EAD Snippet ~ Burns

Title: After the World Burned – Part 1
Fandom: Kingsman: The Secret Service
Pairings: Eventual Merlin/Eggsy
Summary: Alternate ending and continuation. Harry lives.

 

“This ain’t that kind of movie, bruv.” Eggsy’s voice sounds tired, hollow through the glasses’ feed.

He can barely hear Valentine wheeze, “Perfect.” And watches the billionaire’s life sign fade from the computer in front of him with vindictive joy. Merlin feels like he can breath for the first time since Arthur confirmed his best friend’s death.

“Good work, Eggsy!” Merlin congratulates. They can both hear Lancelot shouting and congratulating them in the background of the feed. Merlin thinks she’s probably dancing and just shakes his head. Now, time for the real work. “We need to retrieve Valentine’s physical files and clean up.” Merlin gets back to typing. “Eggsy, take the doorway to your right. At the end of the hall is a staircase, take it down three levels and it will let you out right in front of what appears to be an actual office.

“I’ve already unlocked the way.

“Stack anything the looks important outside.” Merlin watches Eggsy’s dot on get a start down the staircase on his screen rather than watch the glasses feed stagger around, he couldn’t afford to take it easy on the boy. ..Then again. He moves to the cockpit and starts take off procedures. “After I collect Lancelot, she’ll join you. ETA 20 minutes, Lancelot.”

“Acknowledged, Merlin.”

The flight gives Merlin time to reflect.

Once it’s in the air and the course is plotted he pulls up the schematics for Valentine’s base and finds the armory. He’ll use Valentine’s explosives to blow the control table. There’s plenty on the plane to get the job done but considering that he’ll have to call in MI-6 to take care of the hostages, he’d rather not use Kingsman stock. MI-6 always sends Q to see if they can get samples and reverse-engineer Kingsman Specials. Wouldn’t do to make it easy on them.

While reviewing the blueprints he finds a room for physical copies of security recordings and sets up a program to check the digital copies for the information he felt was too classified to share. Basically anything on the more technical aspects of achieving the event. They’ll pull those physical copies and leave the rest for MI-6 so that the other agency can catch the world up on the truth of the disaster.

Shit, they’ll have to destroy the Valentine Satellites and they need to do it sooner rather than later. After thinking about it a moment, Merlin pulls up Geraint contact information and sets him to taking care of it. Geraint is an Active Knight about seven years younger than Harry that Chester King had removed from the Table because he was ‘disrespectful’ which upon reflection really means that Geraint took even less of King’s shit than Harry used to.

Merlin sighs as he finishes his vertical landing on the mountain side.

He’ll have to dart the Princess, she saw Eggsy’s face. He’s surprised and more than a little relieved that Eggsy didn’t argue about going back to her for his promised ‘reward’ but then the fight with Gazelle had been a long and painful one.

Merlin makes a note on his clipboard to remember to send Eggsy to Medical as soon as they get back to the Mansion.

The flight back to Valentine’s base is faster now that Merlin knows the exact route. He uses the flight time to send a preliminary message to MI-6 stating that they have found the international hostages and that there are planes on site but no pilots.

Q himself acknowledges and asks if the kidnappings are related to ‘The Event.’

Merlin confirms they are.

Q asks for coordinates.

Merlin denies him but gives him a general direction and tells him that the exact coordinates will come in a second message in an hour and to be ready.

Q confirms and for a moment Merlin fancies he can feel the burn of M’s fury from so far away. He must be tired.

“Put your glasses on.” Merlin orders Lancelot after they land. “They’ll be recording but I’m going to find their explosive ordnance to take care of the control table and won’t be monitoring. You’ll have to call if you need me.”

“Of course, Merlin.”

He sends her ahead so that he can dart the princess without having to answer any questions. Normally it wouldn’t be such a big deal but considering the timing of their meeting and the resources the princess will have once the world has recovered leaving her with the knowledge of Eggsy’s face could seriously compromise Kingsman.

He’s just entered the table room to evaluate it for destruction when his glasses give a soft ping and the symbol for Lancelot appears in the air in front of him. He squeezes the right side corner of the frames and suddenly he was looking at a trail of bloody footprints.

“Merlin, you need to see this.” The trail has a lot of blood. Enough to make Merlin worry that maybe Eggsy’s been bleeding this whole time.

Lancelot follows it into what looks like a guard station and right up to a first aid box that Eggsy must have stood in front of for a while judging by the pool that formed around where Eggsy stood. Not a very big one, really, and it’s surrounded by drips. Drips and splatters that tell Merlin that Eggsy probably isn’t bleeding out. That he’s probably just dripping from rolling around on the wet and chunky party room floor with Xenia Onatopp’s little sister.

“Find him.” He orders the young Knight and antibiotics are suddenly top of his mental need list for Eggsy. Will probably top of the list for all of them by the time they finish.

With half of his attention claimed, he evaluates the desk more slowly than he would like. He has the full schematic and all network information on the plane so it’s not like they need the table as well and it’s just too dangerous to leave in one piece. He finds a single removable maintenance panel on the cursed thing, opens it, and evaluates the internal structure for destruction.

By the time Lancelot’s feed finds Eggsy, the lad is moving slowly. Gently. There’s definitely the nursing of damaged ribs going on. Or, well, it could be his back? Eggsy might be limping too but he’s not walking around enough to be sure.

“Eggsy,” The lad in question looks tiredly up at the sound of Lancelot’s voice. “Are you bleeding anywhere?”

“No,” The young man answers as he wipes a hand across his face, flashing at least one wrapped wrist and palm. “All she cut was my tie.”

“Alright.” The feed nods. “I’ll start packing this to the plane.” Lancelot glances at the stacks of document boxes in the hall behind her. “What do you have left to check?”

“Rest of this cabinet and all of that one. Might need more boxes or something.”

“I’ll check the plane-” Merlin pushes Lancelot’s feed further from his focus and calls up a projection of the base layout when he starts to physically verify the room’s structural integrity. He needs to know if or how he can blow up the table without bringing down the mountain. Once he finishes his evaluations he heads to Valentine’s armory to fetch the appropriate materials.

When he gets to the armory, he makes sure to send Eggsy and Lancelot the list of dates and times his program compiled of recordings with ‘classified’ information on them then gives the two junior agents directions to the video storage room.

He makes it to the plane first, grabs a laptop, and moves away from the plane platform.

He sends his second message the MI-6 and uses the automated garage to put the Kingsman plane out of the way.

Eggsy and Lancelot eventually show up, pushing a relatively clean couch towards him from the party room.

He raises an eyebrow at them. Roxy huffs and Eggsy grins, shamelessly letting him know exactly who’s idea the couch was.

“If I sit on the floor, bruv, you’ll have to pick my ass up. Carry me onto the plane.” Eggsy tells him without making him ask.

Merlin just shakes his head and goes to help. Together they position the couch to the right of the entry way. With a glance and a nod, he and Lancelot silently plot their course and maneuver Eggsy into the middle of the armless couch. Once they are all seated Eggsy seems to melt, impossibly filling up the space between Merlin and Lancelot without forcing either of them from their perches in any way and rests his head on the back of the couch.

“Ignore this.” He tells them as he sends out the order for every single living Kingsman -Active, Table Members, and otherwise- to physically report to UK HQ immediately, if not sooner. A few keystrokes later and the beeping from their glasses stops as he marks them both as accounted for.

After another moment of thought he sends out secondary mission parameters to Geraint.

“I’m sending an Agent to pick up Daisy and Harry’s daughters.” He tells Eggsy.

The lad tenses and shoots him a sharp look. “Harry told you?”

“Aye, lad. If you’d told us before, your recruit pay packet would have been bigger. I’ll have to have the new Arthur approve the retroactive corrections.”

Eggsy nods and closes his eyes, head going back down. Both men avoid Roxy’s questioning eyes and Merlin is grateful that his headset squawks at him before she gathers herself to ask the question aloud.

There’s a bit of static before 007’s voice cuts through. “MI-6 Flight 22A, requesting permission to land.”

“Roger, Flight 22A, permission granted. We have no landing crew. You’ll have to be careful.”

007 either ‘pfft’s him or his response is lost in static. Merlin can’t be sure so he does the agent the courtesy of assuming it was static.

The first person off of the plane is a beautiful white-haired woman that Merlin to this day wishes Kingsman had stolen from MI-6 when they had the chance.

“Victoria!” He closes his laptop and stands to greet her. Lancelot pops up when he does, then turns to help Eggsy stand as well. Merlin makes sure to tuck the laptop under an arm where Q can’t get even a good look at it when he goes to shake Victoria’s hand.

Behind Victoria Winslow comes about a dozen junior agents -presumably trained pilots- followed by Q, then 006 and 007.

There are surprisingly few signs of violence on the MI-6 contingent. They must have a strict no outside tech policy, just like Kingsman does.

Of course, as far as Merlin knows the head of MI-6 wasn’t compromised. There’s really no telling what special kind of hell they have waiting for them at Kingsman HQ.

006 nods his greeting and then focuses on getting the junior agents moving into the cellblock. To inspect and clean up, obviously, since Merlin hasn’t given them any useful access to the hostages. He silently wishes them luck if they are expecting to do anything other than clean up.

“Ms. Winslow, Q, 007, may I present to you,” Merlin pauses for a second. Technically, right now Eggsy is Mordred – the murderer of Arthur and not a member of the Table. Personally, Merlin views the lad more as Caradoc – a knight that rebelled against Arthur but eventually became a trusted member of the Table. Honestly, there is only one name either Merlin or Eggsy could accept for Eggsy at this point and it’s the one Merlin is going to make sure Eggsy gets. Period. “These are Galahad and Lancelot.”

“Galahad, Lancelot, before you are MI-6’s finest – Victoria Winslow, Q, and 007.”

Merlin and 007 settle in a bit to start the standard type of chit chat for this situation but Victoria tutts at them. “The boy needs a doctor sooner rather than later, Merlin. Give us what you need to give us and scoot before he falls out.”

“Alright.” He glances to Eg- Galahad who really is looking paler since he stood up again. “Most of the mainframe has been destroyed.” He tells Q and holds up a flash drive. “This will get you into flight control, the automated garage, prisoner records, facility blueprints. I took the liberty to change the cell keycodes to today’s date. Two digits for day followed by two digits for month.”

“Always the gentlemen,” Victoria says with a smile.

Q pulls a laptop out of nowhere and moves to Eggsy’s couch to get to work. “Off the platform, please. Where is your plane?”

The remaining five move the bare minimum of steps off the platform to allow the man to get the ball rolling. “Bay 18. Yours should fit in Bay 12.”

“Cheers.”

“You said you had information about the event?” 007 asks as they watch the MI-6 plane disappear below.

“We left the unaltered security recordings of today so you’ll find out soon enough but the short of it is that Valentine thought he could save the planet by having around 90% of the population kill itself off. He named the Event V-Day.”

“V-Day,” 007 repeats with obvious disgust and a shake of his head.

“When did you find out about it?”

“Almost six hours ago, now.”

007’s eyebrows shoot for his hairline.

“And the head poppers?” Victoria asks. “Are they related? The signature is different but the timing is interesting.”

“They are related.” He assures her. “Anyone that agreed with his plan and agreed to keep it quiet got implanted with a chip to protect them from the V-Wave. This chip could also be used to blow off their heads if they tried to warn anyone about it before the event happened. We used them to kill Valentine’s Army. There were only two of us in the base.”

Victoria waves off his explanation. “Anyone that agreed with such a thing deserved their fate.”

Once their plane is back up top Lancelot bundles Eggsy onto the plane, leaving Merlin to extract them from MI-6’s benevolent but nosey to the point of smothering attention.

By the time he gets the cabin door closed Roxy and Eggsy are seated on a couch in Kingsman issue pajamas. Eggsy has himself all but jammed into the corner made by the back of the couch and the built in little table with a lamp. Roxy is on the same couch but they are not touching. There are several inches of alien but sensible space between the two of them that is broken only by one of each of their hands laying across it so that they can each hold the others.

As he turns to enter the cockpit and get them out of there, he catches a look from Lancelot. A look that tells him that he will be joining them on that couch.

It’s the first time he’s seen any of her Knightly steel directed towards him so he just nods, accepting this first step in adjusting their now permanent working relationship because, really, if you can’t get comfortable with the people that helped you save humanity, who can you get comfortable with?

Merlin refuses to dwell on his justifications… or the fact that he’s already planning to take the seat in the middle of the two younger Knights. He won’t be doing it in pajamas, he consoles himself, but he might go wild and take off either his tie or his coat.

He ends up losing his coat.

The hour he spends on the couch between the two twenty-two year olds is not exactly restful but it is empowering. Lancelot curling up under one arm and falling straight asleep like he’s only ever seen her do with Eggsy and Eggsy sliding his shoulders up under Merlin’s other arm and quite literally letting Merlin have his back is amazing. Breath-taking. Their trust makes him feel ready to take on anything.

Even planning his best friend’s funeral.

When it’s time to land they all end up in the cockpit. There’s not actually room for all three of them but none of them are ready to be alone yet. There are actually only two seats in the cockpit, so Eggsy ends up sitting rather hilariously in Roxy’s lap after she declares the reverse too dangerous until his ribs have been checked by a medical professional.

He follows Flight Control’s directions for the landing. He’s so relieved to hear one of the few people he’s every personally recruited for Kingsman, Peter’s, voice he doesn’t register what the helicopter in the next landing pad means until the man standing beside it turns to look at them.

The vehicle is a matte black discretely-armored vehicle with a slightly-larger than hand-sized Kingsman symbol painted in silver just behind the pilot’s door.

The man is whatever you would call salt and pepper when the pepper was red rather than black. He has clear blue eyes that are firmly set in ‘neutral’, a full but well-groomed beard, and is actually taller than Merlin despite being almost twice his age.

“Ah, shite.” The young agents exchange wide-eyed looks and then turn them on Merlin together. “Come on. You don’t keep the Elder Council waiting.”

Every recruit is told the rather cliché line that ‘A Kingsman never retires’ and it’s true, they don’t, but that does not mean that a Kingsman keeps going out into the field until they die in it. After a certain age, if they survive that long, a Kingsman Agent withdrawals from the field and transitions into other supporting positions within the agency.

Some become handlers. Some become actual tailors. Some breed the dogs or horses for Kingsman. Some go into R&D.

There are tons of options for when a Kingsman withdrawals from the field but they are given the honor of keeping their Knightly name until they do die and one of the other Knightly names is trotted out from the legends to fill the Table in the interim.

For example, Ector AKA the man by the helicopter. He works with R&D testing the various flying machines they come up with. And he’s part of the Elder Council.

The Elder Council is made of the three oldest living Knights. Their first duty is to investigate Arthur’s death and appoint the new Arthur, so he really should have expected them to have come to the mansion. They probably came down long before he sent out his summons to the other Kingsman.

“Merlin!” The man’s face lights up with genuine pleasure as the three of them leave the plane and approach him, making him look like the happy grandfather that he most definitely isn’t. “Will you make me known?”

“Of course, Ector.” Merlin straightens a bit and gives the much more senior man a single nod. “Ector, this is Lancelot and this is Galahad.” First Roxy and then Eggsy give the man’s hand a firm shake. “Lancelot, Galahad, meet Ector.”

“Galahad?” Ector asks, smiling and amused. “Giving Harry’s name away a bit quick, aren’t you?”

Merlin can feel Eggsy tense up beside him as his own face turns to stone. “The toast has been done.” It’s the only thing required before a lost Knight’s name is re-issued. Technically speaking, the training cohorts are not a requirement.

“You toasted Harry Hart?” Ector seems surprised.

Merlin merely raises an eyebrow, keeping his suspicions off of his face. “Arthur announced his loss after a mission in Kentucky.”

Ector frowns, pulls a tablet out of an inner coat pocket, and starts thumbing around on it.

Only Arthur and the Elder Council have access to the advanced life monitors implanted in all Knights -because the Knights’ lives are literally in their hands at all times. He probably could hack the feed with proper preparation but Merlin’s never felt the need.

Of course, Arthur’s never been compromised before.

He should have fecking thought of that.

After several moments, Ector turns the screen to him. Five of the nine Knights of the Table and Arthur all have red little lights and timestamps beside their codenames indicating death. Of the Knights of the Table, the light for Lancelot is empty because she hasn’t been implanted yet. Percival’s light is the only green one, which makes sense -he was supposed to fly back from a mission in New York City today, he must have gotten really lucky in the timing of it. Bedivere is the light yellow that indicates non-serious injury.

Galahad’s light is the almost golden yellow that indicates serious injury.

Harry’s alive. Harry’s alive!

Eggsy is looking between Merlin and the tablet. The boy must have figured out what the lights mean, he had the highest IQ in his cohort, but he obviously wants Merlin’s confirmation.

He’ll get it.

“Lancelot and Caradoc, then.” Merlin corrects himself.

“Quite.” Ector snorts amusedly. “We, of course, cancelled the hit Chester had put out on him.”

Wow, that’s galling. If Arthur wants to remove a Knight, a Table vote is required and then a Kingsman takes care of the issue.

A Kingsman does not hire hit persons.

“I have directed Bedivere and his lady to Kentucky for retrieval. He was sponsored to the Table by Galahad so I am confident he had no part in whatever Chester’s plan was for Harry. We’ll need your department to create the correct paperwork for him to bring Harry home, of course.”

“Of course.”

“Agravain is handling the investigation. I’m covering check-ins, so that’s you lot done. Sagramore’s in the Infirmary, he’s expecting you within the next five minutes. Do not disappoint him.”

Merlin nods, accepting the dismissal and herding the two young Knights toward the Infirmary.

Sagramore is the oldest living Knight by at least twenty years. He used to be even taller than Ector but he’s lost several inches to age. His eyebrows are coal black while the rest of his hair is white. He looks like the kind to murder you in your sleep and celebrate it but is actually quite friendly. A feisty kind of friendly. He and Eggsy are probably going to become the best of friends and that is honestly terrifying.

Sagramore looks them over speculatively and then instructs the doctors to be sure not to separate them. Protocol says to not let them stay in the same room until after the debrief is complete, so Merlin rather wants to know what the older Knight sees in them that has him breaking protocol, but he doesn’t want to know enough to question it.

Hospital pajamas are provided and they move to the infirmary’s big shower to get clean. They strip down and techs from Merlin’s departments take off with their gear.

Sagramore stays with them through the whole process so that he can personally verify that they aren’t colluding now that their glasses have been taken. Not that the entire Infirmary isn’t bugged but human witnesses add credibility.

Merlin and Lancelot have to help Eggsy with his clothes before and after the shower and practically carry him back to the exam room. The poor lad is stiffening up something fierce and staggering about in his fatigue.

He definitely had the worst parts of the mission.

Merlin and Roxy both insist the doctor check over Eggsy first and then start giving Sagramore their verbal report.

Merlin gives the highlights of first James-Lancelot and then Galahad’s investigations covering who they were investigating and why and giving him the information they had about the implants and the scar. He then skips ahead to Arthur coming to the Mansion from the shop after hours and it turning out to be Eggsy holding a phone and an implant. How he’d recognized Arthur’s phone so he accepted Eggsy’s word when he said he took both from the man. How he’d verified Arthur’s confession from the dead man’s glasses’ feed and the three of them had leapt into action.

Lancelot takes the lead on discussing her space jump to destroy a satellite then it’s back to Merlin for his view on their raid of Valentine’s base.

Throughout all of the talking, Eggsy checked over by a Doctor and nurse with a mobile x-ray machine and a few other Kingsman devices. He’s put on an IV and given multiple shots in various meaty areas of his body. Several Kingsman Special ointments are rubbed into the man’s torso and limbs. His wrists and hands end up wrapped so thoroughly that he looks like a mummy hand model. His left ankle is also wrapped and he’s told quite harshly to stay off it.

Two weeks light duty before they’ll consider clearing him for field duty but it’ll more likely be three. There must have been something strong in one of the shots because Eggsy just nods and fights to keep his eyes open, rather than arguing or pouting or anything Merlin would have normally expected, really.

Roxy goes next. She’s given a few booster shots for her exposure and treated with more Kingsman Special for the various bruises she managed to acquire. She’s ordered a 48 hour stand down.

Merlin himself ends up getting a few shots for exposure and is cleared on the condition he gets a good night’s sleep before returning to duty.

Roxy and Merlin are sitting on the edge of Eggsy’s bed listening to some of Sagramore’s stories about World War II when Merlin’s glasses ping letting him know the Geraint has returned to base with precious cargo.

In the forty-five minutes that it takes the Knight and his cargo to get cleared by Medical, Merlin gets his group moved out of the small private room they are in and into a medium sized ward, confident that once everyone is together no one is going to want to leave.

When they are settled again, Eggsy finally starts to give into the medication’s influence. He’s reluctant to interfere because Eggsy needs the rest but he’s confident Eggsy would want to see his daughter before he sleeps. That he would make everyone actively regret his missing her.

“Eggsy, she’s here.”

The lad promptly starts pushing himself into a sitting position and widening his eyes into a semblance of wakefulness. “Daisy-baby?”

“Is in the hall with Geraint, are you ready?”

The Knight nods, eyes already locked on the door.

Merlin opens the door and takes in the sight of gruff Geraint holding a tiny blonde child dressed in an overlarge top of a set of hospital pajamas and JB’s lead as the dog wags his way down the hallway. Behind them come a small parade of nurse-powered wheelchairs holding Harry’s daughters.

The older one, Elizabeth – 14, has an IV stand attached to her chair, running into her arm. She’s listing slightly to one side. His glasses inform him of the large number of stitches on her back and kidney trauma. The younger girl, Catherine – 11, has more obvious injuries. Specifically, her entire right leg from hip to toes being in a cast.

“Daisy-baby,” The lad greets tiredly.

The baby starts a little and lifts her head from where it was tucked sleepily against Geraint’s shoulder, stretching her arms out for Eggsy with an excited, “Da!”

“Have you been good for Uncle-”

The hesitation is minute and Merlin, knowing that like him Geraint hates his real name, fills it instantly. “Geraint.”

“Uncle Gerry?” The baby just sort of babbles as she gets passed from one man to the other and happily curls into her father. “That over there is Uncle Merlin and this is Aunt Roxy-”

Merlin turns to help get Harry’s daughters settled. He tells them as honestly as he can that their father was injured on a business trip and will be home as soon as he can be. That they will be staying with him until either Harry gets home or their mother is found.

They just “Yes, Uncle Merlin,” him. The nurses refresh their medication and they quietly fade from the waking world.

Geraint claims his attention next.

The Knight admits that he only got to take care of two satellites before he felt the children’s welfare had to take precedence and set the techs to taking the satellites out.

“Good thing I did, too.” The gruff older man says when Merlin opens his mouth to admit that the agent’s plan was probably a better use of resources. “When I got to the residence, there were two recently dead adults on the floor by the baby’s pen. Based on the pictures in the kid’s file, they were his mum and stepdad. Probably. Looked like a messy murder-suicide to me. Recent, too, not part of the Event.”

“Alright. I’ll let him know. You had your glasses on?”

“On and recording.”

Merlin just nods, adding it to the list of problems marked for later. “Thank you. For taking care of them. Thank you for everything.”

“They’re good kids.” Geraint says by way of answer. “And London is no place for anyone right now. The city’s going to burn down.”

“I would have thought it would have calmed down by now.”

“No, the looting and the riots have just started. It was just 10 minutes but many are pissed that the government didn’t stop the Event completely. They won’t accept the explanations they’re getting. People can’t find their loved ones and are panicking. Most can’t accept the violence they’ve proven themselves capable of.

“It’ll be weeks before things calm down and we see what sort of world we’re left with.”

And, on that positive note, Merlin starts bed checks.

Catherine and Elizabeth are out. Somehow Roxy has ended up sharing a bed with Daisy, both girls are completely out and one of them is snoring. Eggsy is also asleep with JB at his feet, just like how they used to sleep during training.

By the time he looks up to see Sagramore and Geraint out, Sagramore already has it well in hand. The older man pauses before leaving with his hand on the light switch and his eyes give Merlin the non-verbal order via a single raised eyebrow to get his ass into bed.

After Merlin complies Sagramore just nods once, hits the switch and leaves, closing the door behind him.

-*-*-*-*-

First thing he does upon waking is check the clock.

He’s slept just over 12 hours. For a moment he thinks he’s the first one up but then he notices the Eggsy’s immobilizing wraps have been removed and replaced with wrist braces that allow him use of his hands.

With the exception of full, knock-’em-out surgery, doctors at Kingsman do not handle sleeping agents. It’s just proven too dangerous over and over again throughout the years to the point that they aren’t allowed to do it. So the change of dressings means Eggsy was awake earlier even if he’s asleep now with Daisy tucked into his side.

Merlin takes in more of the room and realizes Roxy and Harry’s girls are missing.

First things first, then, find the girls.

No, actually, first find his duty glasses. Then he can find the girls using the house sensors and get updated on the global situation at the same time.

Why whoever brought him clothes couldn’t have brought his duty glasses is beyond him but, no matter. He always keeps a spare pair in his desk and he knows exactly where that is.

He makes it to his desk in record time and grabs his glasses. He contemplates for probably longer than necessary but he keeps the waistcoat/jacket combination he had been left in the Infirmary, rather than changing into his standard sweater, and slips two of his smaller, simpler tablets into his pockets.

By the time he makes it to the southern dining room where Roxy is lingering over brunch and chatting with both of Harry’s wheelchair-bound daughters, Merlin has received updates about all of the Knights regardless of status.

All three of the Elder Council are in house and checked in, of course. Both of the no-longer field agents, called ‘Home Knights’, are in house and checked in. Not terribly surprising since one lives at the Mansion and the other lives in London.

Of the Active Knights -not all of which sit at the Table- Percival and Geraint have already checked in. Merlin had checked in Lancelot personally. Bedivere was estimated to be in house with Galahad in an hour. Lamorak expected to be in-house about 20 minutes after Bedivere.

Arthur is, of course, dead but so are five of the Active Knights that used to sit at the Table. According to the timestamps, all five had died within milliseconds of when he triggered the head poppers. That’s over half the Table dead because of Arthur.

“Your father should be here soon,” Merlin tells the girls after they invite him to join their meal. “He’ll have to be cleared by Medical before you can see him. That might not be until tonight depending on how severe his injuries are but I’ll do my best to get you to him as soon as possible.”

They’ve already scheduled the girls’ check-ups to coincide with the meeting this afternoon so separating them from Harry shouldn’t be hard if it come down to it and seeing him sooner rather than later would probably be better for them.

He thinks.

Between the Knight arrivals, preparing data packets, and getting the Eastern Library rearranged to Sagramore’s exact standards, the next two hours are very busy. Busy to the point that he’s one of the last to arrive.

Lamorak is there with his niece and nephew who Merlin knows have been cleared to back him up on several missions but he didn’t think they had clearance to be in the mansion. One of the Council must have given it to them.

Bedivere is also already seated with his ‘lady’. They are having a lively discussion with Eggsy and Roxy. Like Eggsy and Roxy, Bedivere and his lady were in the same cohort. Like Eggsy, she had failed the dog test but kept working with the Kingsman. Not as a Knight but as part of Bedivere’s cover in the operation they’d been running pretty much since he joined the Table.

Unlike Lamorak and his lot, Bedivere and his lady have obviously had a rough time with V-Day. Bedivere looks like someone tried to take out both of his eyes with their finger nails and his dominant arm is broken and in a cast. His lady has the worst case of carpet burn, or maybe road rash, Merlin’s ever seen covering the entire right side of her face. The bandages on her upper chest make him think it continues down onto her torso. The fingernails on both of her hands are shredded. Probably from Bedivere’s face.

Geraint is sitting alone in one of the few wing-backed chairs they’d left in the room, quietly watching the room.

Lanval and Percival enter the room not long after him, talking casually about nothing at all.

Gawain stomps in after them, obviously still pissed that they are pulling her out of her laboratory.

The last group to arrive includes the Head of Medical, who has already declared that he’s going to monitor the meeting as they have too many in need of Medical attending for him not to, pushing Harry in a wheelchair.

It’s his first time getting to see his best friend since he left for Kentucky and the man is beaten. He has a solid raccoon mask of bruising from where his glasses impacted his face thanks to Valentine’s bullet. His nose looks like it’s been broken. Again. He’s sitting up which is better than Marlin expected but he’s in a strange carapace that’s probably supposed to be a back brace or something and his neck is graced with a foam collar.

Eggsy reaches out from his wheelchair and clasps Harry’s hand. The two of them share tired smiles. Merlin waits to feel jealous but he really doesn’t. Eggsy’s actions feel like they are from both of them. Maybe all three of them, if Roxy’s smile is anything to go by.

The Elder Council follows Harry in, a good three paces behind so that the man cannot be considered late, and only settle on their couch when the Head of Medical has Harry situated and retires off to the side to observe.

Agravain stands and addresses the group. He’s a very angry looking man of Asian descent. Normally a quiet fellow, he speaks very abruptly. Almost to the point of rudeness but somehow managing not to get all the way there. “You all want to know why you’re here. Why we, the Elder Council, are here. Why half of your colleagues are missing and what happened yesterday.

“I will provide you background so that you understand the full circumstances.

“Over the last two years a group of mercenaries has been connected with a number of town-scale killings. The townspeople in every case just suddenly turned on each other until no one was left standing. These killings were caused in a number of ways, most of them chemical but several that we could not identify.

“We were trying to find the cause and motivation for this madness but then, ten months ago, the mercenary group split in two. One went deep into Africa and was followed by Lamorak and his team through the bush. One went to Argentina. They were followed by the previous Lancelot and this lead to his death.

“After Lancelot’s death, Galahad took over that arm of the investigation. His investigation lead Kingsman to suspect Richmond Valentine was behind the killings but not how or why. It also lead us to the knowledge that whoever agreed with Valentine’s unknown plan had been implanted with a chip that he could use to kill them and that the implantation left them with a unusual scar on the side of their neck.

“That is all we knew until just over 32 hours ago. That is when Kingsman became aware of a test at a church in Kentucky.

“Galahad, of course, attended this test and was exposed to the V-wave. Afterwards, he encountered Valentine and managed to get an explanation of what the V-wave is and how it was being transmitted but still not what Valentine was going to do with it.

“Galahad was shot at the end of this encounter, breaking his glasses and rendering him unconscious. His death was then falsely reported to the Table by Chester King but that is a side tale.”

“Continuing the chain of events, one of us in this room went to speak to Chester King after Harry’s reported death. During the course of the conversation the Conversationalist noticed the implantation scar on the side of King’s neck. Showing true Kingsman nerve and killer instinct, this person distracted King and switched the glasses the two of them then used to toast Galahad. While holding the threat of the poison pen over the Conversationalist, King explained to them Valentine’s plan and offered them the choice between death and obedience. The Conversationalist chose death and King killed himself.

“Glasses on, we will watch the feed from King’s glasses.”

There was a bit of a delay as Merlin had to call down for glasses for the non-Knights in the room to use.

They all watch as Arthur gets an alert that his car is in the area and prepares Galahad’s glass with poison from a pen. Moments after that, they see Eggsy open the door and Arthur, no King, lie to him about sending the confession to the proper authorities and pour a toast to Galahad. Eggsy distracts King by asking a question about portraits so they get a good glance around the room. Arthur seems to hesitate for a moment and then they both take drinks. Eggsy throws back the whole thing uncouthly while Arthur just gives his a sip.

Then the pen is primed and the threats begin.

The room nods and a few make approving noises when Eggsy declares, “I’d rather be with Harry, thanks.”

The feed ends just after a sucking-wet sound as Eggsy stabs King’s pen into his neck.

“King killed himself.” Bedivere declares as they start pulling off their glasses. “You’re very good,” Bedivere tells Eggsy. “But there was a slight scrape of the glasses as you switched them. A very light noise but he should of suspected.”

“He did suspect,” Percival argues. “He hesitates because something’s wrong and he knows it but he doesn’t register that the liquid is moving in the cups. You can see in the feed that the liquid was still before. The only reason it would be moving after is if the cups moved and he didn’t fully register it. His ego, his assurance of superiority, overrode his instincts and he killed himself.”

“You even called attention to the taste.” Harry contributes. “Something you would not be familiar with but he definitely is, and he activated the pen anyway.”

“This aligns with my conclusions.” Agravain cuts in. “It was suicide. Or justified execution. Not murder.”

The three remaining Knight of the Table are all nodding.

“Suicide.” Ector declares.

“Justified execution.” Sagramore states. “But either way, the Conversationalist is not responsible for Chester King’s death. So says the Elder Council.”

“So says the Elder Council.” The other two echo and something loosens in Merlin’s chest.

Eggsy not being charged with murder means he has a shot at the Table and Knight status. Carrying out a justified execution could actually strengthen his standing in that regard.

“And this lead us to here, how?” Geraint asks from his spot off to the side.

Everyone in the room turns to Eggsy.

The boy swallows hard but speaks steadily. “That last noise you heard was me taking the implant out of King’s neck. While I did that, something activated on King’s phone saying ‘V-day starts in’ with a timer and coordinates.

“I dragged King downstairs so that I could use the underground and get the information to Merlin. Almost got myself shot.” Eggsy grins ruefully at Lancelot. “Merlin checked the phone, verified my story about King and the three of us went off to save the world.”

“The three of you?” Geraint questions.

“Arthur was compromised,” Merlin steps in. “We weren’t sure who we could trust, when they got to him or who else he might have gotten to.”

“The full mission report will be made available to every Knight of the Table after this brief.” Ector steps in, gesturing to the Table along to opposite side of the room. “But for now we have more important matters to attend.”

Rather than the ten person table Arthur has had them use for the last fifteen years, it’s the fourteen person table they used before that which allows a seat for Arthur, the full twelve Knights, and Merlin.

“In light of his betrayal the Council recognizes that a number of changes Chester King made to our organization were foolish, unjustified, and counter-productive. Once a new Arthur is decided we will be going through each and every one of his decisions to determine their merit so that the necessary changes may be made. For now we are correcting the most obvious error,” Ector looks at them all. “If you will take your seats.”

The place at the head of the table is, of course, reserved for the new Arthur but the place at the foot belongs to Merlin, himself.

Galahad is rolled over to the seat at the right hand of Arthur and Bedivere takes the chair on Harry’s right.

Percival takes the seat on Arthur’s left and pats the chair on his left with a smile for his candidate. “Lancelot?”

Roxy grins and takes her seat, managing not to squeal or bounce in it.

Though Merlin feels regret for it, Lanval and Gawain are too old to sit at the Table. Most especially his heart goes out to Gawain, the second ever female Knight who only got to sit at the Table for a few months before King ascended and removed her chair. It must hurt to see another take what she was denied so callously.

He’s not sure if it’s better for her or worse that Geraint and Lamorak were also removed but they get invited by the Council to take back their seats. Lamorak to the right of Bedivere and Geraint to the left of Lancelot.

The others sort of hover around the Table to witness.

“First order of business,” Sagramore says, his hands resting illustratively on the back of the chair at the head of the Table. “Is the appointment of our new Arthur. You are most senior, Galahad?”

Merlin holds his breath and bites his tongue.

“No,” His best friend refuses the position and Merlin does his best not to sigh in relief. “I have suffered two cervical fractures in the last four months.” He says straight to Sagramore’s face. “I intend to quit the field, and therefore the Table, before I am done permanent injury. I also have two children who recently lost their mother to consider.

“If he will have me, I will join Merlin in mission handling and perhaps candidate training but I will not take the position of Arthur.”

“Fair enough.” Sagramore agrees. “I will remind the Table that Kingsman standards require Arthur to have sat at the Table for five years previous to his appointment.” Which leaves them with a whopping one candidate but it is a damn good one. “Percival?”

The almost 30 year old agent blinks at the oldest Knight for a moment before turning to Galahad. “Are you sure, Harry?” Harry just nods once and Percival stands. “I accept.”

All three of the Elder Council nod. Agravaine pulls Excalibur from where it rests on the sideboard and holds it out by the scabbard to Percival. Percival rests his hand on the hilt and Ector leads him through his oaths of office. Once the oaths are complete Percival-now-Arthur pulls the sword and uses it to salute first the Council, then the Table, then his seat. He then re-sheathes the sword and returns it to its display wrack on the sideboard.

“I believe our next order of business is to fill the Table.” Now-Arthur straightens his spine when Galahad and the Council all nod. “I move this seat.” Percival gestures to his old one. “Be filled by Eggsy Unwin, codename: Caradoc.”

Lancelot is nodding along with the recommendation with great dignity and greater pride.

Most of the rest of the Table is too but Ector shakes his head. “He failed the final test. The rules are clear, he cannot sit at the Table if he failed a test.”

“May I speak?” Eggsy is standing when he really, really shouldn’t be.

“Of course,” Arthur answers before anyone else can and Eggsy totters over to stand with his hands on the back of a chair for support.

“With all due respect, if you were going to have someone that I have a previous relationship with give me a test about trust, it should have been someone that hasn’t already broke faith with me. Galahad would have been good. Merlin would have worked. Even you, sir, would have been a better choice than a man that had lied to me and refused to acknowledge his own granddaughter. And that’s all before I joined Kingsman, before he pointed the gun at me during the test which, quite frankly, breaks trust as well.”

“He pointed the gun at you?” Lancelot sounds outraged.

Merlin is too busy trying to wrap his head around the implication that Daisy is Chester King’s granddaughter.

“He pointed the gun at me during my test, too.” Bedivere’s Lady speaks up. “I couldn’t imagine how but I thought it was standard.”

“It absolutely is not!” It’s Bedivere’s turn to be shocked, outraged. “Instate her! Instate them both!”

“Wait.” By the sound of Harry’s voice, Merlin is not the only one still stuck on Chester King and Eggsy Unwin having a previous, undisclosed, horrible relationship. “Are you telling us that you had a relationship with Chester King? And one with his daughter?”

“Yeah.” Eggsy’s chin goes up stubbornly. “He was my father in-law for about a week. He promised me a good job if I pulled out of the Marines and married his girl to make everything proper. Then she dies giving birth and he don’t know me anymore. Never even seen Daisy.”

There’s a lot of sitting in silence and blinking going on around the Table. With the exception of Geraint who looks so done with all of them that he might be contemplating murder and Lamorak who is rolling his eyes so hard that Merlin is surprised they haven’t popped out yet.

Merlin raises a finger to be recognized and Arthur nods to him. “The final test has been given to them. It cannot be given again with untainted results. However. Both of them have been heavily involved in Kingsman operations since they failed the test and exhibited the trust of someone else’s decision that we were testing for. I move that we accept these recorded actions in lieu of the results of rigged tests.”

“There is wisdom in what you say, Merlin.” Arthur nods.

“For the Council,” Sagramore questions. “What are these incidents of trust?”

“Besides the fact that she’s been working undercover for Kingsman for two years solely on my say so even though she’s not even a Knight?” Bedivere asks, sounding a little incredulous. “She’s taken three extractions for me because physical skills she has, that I lack, allowed her to get in and out without being seen at great risk to herself?”

“That will do.” The oldest Knight says. “Merlin?”

“Eggsy followed my directions through Valentine’s base without hesitation in the middle of a firefight and then, after he got to safety, he ran right back into the killzone because I told him to.”

The Elder Council exchanges looks and nods and Sagramore turns to Arthur, “We find no objection.”

“Very well. Welcome to the Table, Knight Caradoc.” Arthur waits for Eggsy to be returned to his wheelchair and maneuvered into the former Percival seat, then he turns to their newest female Knight. “Welcome to the Table, Knight- .” Arthur frowns, contemplating.

“I’m rather fond of Pellias,” She tells him. “If the name is available.”

Arthur nods and gestures for her to take the seat on Lamorak’s right. “Then welcome to the Table, Knight Pellias.

“Now, we have five seats left to fill-”

“Six,” Galahad reminds.

“Six seats left to fill.”

“Excuse me, Arthur.” Gawain interrupts more gently than Merlin has ever seen her do anything. “As Lanval and I cannot contribute to this discussion, I ask to be dismissed. I have work to do.”

For a moment Lanval looks unhappy about the idea of leaving but his face clears quickly. “I should check on the shop. I have no idea what sort of shape it’s in and I have yet to hear from Jonah or any of the other staff. If we may, Arthur?”

“Of course. You are dismissed.”

The two Home Knights leave quietly.

“I wonder if we should toast those we have lost.” Bedivere, by far the kindest of the Table, says after the older Knights’ departure.

“They were chipped,” Merlin tells them since no one has mentioned it yet. “They betrayed the agency and lost their heads when we popped the chips. Kingsmen do not toast traitors.”

“We do not toast traitors but do we have proof they turned?” Bedivere asked. “Or were they just followers? Could they have just been trusting in King as this entire organization has for almost as long as I’ve been alive?”

“That is a good point, Bedivere.” Arthur cuts off the argument smoothly. “I feel that, in good faith to our brothers and in honor of yesterday, we should toast ‘The Lost’. As this is not our standard toast, I will not require anyone’s participation should they feel strongly against it.”

And they all end up toasting. Not Merlin, of course. He’s just an advisor, not an actual member of the Table.

He does get them to toast with fruit juice, though, in deference to all of those on medication that could interact poorly with alcohol. Which is pretty much half the Table.

They all hold up their glasses and say “To the Lost,” before drinking. Except for Eggsy, who says something more that causes both Lancelot and Arthur to nearly choke on their drinks and stare at Eggsy, horrified.

None of the Knights question it so Merlin really can’t. He’ll have to ask Lancelot later.

“Now.” Arthur looks at them all in turn. “We have six seats to fill. I, personally, do not want us to go through six training cohorts. I feel we will need a full Table sooner than that. I fear the world will need us to fill the Table sooner than that.

“I have a few ideas about how we could do this but I would like to hear the Table’s thoughts on the matter.”

Lancelot is the first to take him at his word and speak up. “I’m not a fan of the idea,” She hedges. “But we could raise the age limiter on the Table and invite the older Knights back to it. Gawain looked like she might be fit enough for the field but Lanval is missing fingers and walks with a limp. I’m not sure we would want someone that memorable in the field.”

The Elder Council members are all shaking their heads before she even finishes speaking.

“I commend you for speaking up, Lancelot, but I feel the age limitation is there for a good reason. Safety reasons. Lanval was retired for physical reasons and short of some major medical breakthroughs, that cannot be corrected.

“I would also never want to deprive a Knight of a method they feel they could serve the Table better in. Gawain is the heart of our Research and Development and I expect Galahad will become just as prized in his future departments. I hope his contributions will see more Knights living to a nice old age so that we don’t have to have training cohorts every two or so years.”

“Hear! Hear!” Merlin cheers before he thinks twice about it. Yes, the world is very dangerous and they spend every day saving it from itself but their… turnover rate is truly unacceptable.

“What about checking to make sure people that were said to have failed tests really did?” Eggsy asks. “And if they didn’t actually fail, get them back in here?”

“That’s a good idea.” Arthur assures the younger man. “But we could only reasonably do it with the last three cohorts which, in order, were mine, Bedivere’s, and your cohort for Lancelot. Now this issue with the Lancelot and Bedivere cohorts has just been solved and no one failed the final test in my cohort.

“However, in my cohort, two of us passed the final test and started doing live missions. My compatriot, Ethan Seward, was injured on one of our missions and dismissed from candidacy. He was a bit older than the rest of our cohort but if he is still interested and still physically capable, I feel he would be a good fit.”

Merlin frowns to himself and pulls up the man’s file. “He actually still works for us.” He tells the room and sends copies of the file to the mirror monitor. “He’s the second son of a minor lord and has, in the past, helped us get invitations into various social gatherings we had interest in and has even served as an alibi for various agents. I would suggest having him around for a conversation. If he’s still interested and still capable, I think he would be a good fit.”

Arthur smiles, relieved and pleased. “Very well, Merlin. I’ll see if he can come in for dinner. Anyone else?”

“What about a mini-cohort of highly capable candidates?” Lamorak asks. “My niece and nephew would be a good fit. I had intended to sponsor them but I was removed from the Table before they got old enough. Still, they’ve been working with me for years. Doing the job without the title or benefits. I think we should give them the opportunity to correct that.”

Arthur glances up at the two indicated young people. “Your names?” He asks them. “And how old are you?”

“Siorus Bello,” Lamorak’s nephew speaks first. “I am 30 years old.”

“Pamila Bello,” the niece speaks second. “I’m 25.”

“They’re a little old.” Arthur says uncertainly. “The rules say that cohorts are supposed to be between 20 and 24.”

Before Merlin can object, Ector snorts a laugh. “Who told you that?”

“Arthur di- oh.” The new Arthur frowns like an offended puppy. “He was wrong then?”

“As long as they are more than five years from age-retirement a candidate can be sponsored to a cohort.” Ector tells the room. “Chester King would have told you that 20 to 24 nonsense because he wanted them diaper trained but malleable.”

“Very good. Mr. and Ms. Bello, if you would leave us? It would be improper for us to discuss your training in front of you.”

“Of course, sir.” Both Knight-candidates give Arthur little nod-bows and quickly leave the room.

The Head of Medical also takes that moment to get Harry out of the room, telling them that they’ve kept him too long already and Harry is past due for some more medication.

And he must be right because Harry doesn’t fight him at all. He just tells them that Caradoc holds his proxy and allows himself to be wheeled right out.

“Any other candidates?” Arthur asks them once the door closes again.

“What is the Table’s opinion on professionals as candidates?” Pellias asks.

“Professionals?” Arthur asks.

“Private contractors. Particularly one with a proclivity for pyrotechnics.”

“What do you know about this candidate?”

“Her name is Morag Montgomery.” The newer female Knight says. “We met in a club in Rio while working on different but intersecting operations and I asked Bedivere to run a background check on her.”

“She’s older than I was told our candidates could be.” Bedivere tells the room. “That’s why I didn’t sponsor her for Lancelot.”

“So she’s morally sound?”

“As morally sound as anyone in her profession could be. More so than many of us here at the Table. Though, especially after yesterday, if would probably good to have all our candidates vetted by a psychologist.”

“Probably all of our Knights, too.” Arthur agrees, perusing the file Merlin had called up for them. “Alright, bring her in. If she’s willing and passes the psych eval she can join the cohort. If not, we dart her and leave her somewhere in London.”

“Fair enough.” Pellias agrees with a nod.

“Anyone else?” Arthur asks.

Merlin sighs and raises his hand. “I have one. A translator and analyst in my office that is better suited to the field than a desk. Speaks six languages, decent with a gun, and can hold his own against Caradoc when free running.”

“Kingston?” Eggsy asks with a little frown.

“Kingston Kim, yes.”

“Unfortunately, you can’t propose a candidate-” Arthur starts.

Caradoc wags a finger for attention. “I sponsor Kingston Kim to the Table.”

“Alright.” Arthur nods. “Merlin, is he familiar with our training methods? Are we going to have to do something special for him or can we drop him in the cohort?”

“In the cohort should be fine. I keep my other employees strictly separated from training.”

“Good. Anyone else?” No one speaks up. “By my count we have one more opening to fill and I would like a few spares in the event of failures or injuries so we’ll give it a few days. Let’s get those already named vetted and here.

“I would also like every Knight that’s been influenced by the V-Wave to do at least six sessions with a psychiatrist before you go back into the field. Everyone else needs to do at least three. No exceptions.”

Not long after that Arthur ends the meeting and secludes with the Elder Council.

Merlin manages to catch Lancelot alone in the hallway to ask, “What did Eggsy say? During the toast?”

Roxy frowns at him and huffs but answers. “He said ‘Happy Birthday to me’.”

“What? But?” Eggy’s birthday is April the third and today is- Fuck.

V-Day was Eggsy’s birthday.

2 Comments:

  1. Holy Shit. So that blew my mind. Thank you.

  2. I love the rich history underpinning all of this through allusion and brief observations. It’s really subtle world and relationship building without painful exposition. Really well done.

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