t decide whether to be astonished or delighted.
Merlin elected to ignore him, which was easy enough. The way Morgana’s eyes darted between them, lit with a curious light, was harder to ignore. The quartermaster wasn’t the kind to leave well enough alone, and this would be the first time she was seeing the two of them together. He should have guessed that it would give her ideas.
The problem with Galahad, as far as Merlin could tell, was that he either really didn’t have any limits or he was very, very good at hiding them. He seemed to be able to handle whatever Kingsman, Merlin, and the world had to throw at him. Most of the others were making nice with him by now, but Galahad remained as... Galahad as ever. As far as the meager battle of wills was concerned, it seemed to come up a draw every single time.
It was beyond infuriating.
Galahad turned his attention toward Morgana. “What can I do for you, ma’am?” he asked, as perfectly polite and polished as Merlin had ever seen him. He knew Galahad liked to play the old-fashioned gentleman at times, but it had never seemed quite so real before.
“You’re here to receive your first yearly review,” she said, passing him a file.
“Excellent,” Galahad said. “Did you write it?”
“Merlin did.” She jerked her head in his direction.
Galahad’s eyes sparkled as he glanced Merlin’s way. “Then I shall savor every word.”
Merlin thought he probably would. The review was, unfortunately, glowing. Besides the perpetual lateness and a penchant for not taking things seriously enough, Galahad was technically beyond reproach. Merlin could only hope that Galahad wouldn’t pick up how much it had pained him to admit it from the prose itself.
“Is that all?” Galahad asked.
“Yes, Galahad,” Morgana said, extending a hand. “You’re dismissed.”
“Thank you.” Galahad rose and shook Morgana’s hand- but before he left he also bent down and pressed a kiss to her knuckles.
“Cheeky.” She cuffed the side of his head, but she actually looked more amused by the gesture than annoyed.
Just when Merlin thought Galahad couldn’t get any worse.
Morgana’s look of amusement only deepened once Galahad was gone. “I should let you handle him next time,” she said.
Merlin hardly ever handled agents in the field, which suited him fine, but if he had to pick one- well, Galahad would be his very last choice. Unfortunately, he didn't actually have a choice in the matter.
He almost hated Morgana sometimes.
* * *
“You’re late, Galahad.”
“Fashionably,” Galahad said as he took a glass of champagne from a passing waiter. Given how aggravating he found almost everything about Galahad, Merlin still didn’t know why Morgana had asked him to do this. Or, rather, he knew exactly why- Morgana probably thought this was the beginning of a beautiful friendship- but that didn’t mean she was right. The mission had barely started and Merlin was already grinding his teeth.
Watching from a distance as Galahad rolled into the party where he was supposed to meet their target more than an hour late wasn't just aggravating- it was insufferable, and Merlin said so. “You're insufferable.”
“And yet,” Galahad murmured, sipping his drink and scanning the room.
“And yet what?”
“And yet you’re going to have to suffer me, aren’t you?” Galahad said. He sounded horribly pleased with himself, though that wasn’t exactly new, was it? Terribly pleased with himself seemed to be Harry Hart’s default setting. “You’re my handler.”
Teeth still gritted, Merlin said, “For this mission only, I assure you.”
“Of course,” Galahad said, his smug smile horribly evident in his voice. He paused, suddenly all business, and said, “I have eyes on target.”
For a single, shining moment Merlin glimpsed a version of this man that he didn’t entirely loathe. Since Galahad was apparently capable of getting the job done and being unbearably annoying while he did it the moment didn’t last very long.
Merlin wrote up his report and- very politely- asked Morgana that he never have to work so directly with Galahad ever again.
Morgana- also very politely- ignored him.
* * *
“You’re late,” Merlin coughed when he realized that it was Galahad and not one of his kidnappers who had just burst into the room following a hail of gunfire.
“Terribly sorry,” Galahad said as he crouched next to Merlin’s chair and cut his bonds. “I just never seem to get it together, do I?”
“No. But I may grow to like you.” Merlin would never have thought it, but he was actually very glad to see Galahad.
Of course, after spending the better part of a day tied to a chair in an extraordinarily cold room being questioned periodically, he would probably have been happy to see anyone- but he found that he had actually wanted it to be Galahad who came for him. He had been handling him regularly for a while by then, and he told himself that if it was Galahad he had wanted that was because he had never seen him fail at anything he’d set out to do, and not because Merlin was actually starting to like him.
He wasn’t, whatever he’d just said. That had been a joke or a slip of the tongue. Or maybe he had a concussion.
Galahad went still in the middle of the rubbing Merlin’s hands and wrists to restart circulation. “Shit,” he muttered, looking Merlin over. “Just how badly are you hurt?”
Merlin wasn’t entirely sure. He was sort of numb, and therefore tempted to tell Galahad that it was only his pride that was hurt- after all, getting captured during a simple tech op was a terribly amateurish thing to do- except that he got the sense that not being able to feel anything wasn’t a very good sign.
As it turned out, he didn’t have to say anything. He passed out.
* * *
Harry- Merlin supposed he might as well think of him as Harry under the circumstances, though since the kidnapping incident he had been trying to keep his distance- lifted his brows. “Late for this little impromptu drinking session?” He slid into the booth across from Merlin, expression softening. “How are you holding up?” he asked with uncharacteristic gentleness. “I know you and Morgana were close.”
Merlin considered telling Harry that he had invited to him to the pub to drink, not talk, but instead other words sprang to his tongue unbidden: “She recommended me as her replacement- can you believe that?”
Merlin sighed and nodded.
Morgana had always implied that she wanted Merlin to replace her as quartermaster- he had just never expected it to actually happen. He had expected Morgana to die in that job- come to that, he had expected her to never die. She had held Kingsman together since the second world war and most people had assumed she would still be there if- or more probably, at times, when- the third one rolled around.
And now she was injured but alive and she had actually quit. After what happened, watching Lancelot die like she had, Merlin didn’t completely blame her. HQ had been infiltrated and they had captured Lancelot and threatened to shoot him unless Morgana gave them certain codes- which of course she hadn’t. She had done her job, done exactly what Lancelot would have told her to do- probably had told her to do, if they’d made the mistake of allowing him to speak.
That didn’t mean she would like it.
“What about you?” Merlin asked at last.
Morgana had left but at least she wasn’t gone- and there had been something in Harry’s face when he saw Lancelot lying there that suggested that they were closer than Merlin had ever thought. It had made Merlin more uncomfortable than the carnage around him- made up mostly of intruders- to see how Harry knelt beside Lancelot’s body and brushed a bit of matted hair away from his forehead with such a sad, fond look on his face.
Merlin knew Lancelot had proposed Harry, but beyond that he had given no further thought to their relationship over the last few years. He rather regretted that now. “You and Lancelot… were you… lovers?”
Harry laughed shortly. “Nothing like that. We hardly even spoke, I’m sure you know that.”
Merlin did. He kept an eye on all the agents, but he hadn't been sure what to believe in this case. Harry seduced who he had to seduce for the job, but Merlin was relatively sure Harry preferred men. He kept it quiet- or as quiet as Harry Hart ever kept anything- but Merlin knew he had dated his share. He wasn't sure, though, if that was a point for or against Harry having been... close to Lancelot. “Then-”
“He was a good man- and he was my brother.”
Somehow, that was far more surprising to Merlin than it would have been if they were sleeping together. “I… I didn’t know that.”
“No records will show it. Our father was… very thorough.”
“You were illegitimate,” Merlin said as he realized it. It was a guess- it could have been the other way around, he supposed- but Merlin was suddenly very sure. Harry’s obsession with what did and did not make a gentleman looked so very different in that light.
Harry nodded. “My father’s money took good care of us, my mother and I, but there were still… difficulties. I wasn’t in a very good place when Lancelot made me his candidate. He probably saved my life. And now I’m meant to recommend someone to replace him.” Harry didn’t seem to like the idea very much.
“Do you know who yet?”
“Not yet. Someone… different, though. He’d like that.”
“I’m sure,” Merlin said, more because it seemed like the right thing to say than because he had any notion whatsoever of what Lancelot- the former Lancelot- would have liked. “Well.” He lifted his glass of scotch. “To Lancelot, then.”
Harry looked sad and amused at the same time. “We already drank our toast.”
“Let’s do another.”
Harry laughed softly, and they did.
* * *
“You’re later than you thought you’d be,” Merlin said to say something.
Harry didn’t try to explain, didn’t make a smart remark, didn’t say anything. He just sat down heavily, sliding into the seat across from Merlin like the weight of the whole world was on his shoulders.
It was not a tradition that Merlin had expected to develop with anyone, let alone Harry- going to pubs to honor dead comrades. He hadn’t expected them to have another to honor so soon, hadn’t thought for a second it could be Lee. Merlin had watched Harry’s candidate carefully over the course of the trials and found him smart, competent, and brave. Exactly the sort of person that Kingsman needed, no matter what Arthur said. Merlin had been sure Lee would do well enough to warrant some kind of employment at Kingsman even if he didn’t become Lancelot- and it had certainly looked that way when he and James both passed one test after another. But now he was dead, probably because he had been so smart and competent and brave. They had lost a fellow Kingsman, whether Arthur would ever be willing to admit as much out loud or not. Merlin hated it, but he knew that he couldn’t possibly hate it more than Harry did.
Harry had just gotten back from visiting Lee’s family, so Merlin could hardly expect his mood to be light. Potential recruits were almost never actually killed, but in the event that they were Kingsman did nothing for the families- though to be fair most Kingsman recruits were unlikely to need it. Still, Harry had been breaking the rules just by going to see them and giving them an offer of help. If Arthur found out that there had been any contact with the Unwins at all, he would not be pleased.
Merlin was used to Harry being the bulletproof one, the one nothing really touched, and now… well, now it seemed he had found Harry Hart’s ‘limit’ at last, much good it did him. Writing doesn’t handle having someone die for him very well at all in Harry’s file would be singularly unhelpful.
“Our new Lancelot could possibly be even more insufferable than you,” Merlin said after a little while.
Harry laughed- a rough, pained sound but a laugh nevertheless. “Very possibly,” he said, and Merlin decided to call that a good sign. Maybe he was being foolish- maybe he was flat out wrong- but Merlin liked to believe that if he could still get Harry to laugh, with him or at him, things would quickly go back to normal.
* * *
“Damn it, Galahad. You just can’t ever get anywhere on time, can you?”
“On time for what in this case?” Harry asked with a mildness Merlin could tell was deceptive. “To get locked in a vault?”
“If you’d gotten in there earlier, it would have only been for a few minutes. Now it’ll be an hour before the guard comes back to check the vault and opens the door.”
“I am duly chastened. But that doesn’t explain why you didn’t warn me that you couldn't open the door remotely before I let it shut.”
Merlin sighed. He had gotten so caught up in his frustration at how difficult Harry was to plan around that he had almost forgotten why he had made the plan in the first place, but now he remembered- and it pained him. “I need to talk to you.”
“You talk to me almost every day.”
“For this I needed you to be a captive audience.”
“Well, I’m quite captive now,” Harry said dryly.
“Yes,” Merlin said. “Good.” After all the scheming and planning it had taken to get them to this point- not to mention all the rules Merlin had broken or least bent- it was oddly difficult to find a place to begin. Merlin knew he should have rehearsed this better- and come up with a backup plan for if Harry arrived at the vault late. “We have to talk about Lee.”
Things had not gone back to normal since they drank to Lee in the pub. Harry had been more careless since then, and- because at one time Merlin would hardly have believed it was possible for Harry to be more careless- Merlin was worried about him. He had waited for Harry to work through it on his own for exactly as long as he had felt able, and then he realized that if he wanted there to be any of Harry left for things to go back to normal with he would have to come up with a better plan than waiting.
This was the result.
“And what exactly is there to say about Lee?” Harry’s voice had turned very dangerous very quickly. Merlin had only ever heard him sound that way over the comms, and only ever to his enemies.
“You’ve been different, since it happened.”
“Someone died on my watch, Merlin, it changes you.”
“And that would be all right, if it had changed you in a way that made you more bearable. But what it made you is reckless, worryingly so, and I don’t know when or why I started to get attached to you, but apparently I have. And I am not going to let you make me sit and watch while you get yourself killed over something that was not your fault.”
“If I’d moved faster- if I’d seen sooner-”
“You could be dead instead of Lee, is that what you want?”
“Perhaps it is.”
“Well, it isn’t what he wanted.”
“Oh, isn’t it? Why don’t we ask him? Right, we can’t. Because he’s dead.”
“Harry, you can lie to whoever you want about this but you can’t lie to me. I was there, remember? And I don’t have to ask Lee because I watched him push you out of the way.”
The silence that followed was loud. “I don’t know why he did that,” Harry finally whispered. "He- he was- why did he do that?”
“I don’t know,” Merlin said, although he did. He sometimes thought that in Lee’s place he might have done exactly the same thing. Because someone had to do something about that grenade, and Harry- well, Harry was entirely too Harry to just watch die, not when there was a way you could prevent it. “But don’t throw it away, all right? Whyever he did it, he deserves more than for his sacrifice to have been for nothing.”
Harry was quiet again for a long time. “Yes,” he said at last.
“Good,” Merlin managed. “Thank you.”
The biggest problem with Merlin’s plan to trap Harry and give him a good talking to quickly became apparent- because now Merlin had no idea what else to say to Harry, and he was still going to be stuck in there for quite a while.
Judging by the sullen quality of his silence, Harry was aware of this fact.
It didn’t last for much longer before Harry said, “Maybe I could blow the door open with the lighter.”
“So you do want to die!”
“It would be a controlled explosion.” Harry sounded like a sulky child.
“No,” Merlin said, feeling as hopeful for the future as he had in a long time.
* * *
“Late, Galahad,” Merlin said- loudly, to be heard over the gunfire.
“Terribly sorry,” Harry replied as he came to rest with his back against the same crate that Merlin was already hiding behind. “I don’t suppose it matters to you that they had six men guarding the back entrance.”
“Excuses, excuses.” Merlin looked Harry over all the same, making sure he wasn’t hurt. He wasn’t. Merlin peered around the side of a crate, lined up a shot, and fired. “Don’t think I haven’t noticed that I’ve sent dozens of techs to make exchanges like this, but the one time you’re the agent involved instead of someone sensible like Percival or Kay everything falls apart.”
Harry grunted. “I’m not the only different factor involved there or didn’t you notice? I was outside watching the entrances and minding my own business. You’re the one who must have set them off somehow.”
“Well. There’s a reason I don’t go into the field much.”
There was a reason, and it wasn’t having the bad luck to always watch missions that were supposed to be milk runs go sour. It was Lee. Merlin had never wanted to be a field agent, and what happened to Lee had only reinforced why. Harry might have been running that op, but he wasn’t the only one who missed something that day, wasn’t the only one who wondered if things could have been different if he’d only been paying more attention.
From the way Harry’s lip twisted, he knew it too. But it had been a long time since Lee's death, by then, and Harry no longer withdrew just because he had come up. Instead, his mouth quirked and all he said was, “Afraid you’re losing your touch?”
“Never,” Merlin said. “And if I was I certainly wouldn’t admit it to you.”
“Naturally.” Harry’s eyes glittered with amusement as he produced a lighter and flicked it open. “Let’s get out of here.”
“Please,” Merlin said, and Harry tossed the grenade.
* * *
“You’re late for the show,” Merlin told Harry. It was the third time Harry had been late that day alone, which was a lot even for him. Of course, they were all off balance right now, and Harry seemed to be even more so than the rest of them. After all, he was the one who had picked a boy he hardly even knew to be his candidate.
Merlin wondered about Eggsy Unwin, he really did. Between Harry’s constant failed attempts to inject new blood into the organization and his own very personal and very well hidden issues with the elitism of the same, the trial period would probably never be a great one for Harry, but when the knight-hood in question was Lancelot’s…
Merlin shook his head to himself. A part of him still couldn’t believe that James was gone.
But life moved on and now Merlin was watching the dormitory flood with water, Harry’s broad shoulder brushing lightly against his. “I’m here now,” Harry said. “How’s it going?”
“Interestingly,” Merlin replied.
All the candidates had more or less forgotten about Amelia, which while disappointing wasn’t much a surprise. The surprise was Harry’s candidate, who was keeping an unusually cool head for the least prepared of all of them. He was trying to get the door open- it wouldn’t work, but it definitely said something about him that his first thought was action rather than mere survival.
Merlin had already noticed a fierceness about Eggsy that might translate well to service if he made it that far. Merlin had seen that in his father as well, though perhaps not quite so strong. He had noticed, too, the way Eggsy had looked at Harry in those moments before he left. The expression of Eggsy’s face… just what Merlin needed, a lovesick candidate. Eggsy’s father had never looked at Harry like that. As far as Merlin knew, Lee had only ever had eyes for his wife.
And Harry- well, Harry had been so very proud of Lee, of course, but already Eggsy seemed different. As much as Harry had made peace with what happened that day, choosing Lee's son as his candidate had to be at least a little about guilt- but the way Harry was watching him now, shirtless in the water, spoke to something else entirely. Interest. Something Merlin had actually only rarely seen in him, and almost never in the last few years. And Harry had first properly met Eggsy what? A few hours ago?
Merlin thought it was beyond ridiculous, and yet here they all were.
Eggsy was still swimming. He’d given up on the door, but now- after a moment’s consideration- he had bypassed the others and was headed for the glass.
“Oh my,” Merlin said.
“I’d better leave you to it,” Harry murmured. He sent one last look in Eggsy’s direction. “You’ll make sure he-”
“No one’s dying, Harry. Not today.”
Harry nodded and slipped out of the room, leaving Merlin to face the candidates alone.
Eggsy punched the glass, and Merlin stepped out of the way.
* * *
“You are late. Sir.”
Merlin’s eyes actually prickled as Harry looked up at him, blinking slow as machines beeped reassuringly around them. For a moment Merlin wasn’t sure Harry even knew what he was talking about, wasn’t sure Harry even knew who he was- and brain damage was a horribly real possibility. But then Harry spoke, voice thick but unmistakable, “Whatever for this time?”
“They wanted to make me Arthur, can you believe that?” As the second most senior knight, that position would have gone straight to Harry if he hadn’t gotten himself shot in the head, and Merlin had not wanted to take up that mantle.
Harry blinked some more. Of course, he would have no idea what Merlin was talking about, no idea that Chester King was dead. With all the drugs in system, he would be thinking even less than usual- and thinking, as Merlin well knew, had never been Harry’s strong suit. “I can,” he said at last, an echo- maybe intentional, maybe not- of the conversation they had had when Merlin had gotten his current post.
“Well,” Merlin said, and sniffed, and changed the subject with all the delicacy he was capable of. “Your boy was close to giving up on you.” Eggsy had been at Harry’s side whenever- between missions and all the time that he spent with his family- he had a moment, but the last few times there had been something in his eyes… no- there had been something not in his eyes. Hope.
As Harry processed his words Merlin could see that he was considering denying that he and Eggsy were much closer than was usual between an agent and his candidate, that whether or not Harry chose to take him the boy was his, and that Harry wanted to take him. Very much. “Perhaps that’s for the best,” Harry said with a sigh. "After everything that happened..."
Merlin snorted and didn't let Harry finish. “Self denial suits you very poorly. Arthur.”
Harry gave him a long look and said, “Perhaps,” in a tone that let Merlin know he had not yet won this argument- and then he fell back to sleep.
* * *
“Arthur,” Merlin said when Harry walked into HQ hours after he was due. “You’re late.”
Harry rolled his eyes. “Did you perhaps miss the bit where my mission partner was captured and drugged? I got him out. Terribly sorry if it wasn’t fast enough for you.”
“Oh, I noticed,” Merlin muttered. The drug in question had made it difficult for Galahad to keep his thoughts to himself. His captors had intended use that to get information out of him, and but Harry had arrived long before anything vital could be compromised. Unfortunately, once Eggsy started talking he hadn’t been able to stop, and they had all been treated to a play by play of Eggsy’s innermost thoughts. Doubts about whether he really belonged in Kingsman played an almost physically painful counterpoint to Eggsy's many and various sexual fantasies regarding Harry. Honestly, it was all information Merlin could have lived without.
Eggsy, at Harry’s side, flushed to his ears and fixed his eyes to the floor. He looked like he had no idea if Harry would kiss him, kill him, or let him down slowly once they were alone. The middle one wouldn’t happen, of course, but the first and the last… even Merlin wasn’t sure which it was going to be. Harry had been unusually hesitant in this matter, and Merlin still didn’t know how it would end. He knew that Harry thought Eggsy deserved better- someone younger, someone who wasn't his mentor or his boss, someone who hadn’t seen and done quite so many awful things. But while Eggsy might have been young he was far from innocent, and he was just broken enough to fail to get the message that Harry thought he wasn’t good enough for Eggsy, rather than the other way around. Merlin meant the broken part kindly, of course- they all were in their own way and he had grown much too fond of Eggsy to want to see him hurt again. The only reason he had done as much matchmaking as he had was because he thought Eggsy and Harry were frighteningly well suited to each other, but he had said his piece on the subject already. He wasn’t going to tell either of them how to live their lives.
“I’m sure you’ll survive without accolades,” Merlin said tartly. “Your dismissed, both of you. Get checked out by medical and go home. Get some rest.”
Eggsy scooted out of the room like there were armed men on his heels.
Harry lingered, briefly, and Merlin felt a hand on his arm. “You were right, I believe,” Harry said.
“Thank you,” Merlin replied. “You can pay me back by acting on my advice somewhere where I can’t see it.”
“Fair enough.” Eyes glinting, Harry moved to follow Eggsy out.
“Wait." When Harry stopped and turned, Merlin said, “You’d better be good to him.”
Harry opened his mouth, closed it again, and just nodded.
He kept his promise and didn't touch Eggsy when he caught up to him. Merlin knew because he brought up video of the hallway outside his office and watched Harry ask Eggsy rather stiffly if they could speak. From the way Harry's hands flexed at his sides as he resisted the urge to reach for Eggsy, Merlin suspected that he wouldn't escape PDAs ever again if tonight went Harry's way.
As usual, Eggsy’s nerves left him combative, and he set his jaw and said, “You can drive me home, yeah?” like he was ready for a fight.
“All right,” Harry said, with a gentle smile that made Eggsy melt just a little.
Merlin had a feeling that they were both going to be late the next day.
* * *
“Harry, you’re-” Merlin stopped, looking first at Harry’s lifted brow and then at his own watch. “Actually you’re right on time.”
“I don’t know why you sound so surprised,” Harry said as he settled against Merlin’s shoulder. His face broke into a smile that was truly horrible to behold. “It has been known to happen on occasion.”
They were standing side by side in the rarely-used chapel on the Kingsman grounds with a handful of people- Eggsy’s mother and sister, Harry’s nephew, those agents not currently in the field- arrayed in the pews behind them. Harry, resplendent in a tuxedo, was fidgeting slightly, though he didn’t look nervous. He looked disgustingly happy, in fact. “You’re like walking tooth decay,” Merlin muttered. If he had known this was where matchmaking would get him three years on, he- well, he would have done it anyway, but perhaps with a bit less energy.
Harry, damn him, only smiled wider.
And it was true that for once Harry wasn’t late; it was Eggsy and his best- er- person who weren’t on time, and Merlin tapped his foot. The sooner they got there the sooner it would all be over.
Harry looked at him sidelong and opened his mouth to say something, but before he could the side door clanged open, and there were Eggsy and Roxy- Roxy in her best Kingsman suit looking somewhat harried but happy nevertheless, Eggsy flushed and beaming in the tuxedo Harry had made for him. He smiled even wider when he saw Harry and came to stand beside him, twining their fingers together.
Merlin looked on with disapproval but didn’t tell them to stop.
“Well,” he said, once everyone was settled. “I’ve been asked to say a few words. And yes, Mr. Unwin, there is a reason I do any and all Kingsman weddings- and no, I’m not going to tell you the story behind it.”
Harry laughed softly.
“At any rate, I know I’ve made my opinions on weddings clear on multiple occasions. I think they’re sappy and silly and this case wholly… necessary.” Merlin cleared his throat. "I met Harry more than twenty years ago. I wasn’t looking for a friend, and even if I had been I wouldn’t have been looking there. But we’ve seen each other through so much, you and I, Harry.”
Harry, holding his eyes, nodded.
“And one thing I never saw much of, with you, was… love. I thought it might have been the job, or that you weren't just built for it. I certainly never thought I'd see you married. And then Eggsy came along and I wondered if you weren’t just… waiting. And that is sappy, and I rather hate myself for thinking it, but there it is. And Eggsy… I don't know you anywhere near as well, but I have one thing to say to you. As much Roxy impressed me, as pleased as I am that she's our Lancelot, I always thought there would be a certain symmetry to it, if you took it on. But when I saw you as Galahad, I knew that was right, and I hope by now you do too. You're a good Kingsman, a good friend, and I'm so glad Harry brought you into our world. You make it just a little bit brighter.”
Out of the corner of his eye, Merlin could see Roxy wiping away a tear, so he figured his work was done.
“Now,” he said. “Rings.”
Roxy straightened up, blinking rapidly, and then she managed to do a decent approximation of someone who had not been crying a moment ago as she handed Eggsy the rings. Unfortunately for her it didn’t look like he was fooled- but since his eyes weren't strictly dry either it hardly mattered.
“Eggsy,” Merlin said. “Do you take this man and so on and so forth?”
Eggsy was practically sparkling. “I do,” he said, lifting their joined hands to slip his ring onto Harry’s finger.
“I do,” Harry said, doing the same. They stood there, holding each other’s hands and staring into each other’s eyes, and there might have been a very slight bit of dampness in Merlin’s eyes, not that he intended to ever admit it to anybody.
“Well, then. I suppose you two can kiss each other. Though Lord knows you don’t need me to tell you that.”
They did- twice and then three times in quick succession. And then Harry pulled his new husband into a hug and grinned at Merlin over Eggsy's shoulder. Merlin pointedly rolled his eyes.
Merlin stopped fighting it and smiled back at him.