Harry took a deep breath, transferred the bouquet of flowers to his left hand, and knocked on the door.
He was running late- which he almost always was now that he no longer had the ability to simply appear wherever he needed to be whenever he needed to be there- and Eggsy had just sent him an apologetic text, explaining that he had been sent to the other room to check on Daisy, most likely because his mother wanted to let Harry in herself.
Since Harry had been invited to this party specifically so he could meet Eggsy’s mother, it was a forbidding prospect but not an entirely unexpected one.
Harry took another breath, and the door opened.
“Ah,” Michelle said when she saw him. “It’s you.”
She looked good. Her hair was cut back to the length it had been when Harry first matched her to Lee Unwin, and she seemed happy in all the ways that she hadn’t when Harry first met Eggsy. It was wonderful to see her that way.
Harry used his free hand to shake hers. “I’m Harry Hart.”
“And I’m glad to meet you at last, Harry Hart."
Harry cleared his throat. “And I you. I know it should have been sooner.”
Her eyebrows lifted, but she didn’t disagree. Harry had been far too close to Eggsy for far too long to easily explain why he had not introduced himself to her before now without also explaining why it had been impossible. I used to be a cupid; it was my job to match your son and you didn’t really notice me even when he was asleep in my lap because of magic probably wasn’t something any mother expected to hear, or would readily believe.
Harry and Eggsy had ultimately decided that Eggsy should tell his mother that he and Harry had only recently made things official between them, which despite their long acquaintance was technically the truth. It wasn't a truth that made Harry look very good, but he knew he deserved that. After all, it was his own fault that nothing had happened between them earlier. Eggsy wouldn’t soon let Harry live down how long it had taken him to see that Eggsy was in love with him, and Merlin and the rest of Harry’s fellow cupids wouldn’t soon let him live down how long it had taken him to see that he was in love with Eggsy.
In all the time since Harry had been dating Eggsy- taking Eggsy back to his own bed most nights, kissing him goodbye those times that he delivered him home, giving him flowers and kissing his hand and holding him close while they watched a movie without making excuses to himself about how very logical and platonic it all was- he had known this meeting was coming. He hadn’t actively avoided Michelle; it had simply fallen out that he had some time to get used to his new life- and to being with Eggsy- before Eggsy finally decided to intervene. The words do it properly, Harry, had been involved and Harry had known he was right. Harry had been thinking about asking Eggsy to move in with him, but given the unusual progression of their relationship thus far he hadn’t been able to decide if it was too soon. He had been sure, though, that his meeting Michelle would have to come first. So he had started rehearsing his speech.
As he stood there in the doorway, Harry supposed that now was as good a time as any to begin. “If I might… preempt you,” he said. “I do love your son.” He was relatively sure that part of doing it properly was receiving a dire warning about the horrors that would befall him if he ever broke her son’s heart, but while Harry supposed he would deserve that too he didn’t want to stress Michelle unduly. “I love him very much indeed. And I am so terribly sorry for any pain I may have caused him by taking so long to realize that. My only excuse is that I genuinely never thought he could feel that way about me. At any rate, I will atone for it for the rest of my life, if need be. I don’t want to spend that life anywhere but with Eggsy.”
Michelle cocked her head to one side, perhaps measuring his sincerity. “Fair enough,” she said at last. “Come in.” She patted him on the chest lightly and took the flowers. “I should put these in water.”
She turned with them in her hands and headed towards the kitchen, but she only got a few steps before she stopped and looked at Harry again.
“I knew there was someone, you know,” she said. “Eggsy only ever talked about you casually. You know- Harry’s picking me up at five, Harry says that’s a good movie, Harry bought me that, do you like it? That kind of thing. He never actually told me that he was seeing someone, never said he was falling in love.” She fell silent again, toying with the flower stems.
Harry waited for her to continue.
“For a while I tried to convince myself that he didn’t talk about it- about you- because he wasn’t sure it would last, but he was too happy for that. My boy was never the kind to be so contented in something he didn’t think was serious. I always knew when he fell he’d fall hard, and I was afraid that when he did it would hurt. But he always was, you know. Just… contented. And that wasn’t something he got the chance to be a lot, before you. So then I figured maybe he just didn’t want to talk too much about himself because he wanted me to focus on building a new life for me. And I thought maybe he was right to, because I could never seem to keep you- the idea of you- in my head even when I knew that I ought to. So there was just this Harry shaped hole in my picture of my own son. And of my daughter too, eventually- I’m sure you know how much she adores you. I thought about resenting you for that, but you’ve made both of my children so happy. Now, I don’t know how it’s possible that you and Eggsy only made it official a little while ago, but I don’t think any of what happened would’ve happened if you weren’t serious. So. Whoever and whatever you are, Mr. Hart, I’m willing to give you the benefit of the doubt.”
There was a weight in Michelle’s voice when she said whatever you are that made Harry wonder whether, like her son, she had an intuition that Harry was more than he seemed. It was just as well, Harry supposed, that she had decided not to ask for an explanation. It wouldn’t be much longer before he was almost completely human. “Thank you,” he said, meaning it earnestly.
Her lips ticked upward into a small smile. She added, “You don’t strike me as the heartbreaker type, anyway.”
“I think you’re right,” Harry said.
“Don’t prove me wrong.”
Harry bowed his head seriously. “I don’t intend to.”
She appeared satisfied. She said, “Come along then,” and jerked her head towards the kitchen.
Harry obediently followed along behind her.
“Eggsy’s still with Daisy, getting her tucked in,” Michelle explained over her shoulder as she walked. “He should be here soon.”
The kitchen was filled with finger foods that all looked very appetizing. Harry watched Michelle as she filled a vase with water and then put the flowers in it before carrying it into the living room to set it on the table by the couch. The living room had a few people in it already, mostly chatting together with glasses of wine or water in hand. There was a man a couple of years younger than Michelle who Harry didn’t need his old aura sense to know was interested in her, another man about Eggsy’s age and a woman about Michelle’s age. These people were introduced to Harry as Greg, Mike, and Sally respectively. Harry privately vowed to keep an eye on Greg in particular. He might not work as a cupid anymore, but he did still have some pull even now that he was just a tailor; he could learn more about Greg if he wanted to. Michelle deserved to be happy. It was worth discovering if Greg was likely to help or hinder that end.
Harry was a bit distracted by these thoughts, and so he missed most of what Sally- who was apparently Mike’s mother- said to introduce him. “Forgive me,” Harry said when Sally and Greg went to talk with Michelle in the kitchen and he found himself alone with Mike. “What do you do again?”
“This and that,” Mike said, which Harry took to mean that he wasn’t strictly employed. Harry struggled to remember most of what Eggsy had told him about these people. Sally and Greg were those among Michelle’s neighbors that she had become close to, and Mike had recently come back from university to live at home.
Harry nodded politely. He was sure he had made a good enough impression on Michelle to at least start making up for the past, and he didn’t want to ruin it now by being rude to her new friends. More than that, Harry knew it would be to his benefit to meet more people. He hadn’t realized just how many hours there were in a day before he lost the ability to simply fade out when he wasn’t required. The tailor’s shop kept him busy enough, and Harry was more than willing to spend every other free moment with Eggsy- but he knew it would actually be better for both of them not to be too much in each other’s pockets, especially if they were going to live together anytime soon. Eggsy had his work and his friends and Harry was happy for him- but he needed to expand his own horizons as well. Unfortunately, making small talk was a skill Harry had rather lost in his years as a cupid- if indeed he had ever had it at all.
Still, Mike had a broad, white-toothed smile and friendly manners, and Harry knew he would never get better at these things if he didn’t at least try.
“What about you?” Mike was asking. “What do you do?”
“I’m a tailor.”
“So you must be good at taking a man’s measure, eh?”
Harry hesitated. “I… suppose?”
Mike gave a little wince and laughed- at himself, Harry thought, though he wasn’t sure. “Sorry, sorry, that was so cheesy. I’m not that good at this. I never have been.”
“Good at what?”
Mike laughed again. “You’re adorable. Do you live around here?”
“Oh.” Harry blinked. “No.”
“Then how do you know Michelle?”
Harry blinked some more, a little surprised that his particular status wasn’t already common knowledge at this gathering. “I’m-”
He didn’t get a chance to finish, because he heard a voice say his name. Harry turned, and there was Eggsy at the other end of the room.
Before Harry even got a proper look at his face Eggsy was pressed up against him, kissing him. Harry kissed back, because now that he was permitted to, now that he could have Eggsy, he had forgotten how not to. But he did wonder at it. Though Harry had cured Eggsy of any discomfort with public displays of affection back when he still had himself convinced that those were friendly gestures only, Eggsy rarely kissed Harry on the lips in public- and never quite so deep and fierce and needy. He kissed Harry like Harry’s mouth and not oxygen was what he needed to live. He kissed Harry like he was worried his lips might have fundamentally altered since the last time they did this- which had been only that afternoon, when Eggsy paid Harry a visit at work before leaving to help his mother set things up for this party. Eggsy had only kissed him safely tucked away in one of the dressing rooms then, despite the fact that everyone Harry worked with knew they were a couple. Harry softened the kiss, gentled it, cupping Eggsy’s face in both hands and being extra careful with it.
“Is everything all right?” Harry asked when Eggsy finally broke the kiss. He stroked Eggsy’s cheeks gently with his thumbs.
Eggsy nodded, rubbing his forehead against the side of Harry’s face. “Can we talk?”
“Of course.” For a moment there at the end, the kiss had managed to make Harry forget that there were people watching- that Eggsy’s mother was watching- but now he remembered. He could feel a flush creeping up his neck, but he ignored it- and all the eyes that were on him. He opted instead to tug Eggsy out into the hall where they could talk privately. “What is it?” he asked when they were alone, lifting Eggsy’s chin with one finger so Eggsy would meet his eyes.
“It’s nothing,” Eggsy whispered with an unconvincing laugh. “It’s stupid, Harry, forget about it. I'm really fine.”
Harry shook his head immediately. “I’m sure it isn’t stupid. And I don't think you are fine.” He found Eggsy’s hand and lifted it, kissing the knuckles. That gesture almost never failed to ground Eggsy again. "Please talk to me."
Eggsy whined softly, pressing close and nuzzling Harry. “I was jealous,” he admitted.
That was the last thing Harry had expected Eggsy to say, and he almost laughed out loud and told Eggsy that that was stupid, but he knew better. Eggsy’s eyes were sad and his kiss had been desperate and possessive. It didn’t matter what Harry thought of the idea- Eggsy had been scared and Harry couldn’t make light of the reasons for it. He released Eggsy’s hand carefully. “Why?” he asked at last, keeping any judgement out of his voice.
Eggsy shrugged and didn’t answer, but Harry didn’t really need him to.
“That young man was flirting with me, wasn’t he?” Harry said. He hadn’t been sure. After so long with so little contact, he wasn’t very good at picking up certain social cues. And flirting, that spark of interest between two people… noticing it had once been part of his job, but when it came to himself Harry… well, Harry was bad enough at identifying it when Eggsy flirted with him, let alone someone he wasn’t attracted to and would never for a second have expected to be attracted to him.
Eggsy snorted unhappily. “Have you looked in the mirror lately? He ain’t that much younger than you.”
Harry blinked. He wasn’t, though. Whatever the magic of being made human- or mostly human- had done to Harry’s physical body, he was still older than most of the people in that room put together. And Eggsy- Eggsy couldn’t think that he would ever- “I wasn’t encouraging him,” Harry said.
Eggsy’s face contorted and then went soft. “I know,” he whispered. “Sorry, Harry,” he added, hugging Harry hard. “I know you weren’t. And it ain’t for me to go after you about it, even if you had been.”
Harry ran his fingers through Eggsy’s hair lightly, holding on to him. He hadn’t heard this tone of voice from Eggsy very often, but he had heard it enough to think of it as his I just sounded like my stepfather voice. Harry doubted that Eggsy really had- and frankly he much preferred to be told if he had done something that bothered Eggsy than not. He knew, though, that it was best not to push things when Eggsy got like this, best to allow Eggsy to sort it out in his own mind.
“Anyway,” Eggsy said, face buried in Harry’s neck. “This ain’t about him back there, not really.”
And Harry could tell that much. He knew this hadn’t just come on Eggsy suddenly- or rather, it probably had, but he would never have reacted like he did unless a part of him had already been worried about this. About Harry. What Harry didn’t understand was why. Harry let his arms fall to Eggsy’s back, hugging him close. “Then what is it about?” he asked.
Eggsy let out a long breath. “Remember I told you how I knew you wasn’t like everyone else because nobody ever seemed to notice you?”
Harry nodded slowly.
“Well, now they do, don’t they?”
Harry waited for that to make sense. “I don’t understand,” he admitted at last. He backed off a little, just enough so he could keep Eggsy in his arms but also look at his expression.
Eggsy’s face got pinched, and traces of the stepfather tone were still tugging at the edges of his voice as he said, “I want you to have friends, Harry. You deserve to meet new people and try new things and have a conversation with a stranger at my mum’s party if you want to. Fuck, that’s the least you deserve.” Eggsy hung his head. “I just… I could see you when no one else could, right? But now everybody can and… and it’s not that guy so much as the fact that I can’t help wondering if one day you’ll turn around and realize that you’re just with me out of… well, a lack of options.”
“Don’t be silly,” came out of Harry’s mouth before he had a chance to censor himself and choose his words with more care.
Luckily, it broke through some of the tension in the room. Eggsy still looked unhappy, but he let out a sharp laugh and it seemed genuine. He had once claimed to like it when he startled Harry into saying something not strictly gentlemanly- or not so perfect, as Eggsy had put it. Makes me feel less like I’m gonna wake up any second and find out all this was a dream. But that, of course, was why Harry always took such care with him. Because it was the least Eggsy deserved.
“Forgive me,” he said quickly. “Whatever you feel, it isn’t-”
“I know,” Eggsy said, just as quickly. He backed off from Harry a bit more, enough to get up on his tiptoes and push a little kiss into Harry’s lips. “It’s fine, Harry, I know.”
Eggsy really did seem lighter in himself for the slip, like he had remembered that this was Harry he was dealing with. Harry who was bad at feelings, especially his own. Harry touched Eggsy’s face gently, hesitating. “Are you really worried about that?” he asked at last. “Only you didn’t seem to doubt me. Before.”
“I don’t doubt you now, Harry,” Eggsy said. “Not really, it’s just- it’s just that you’re so wonderful. Back before we got together, there was all the proof in the world that you loved me back, but when you said you didn't feel that way about me I bought it because there was always this little part of me that wondered what the fuck you saw in me. I know you don’t wanna hear this, but it might never be completely gone.” He gave a sad little half shrug and hugged Harry again. “And I know that you are what you are and how we met is how we met. I can’t change it and most of the time I wouldn’t want to, but… but I got this idea in my head and now I can’t get it out.”
Harry hugged him back, burying his face in Eggsy’s hair. “I suppose I can’t blame you. I still think it’s nonsensical, of course, but I do understand. I wish… oh, I wish you could see all that I’ve seen. If you had, you’d know.”
Eggsy rubbed his cheek against Harry’s shirtfront. “What would I know?”
“That sometimes people can be so well suited, but if they don’t meet at just the right time or in just the right place, nothing will come of it. But other times… none of that matters. I may not have known that there was such a thing as two souls destined to be together, but I have seen it. I know that that’s us- and not just because I get to be here with you, but also because I am what I am, and how we met is how we met."
Eggsy let out a muffled laugh.
"I mean it," Harry said. "We had so many opportunities for things to go terribly wrong- but somehow we made it through. And if I had been born in your time… I don’t know how I would have met you, but I would have loved you. And it might have gone even better than it did for us, because if I had thought for even a moment that it was possible for me to have you, nothing would have stood in my way. And if you had been born in my time… Eggsy, I don’t remember much about when I had a real life, but I remember that it wasn’t an especially good one. I remember that I spent a lot of time being successful and not looking around me. But I would have seen you. I would have looked at you. And I would have loved you. You made me want to be more than I am or have ever been. You made me see that I was isolated and want to change that- but no matter what else I do with my life, I'll want to be coming home to you.”
Harry lifted Eggsy’s chin. Looking at the slow smile spreading across his face, Harry started to think it wouldn’t be too early to ask Eggsy to move in with him after all. Not today, perhaps- it had already been emotionally charged enough- but soon.
“I want that because it's why I'm here, yes- but also because you're the one,” Harry finished gravely. “And you always will be. All right?”
“Yeah,” Eggsy said, eyes glistening a little. He buried his face in Harry’s chest one more time. “Yeah, all right.”
“Good.” Harry kissed the top of his head. He suspected that in this, as in everything else with Eggsy, only time and patience would overtake his doubts. Harry didn’t mind about that; as he had told Michelle, it was time he was more than happy to take.
Harry let himself just hold Eggsy for another moment. His face was still half buried in Eggsy’s hair when he heard footsteps. Harry didn’t really want to talk to anyone from the party right then- especially Mike, of all people- but he quickly realized that the footfalls were too soft and that they were coming from the wrong direction.
He looked up- and then down again. “Hello, Miss Daisy,” he said.
She stood in the hallway, holding a teddy bear by the foot, and she lit up when she looked at Harry. “You're here! I didn't know that!”
“Probably your mother and brother didn’t tell you so you wouldn’t get overexcited,” Harry pointed out.
This logic did not appear to pass muster, because Daisy promptly started to pout.
Eggsy drew back from Harry, passing the heels of his palms over his eyes quickly. He approached Daisy, crouching in front of her. “Can’t sleep, flower?”
“I want another story,” she said.
“Okay.” Eggsy smiled and took her hand, probably glad for the excuse not to go back into the living room just yet. The people out there had to have been at least a little bit scandalized by the kiss; Harry wasn’t looking forward to facing them again himself.
“What about Harry?” Daisy asked, turning back toward him.
Harry crossed to them and took her other hand. “Why don’t we read you that story together?”
He didn’t need to be able to see Eggsy’s aura any longer to see the effect it still had on him whenever Harry did something like that. He brightened considerably, but then he bit his lip. “Are you sure at least one of us shouldn’t get back in there?”
Harry considered teasing Eggsy about throwing him to the wolves but refrained for Daisy’s benefit. Eggsy certainly had a point; returning would only get more awkward the longer they took. But… “Your mother will understand, won’t she?”
Eggsy looked from Harry to Daisy and then back again. “Yeah,” he said, face softening even further.
“Then that’s all that matters,” Harry told him. He would worry about making friends another time. He had everything he really cared about right here.