Title: We Can Always Leave
Author: Saydria Wolfe
Trope: Written in the Skin soulmate AU
Relationship: Eggsy/Charlie, side 00Q and Roxy/Merlin
Content Rating: NC-17
Warnings: Male/Male Sexytimes, V-Day but different~ish
Summary: The movie redone with soulmarks, soulmates and their bonding… basically.
A gift for my beloved minion-wife. Thank you to Melody B for her beta work and MyzticMyanMoon for her brit-pick.
“Oh! Like in My Fair Lady.”
“Well, you’re full of surprises,” Harry tells the pretty blond boy in front of him. “Yes, like in My Fair Lady. Only, in this case, I am offering you the opportunity to become a Kingsman.”
The sassy back-and-forth isn’t a surprise but it is a pleasure. Most people find him too intimidating to sass Harry Hart. Those in the know are even less likely to sass Galahad.
They manage to make it to the Manor before Eggsy surprises him again.
Harry unbuttons his left cuff as they exit the tram. Eggsy gets a little lost looking out the window at the Kingsman garage but in the end he doesn’t have to physically move his new protégé away from the thing.
“Do you know what this is?” Harry asks, holding up his uncuffed left wrist to show off the thin bracelet of embroidered silk that he’s wearing under his watch.
“That’s a soul cover.” Eggsy positively identifies.
“It is indeed.” He confirms. “I know it’s uncommon but at this level it is considered unwise and somewhat rude to go flashing your soulmate’s name about. Regardless of whether or not you have met them.”
“And a spy wouldn’t want people to know,” The young man quips.
“Quite right.” Harry takes them both over to a counter space with many drawers. He opens a few so that Eggsy can see what’s inside. “Now, to many the act of covering their mark feels unnatural so we have a selection of bands from different materials, widths, and sizes for you to choose from.”
He holds up a thick leather job not that much different from the one Lee eventually chose.
Eggsy takes it, pushes back his left sleeve and starts trying to get the cover on. Harry wasn’t joking about the difficulties people have covering their mark. The act itself is very simple but the emotional, mental, and sometimes physical reactions of it complicate everything.
It’s against his every gentlemanly inclination but Harry can’t help Eggsy with this part. It’s bad enough he’s asking the boy to wear a cover, putting it on him could subconsciously be taken as soul-force and such things permanently damage well-established friendships much less new ones like theirs.
Fortunately, though, it gives him ample time to decipher the tall but narrow handwriting on Eggsy’s wrist.
Harry just barely manages not to grin at all the madness that is about to ensue.
As soon as the cover is secure around Eggsy’s wrist the boy is struggling to get it off, keening and scratching at his wrist until the buttons pop and release him.
“Calmly,” Harry instructs. “It is important to find the one that is the most comfortable. I will go check us in and give you a bit of privacy. Take your time. You will find me down the hall, second opening on the right, when you’re ready. Be sure not to wander.”
Eggsy nods distractedly, pawing through a drawer, so Harry makes good on his own directions and finds Merlin standing alone with his clipboard.
“Galahad,” The bastard greets. “Late again, sir. And no candidate?”
“He is choosing a soul cover just now. I wanted to check us in so you wouldn’t start without him. Tell me, did everyone stick with their first choice of candidate?”
“Of course, sir.” A Kingsman rarely changes his course once it’s plotted.
Harry doesn’t bother not to grin this time even though he knows it’s a rather mean one. “I know it is not normally part of your speech but perhaps roll-call would be in order this time. Or perhaps you could have them introduce themselves? Legal names as well as preferred names, of course.”
Harry watches his best friend’s face as the calculations flow, not through his eyes but around them. Merlin comes to the correct conclusion just as Eggsy rounds the corner.
“Of course, Galahad, quite right.”
The last recruit walks in over an hour later than the rest of them and Charlie’s first thought is ‘Ooh, pretty!’ His second thought (‘Mine’) makes even less sense than his first and he settles quite firmly on his third thought of ‘absolutely does not belong here!’
His two companions seem to have similar reactions. They’ve been friends for years so he knows Digby’s what-the-fuck laugh when he hears it. Rufus is a newer acquaintance but based off of the direction the scornful snort and “Wow!” come from, they could only be from him.
Before he can say anything to their latest arrival or about their latest arrival to his companions, the man that met him getting off the Kingsman Underground comes in. The man looks like he could break them in half as easily as breathing so it’s no surprise that when he orders them to “Fall in!” Two ranks are immediately formed.
“My name is Merlin,” The man introduces himself. “And you are about to embark on what is probably the most dangerous job interview in the world. One of you and only one of you will become the next Lancelot but you won’t survive the process if you go it alone.
“When I call on you, you’ll introduce yourself. I want your legal name, the name you prefer to be called, and at least one skill that makes you Kingsman material.
“Those not speaking have permission to look at the speaker.”
Merlin starts with the back row. Specifically with the old guy on Charlie’s far right. If the guy isn’t a good 15 years older than the rest of them then… Then he comes from a pretty terrible genetic pool and needs to marry real pretty for the sake of his bloodline.
Not that Charlie is going to say anything because Old Guy’s name is Nathaniel but he prefers Nate and he’s good with projectiles. Guns, bows, or knives, no matter, he apparently never misses a target.
Next is Piers who looks like he might have taken a frying pan or three to the face, is probably not sober, and has some boring-sounding degree that apparently qualifies him to be a Kingsman.
Hugo, the little one with a permanent scowl, is apparently the son of a Kingsman and grandnephew of a founder and has been training for Kingsman all his life.
Ms. Plain who does not know how to dress is Amelia. And a hack-tivist.
Merlin brings them back to the front row with Digby. Digby must be completely terrified of Merlin because he actually says his first fucking name. Digby won’t even say his name for his mother or his patriarch so it’s shocking to hear.
Rufus is apparently a world-class fencer and is probably a bit toasted as well.
Finally, it’s his turn.
“My name is Charles Anthony Hesketh.” He does his best to ignore Pretty Boy jerking back like he’s been struck. “I prefer Charlie. I am Kingsman material because I have the highest level certification in four different martial arts and I am a pilot.”
The pretty girl goes next. Roxanne Elizabeth Morton, call me Roxy, speaks two languages other than English and never gets lost.
Last and probably least is Pretty Boy. “My name is Gary Alan Unwin.” Charlie reels, fully understanding why Pretty reacted the way he did to his own name. “I prefer Eggsy. I’m Kingsman material because I’ve had 5 years formal Gymnastics training, a good free runner, and I can drive pretty much anything.”
“Good.” Merlin picks up the green body bag from the bed next to him but Charlie can’t really care enough to answer when he asks, “Can anybody tell me what this is?” He’s still too busy trying to process that his soulmate is this pretty but obviously common loutish person.
“What about soulmates?” Pretty Boy asks. It’s hard to tell through his rough accent but he sounds pissed.
“If you’ve met and bonded then your soulmate would be the definition of ‘next of kin’.” Merlin answers in a dry tone that tells Charlie he knows exactly what just happened in front of him even if he’s drawing it out of Eggsy.
“I mean, what if you just met him right now?”
“That would be unfortunate.” Merlin tells them, almost kindly. Charlie opens his mouth to argue but the trainer continues. “Several Kingsman agents have and know their soulmate, that is not the problem.
“The problem is that if you choose to bond, I cannot provide you the week of isolation you need to settle the bond. The best I can do is to allow you and your mate an hour or two a day. Or, if you decide to deny the bond, you’ll both be immediately dismissed from training.”
“Both?” Charlie questions. Eggsy’s face has gone from disgruntled puppy to thunderous.
“Both. A denied bond is painful and distracting and will be for generally 6 to 18 months. It would be irresponsible for us to allow either of you to continue as it would otherwise guarantee a fatal end to your candidacy.
“Is there a second pair in the room?” Merlin asks them all.
The other candidates all shake their heads. Merlin nods to them and speaks once again directly to Eggsy. “Ten minutes and I will have a room prepared for you and your soulmate. You’ll have two hours in isolation then it’s back in the dorm for lights out. Understood?”
Eggsy nods his head, not even looking at Charlie once.
“Any other questions?” No one speaks up. “Excellent. Fall out.”
Eggsy turns his back to Charlie as soon as Merlin starts to leave and the girls, of course, swarm him immediately. They both start to touch Eggsy to comfort him? Or introduce themselves? Something. Amelia pulls back her hand just before actually making contact, obviously remembering that Eggsy’s soulmate is in the room. Roxy is nowhere near so discrete, fawning over and almost falling into Eggsy.
Charlie sits on his bed and tries not to stare at his soulmate since that seems to be what the other man wants from him.
“So. You forgot to tell me you were into guys.” Digby sounds cautiously putout. It is a uniquely Digby sort of tone.
Charlie glances around. “It’s not like I’ve had many men in my life.”
Rufus is stiff and uncomfortable. He goes so far as to move his stuff from the bunk left of Charlie’s all the way around to the one on the other side of Digby so that the extra, empty bed is now on Charlie’s left rather than at the end.
Hugo and Nate look confused. Confused! Some spies they are.
Piers is checking out Eggsy’s arse so blatantly that he’s about to get himself murdered in his sleep. Maybe shit like this is why he’s met so many frying pans with his face.
Charlie’s eyes shoot back to Eggsy whose shoulders are getting tenser and tenser and climbing their way up to his ears. Why? Digby is blustering.
Why or what about only heaven -and Eggsy- know because Charlie sure as fuck wasn’t listening. “Please.” He interrupts his friend. “I cannot talk right now. I just- I can’t.”
Digby shuts up, promptly sits on his bunk and proceeds to ignore Charlie like he’s not even there but that’s okay because Eggsy’s shoulders are slowly going back down where they should be and are starting to spread back out.
The door swings open abruptly. Eggsy looks at Charlie for the first time and tilts his head toward the door.
He rises with more haste than dignity and follows the shorter man out the door.
“This will be your isolation room.” Merlin leads them to a room and opens the door for them but does not enter himself. “You’re still required to sleep in the dorm but this room will be available to you for as long as at least one of you is a candidate. You’ll be back in the dorm no later than midnight or you will both be dismissed.”
“Yes, sir.” “Of course, Merlin.” They both answer him.
The older man nods and closes the door. Charlie takes the liberty of locking it with the one-sided deadbolt.
The room is fairly plain, done in complementary but not exciting colours. There is a big bed covered in rich fabric, a single bedside table with a lamp and a table with two chairs. Eggsy is standing at the table, absently playing with the basket of stuff there.
Charlie moves to join him but in the last moment remembers that he has not been invited into Eggsy’s personal space yet and sits on one of the chairs instead.
“I need to know I can trust you.” Eggsy says suddenly. “I need to know you won’t hurt me.”
“I would never.” Charlie hastens to assure him. “I just could not. We’re soulmates.”
“My parents were soulmates.” For the first time Eggsy looks directly at him and Charlie knows he’s being trusted because he can see Eggsy’s pain. “And then my old man died trying to get into this place. Mum survived the bond breaking but it ain’t easy. She cried for years and it still hurts her every day.
“And I can’t be her.”
“Then we leave.” It’s the easiest thing he’s ever promised. An hour ago he would have sworn nothing could get him off the estate without the Lancelot title, now it’s not even a consideration.
But Eggsy shakes his head. “This is all I’ve got.”
“You have me.”
“I need something to be mine.”
Charlie opens his mouth to repeat himself. To offer his family’s wealth and resources. But then it dawns on him that Eggsy isn’t talking about financial security. He’s not talking about a job. He’s looking for independence. Freedom. A path through life that is his own and no one else’s.
But that doesn’t have to mean he’s looking for a path he walks alone.
“Then we stay.” Charlie tells him. “We get in together. It is not unprecedented. They have soulmates out in the field.” Never mind that one half of the particular pair he’s thinking of is actually the one whose position they are here to take but, if that’s not acceptable when they get there, there are alternatives. Soulmates make damn good agent/handler pairs. “But if you change your mind or it gets too dangerous, we leave. You say the word and we go home.”
Eggsy’s frowning at him confused now.
“My parents are not soulmates.” Charlie finds himself explaining. “But my Aunt and her wife are. And they are… magic. Their relationship is magic. I’ve always wanted one like it. I grew up with them telling me that once I found you it would work out as long as I was willing to work at it.”
Charlie nearly loses his train of thought to the first stirring of… fondness? In Eggsy. In his face or his posture or something? Maybe it’s the first touch of their soulbond? Charlie can’t place what makes him certain of what Eggsy is feeling but he is.
He has to look away to continue. “Whatever it takes.” Charlie manages to choke. “I am willing to work at it.”
One hand lands on the arm of his chair and another hand cups his cheek, and pulling his face back around. Eggsy is leaning into his space. “I’m willing to work at it, too.”
Charlie brings a hand up to Eggsy’s face, mirroring the other’s grip. Eggsy gives his hand a little nuzzle and Charlie uses it to pull the blond in. Eggsy crawls into his lap easily, straddling Charlie’s lap provocatively even though it takes a bit of negotiation to get his legs in a comfortable position with the chair’s arms in contention.
They kiss and it’s simple. Easy. Comfortable. Like coming home after a hard day, on a Monday, and being surrounded by your favorite things.
Eggsy pulls back and his eyes sweep over Charlie’s face a few times before he leans back in.
This time Eggsy commits to the kiss, too, and it’s amazing. It’s hot and it’s wet and it’s electric. For several perfect moments Charlie is the storm sweeping across entire countries. A source of life and destruction in equal measure and Eggsy is his heart, his center, the source of his stability. When they pull back again, panting this time, Charlie feels charged down to his very cells.
“We can always leave.” Eggsy says, almost completely non sequitur but Charlie thinks he gets it.
“We can always leave.”
“Merlin says we won’t get the all isolation we need.” Charlie was, in fact, there for the conversation so he just shoots his soulmate an amused glance and nods. “So, we should make the most of the time we got.”
“What did you have in mind?” Charlie asks his soulmate.
In response Eggsy tilts his chin up, smirking a bit. “I think you should fuck me.”
Charlie swallows. That’s.. bold and entirely welcome. “I’ve never-” Eggsy raises a single challenging eyebrow at him. “I’ve not been with many. Guys. I haven’t done the preparation before.”
“So, you want me to do it? That’s fine.” Eggsy feels? less enthused.
“I want you to teach me.” Charlie corrects. “I want to help this time and maybe next time we can switch?”
Eggsy grins. “We’ll probably have to work up to it. Getting it in the arse ain’t for everybody.”
“We have all the time we need.”
“Alright. Off with your clothes, then.” Eggsy stands and starts to strip off, laying his clothes out across the room’s other chair.
Charlie would actually prefer a more romantic disrobing but they are on a deadline and he wants to give Eggsy a good long ride.
Besides, romance is what the honeymoon is for, right?
Eggsy gives him a bit of a show. It’s not intentional but Eggsy’s hips just kind of sway back and forth like he’s got a song stuck in his head as he pokes around the basket on the table which appears to be holding a selection of condoms, lubes and other toys like the world’s kinkiest gift basket.
All top of the line stuff because this is Kingsman, after all.
Eggsy makes his selections, then crawls into the bed and lays on his back. He gives Charlie an insolent lift of his chin and starts palming his own cock.
Charlie shrugs off his jacket and an idea strikes him as he reaches for his belt. “Show me. Tell me how to do it. Whatever you like.”
Eggsy grins, shameless. “First of all, you don’t put cold lube on me.” Eggsy squirts some lube on his fingers and rubs it a bit to warm the liquid. “Maybe if we’re being kinky or something but generally, no. You’re going in my arse, you can be considerate.”
Eggsy drops his lubed hand down past his cock and into his cleft, tilting his hips so Charlie can watch while he continues to strip. Eggsy circles his hole and pushes on it but does not push in. “I don’t like things just being shoved in. I like being teased. I like the pressure on my rim.”
“Can you come from it?”
Eggsy nods. “I have.”
“Do you like being eaten? Can you come like that? Do you want me to eat your little hole?” He’s never seen the appeal of having it done to him but he enjoys doing it and rimming is surprisingly popular.
Eggsy’s breath hitches and his hips flex. “Yes.” This time the word is more of a hiss.
“I don’t want you to come on your finger this time, Eggsy.” Charlie can feel his voice going deeper with his arousal. “I want you to come on my cock.”
Eggsy nods a little frantically and finally slips a finger into his own hole.
Now nude, with no attention span left to be spent on maintaining his clothing, Charlie crawls into the bed and between Eggsy’s knees. He takes one of the pillows and shoves it under his boy’s arse so that they both get a better angle.
Eggsy gives a breathy little sound that might be first cousin to a moan.
“Can I?” Charlie grabs his own supply of lube and warms it in his hand as Eggsy showed him. “Can I help?”
“Yeah, bruv. Just give me one, though.”
Charlie works a finger in alongside Eggsy’s. The feel of Eggsy isn’t foreign, really, Charlie’s done anal sex before, but doing it to Eggsy. To his soulmate. Helping to prepare his soulmate to take his cock for the first time? That’s a rush.
“Give me two.” Eggsy orders and he pulls his finger out and grips the bottom edge of the padded headboard with both hands. Charlie complies. Eggsy moans and flexes his hips to ride on Charlie’s fingers.
Eggsy holds up one hand and crooks his fingers in the air. Charlie mimics the motion inside Eggsy. Whatever he’s supposed to be hitting isn’t there because Eggsy twists his wrist to crook his fingers the other way. Taking the hint Charlie starts poking around until he finds a.. spot and Eggsy gives a loud moan. A real one this time.
Charlie does his best to memorize that spot. He pulls back and finds it again and again until he’s sure he won’t forget it.
“Fuck! Give me three.” Eggsy orders, voice a little desperate.
To be safe Charlie puts more lubrication on his hand and sinks three fingers into Eggsy’s hungry little hole. He finds and keeps rubbing that magical, magical spot and soon Eggsy has more orders.
“Condom.” The blond gasps. “In me. Fuck, get in me.”
Charlie is only too glad to comply. He dresses for battle quickly with a condom and a little extra lube, just in case. Then he pushes Eggsy’s knees up and spreads them a bit to get a good look at his destination, forcing Eggsy’s hips to tilts some more. Then he has to place a hand in the center of Eggsy’s torso, between his belly button and his cock, and presses down to counter his mate’s movements. “Keep still, Eggs.”
Eggsy shudders and does his best to stop but can’t seem to actually become still. So, man-handling must be a thing? Won’t that be fun to explore?
Cautiously Charlie lines up and starts to push in. Eggsy goes more still. Too still. “Breathe, Eggs. Just breathe.”
Calloused hands grab his shoulders and pull him down. Eggsy crashes their lips together in a kiss. Their third kiss. Charlie does his best to gentle it, to talk it back down from the edge of desperation. Partially because he’s afraid all of that energy will make him come too soon and partially because he’s not big on teeth in a kiss.
Biting is fine but not in a kiss.
Not long after he’s as far into Eggsy as he can get, the hands in his hair let up a bit. Charlie starts working his way along Eggsy’s jaw and down his neck. He starts working his hips and he can feel how much Eggsy loves it. His boy really enjoys cock in his arse.
His plan to work his way down to Eggsy’s nipples screech firmly to a halt when Eggsy brings his legs up really, really high. He can feel Eggsy’s legs against the backs of his arms.
His lover can bend!
He rears up and Eggsy shoots him a smug little smirk so Charlie maneuvers his lover’s legs until they are on his shoulders and holds them there by his calves.
Eggsy shudders again, “Come on, bruv. Fuck me. God, fuck me hard.”
“Hands on the headboard.” He orders as sternly as he can manage and Eggsy’s hands shoot up to it like they’ve been magnetized so Charlie gives him what he’s asked for. He sets a pace that’s more hard than fast, aiming for Eggsy’s spot as fast as he can manage while still keeping the level of force that has Eggsy moaning and cursing and praying.
It’s all music, skin-slapping, sweaty music, and it’s going to be over much too soon.
Eggsy keeps saying his name like a benediction, like all other words have been fucked right out of his brain. “Charlie. Charlie!” His voice is desperate now.
“Yeah.” He tells his lover. “Go. I’ll be right behind you.”
And Eggsy comes and comes and comes, and keeps shivering well after he’s done coming. He’s shivering well after Charlie’s done coming too.
Eventually they manage to shower in the en-suite and make it back to the dorm on time.
The reaction in the room is a mixed bag.
Nate and Rufus pointedly ignore both of them. Hugo gives him a fucking thumbs up. Roxy looks over Charlie like a big sister assessing her brother’s date and finding him lacking. Amelia maintains a placid face and no obvious opinion. Piers is staring at Eggsy again and Digby makes the point of studying Charlie while he gets in his pajamas, like Charlie is a specimen in a jar that might have changed when Digby wasn’t looking.
It’s annoying and distracting and it isn’t until the lights have been turned out and he’s laying alone in bed on the opposite side of the room as his soulmate that he realizes he never asked to actually see Eggsy’s mark.
When he wakes up because of the cold against the entire back of his body, his first thought is ‘Is Eggsy dying?!?’ Funny how he’s known the guy for less three hours and suddenly every touch is expected to be his but, no, it’s water. Cold water that’s already several feet deep before they even notice it.
How’s the water getting in without any sound? Is this a trial? Is Kingsman trying to kill them all? No, that would be counterproductive. He looks around and an idea hits him. “Loo snorkels!”
“Loo snorkels?” Eggsy looks at him like he’s crazy.
“Showerheads!” Roxy, at least, understands.
“Showerheads?” Eggsy asks again.
No time to explain. “Go! Go! Just fucking go!”
By the time he has the pipe around the u-bend and looks up to give Eggsy the first puff, he can’t find Eggsy.
No. Yes, he can.
Eggsy is at the fucking door! Tugging on it as if he expects to be able to pull it open with all of the water pressure, all of that weight, against it. Assuming it wasn’t locked in the first place, or course.
But holy back-porn, Batman! Suddenly, Charlie knows exactly what position he wants to try next.
Assuming they both survive.
After way too many minutes of trying the door, Eggsy finally starts making his way over to them. He’s moving right along but he’s not really all that coordinated in the water. Tons of wasted energy. No technique to speak of. They’ll have to correct that. Assuming the stupid bastard doesn’t fucking drown.
When Eggsy floats above them, Charlie reaches up. He places one hand on Eggsy’s shoulder to get his attention and offers him the shower pipe with the other.
Eggsy glances around, taking in the others sucking on their pipes and then puts the offered breathing apparatus in his mouth. Then something behind Charlie catches the blond man’s eye and he frowns.
Charlie accepts the breathing tube from his soulmate and watches as he moves to grab a sink.
Surely he doesn’t think he can breathe through the sink… does he?
Charlie’s concern redoubles as Eggsy rears back and slams his fist into the mirror. And then some more as he does it again. And a third time.
The mirror is cracking dangerously. Sharp objects floating in the water with them is not a good thing! What if someone manages to breathe some in?
Charlie shoves his air pipe into Roxy’s hand and pushes off to stop this madness.. and ends up riding a tidal wave into another room. He’s not sure how. One moment he was about to grab Eggsy and pull him to the loo snorkels and the next he’s coughing in clear air with Merlin talking down to them like they are a bunch of naughty school children.
“As far as I’m concerned, every single one of you has failed. You all forgot the most important thing: teamwork. ” Merlin points to the room. They all stand so that they can look through the glass-edged frame to where Ms. Bad Bangs, Amelia, is lying still and lifeless on the white tile above the loos.
Charlie swallows hard as Eggsy sums up the matter in a small voice.
“So much for classic army technique.”
They spend the rest of the night in a new dormitory. More comforting that Merlin’s little introductory speech -“If this one floods, it means someone got stupid in the bathroom. So don’t.”- is the fact that there are electronics on the walls. Upon reflection, other than the lights which were probably shielded in some way, obvious use of electricity and gadgets was something the other dormitory completely lacked.
Here, on the wall above the door is a digital clock showing the time in big red letters that can be read from anywhere in the room and in a little empty space to the right of the bathroom is a television surrounded by a few chairs and a couch. No one would purposely flood a room run through with electricity.
What’s not comforting is that this new dormitory is set up with only eight beds and there are no signs of things being hastily rearranged so either the cleaning staff is very, very good or they expected to kill a candidate the first night. The first is more comforting but the second seems more likely and it leaves a heavy feeling in Charlie’s stomach.
He shoots Eggsy a questioning glance as he crawls into the bed with his name on it. Eggsy swallows and frowns for a few moments but in the end he nods. Staying then.
They are roused five and a half hours after they were ushered into their new pajamas and dormitory. Their personal belongings aren’t ready yet so they end up breakfasting in said pajamas. It’s strangely intimate and incredibly awkward to dine in such a place -or anywhere, really- in pajamas but Eggsy takes to it with such glee that it makes both Charlie and Roxy relax into and accept the strangeness of the event.
Breakfast is surprisingly leisurely which means either the next… event is still being set up, which Charlie doubts, or they are being observed.
After he finishes eating breakfast, including all the stupid fruit Eggsy piled on his plate, Charlie joins Eggsy and Roxanne in a little exploration. This is the first time they’ve been unescorted anywhere in the Mansion, so it makes him nervous but Eggsy is raring to look around, even if it is just the ground floor. They don’t get to explore much, though, because once they find the library Eggsy picks a completely random book and curls up with it, refusing to be moved from his book on woodworking of all things.
It’s as endearing as it is frustrating and surprising.
Shrugging to each other, Charlie and Roxanne pick their own books and join Eggsy in his reading niche. Charlie settles into a book on dog breeds and training that was left lying about by someone while Roxy seeks out and finds a book that might be an analysis of a war? Charlie can’t be sure because the title -and the text- is all in French.
Merlin comes to get them himself, amused and strangely pleased to find them all piled on one big couch completely engrossed in their separate activities together.
“To Medical with you. This is going to be the most thorough medical exam of your life.”
Galahad finds Arthur in the dining room at the shop having what is for him a rather late breakfast. He looks thoroughly disgruntled so he must have gotten Merlin’s report on last night and observed the recruits’ breakfast.
“Seems we’re going to be spending a bit of time together.” He tells his boss as a casual greeting.
His boss frowns a him furiously. “Reading together on a couch is not a sign of prolonged teamwork.”
Harry raises both eyebrows, “No, it isn’t but a soulbond is.”
Arthur spits his tea and Harry is so grateful his glasses are recording. Merlin wouldn’t believe him else.
“Merlin didn’t report it to you?” Harry asks innocently.
“Such things are private and not to be discussed without permission.” Arthur answers, grudgingly defending their wizard and accusing him with the same simple statement.
“Then it’s good thing that Medical just requested their permission to tell their sponsors and parents and received permission to contact everyone but Eggsy’s mother. I believe he wants to tell her himself later.”
Arthur nods. “Very well, I will contact Lord Hesketh-”
“That won’t be necessary. Medical contacted the Lord and his lady before they contacted me.” Harry decides to keep his previous knowledge to himself. No reason to rouse Arthur’s ire. “I understand they can’t wait to meet their son’s soulmate but the first village weekend isn’t for several months and those are usually treated as training exercises anyway. Perhaps allowing recruits phone calls home should be allowed this time?”
Arthur purses his lips and nods once. “I will discuss it with Merlin. Are you prepared to monitor Percival’s mission?”
It’s Galahad’s turn to frown.
While they couldn’t deny the man the right to avenge his soulmate, Harry had felt strongly that putting Percival on the case was a mistake. He’d been overruled but he’d gotten permission from the Table and Percival himself to work as Percival’s handler so that he could monitor everything, just in case.
“Yes, we know that Professor Arnold arrives at the college an hour before his first class to prepare his lesson. Percival will be waiting in his lecture hall when he arrives. My workstation at the Mansion is prepared and it is just about time for a final feed check, if you’ll excuse me, Arthur?”
Chester King waves him out.
“As some of you will have learned last night,” Merlin tells them from his spot on the veranda. “Teamwork is paramount here at Kingsman. We are here to enhance your skills, test you to limits. ”
There’s a pyramid of puppy cages with the doors on the side away from them to make sure the candidates get an unobstructed view.
Charlie gets the feeling he’s not going to like this test but, if he’s right and they are about to team up with a dog, there are several good choices in the stack – a retriever, a poodle, a spaniel or two. There are also some terrible choices -two goddamn pugs and a fucking bloodhound. Charlie doesn’t even know what the black and tan thing on top is but it’s going to grow up big and it already looks unbearably stupid.
“Which is why you are going to pick a puppy.” Merlin continues, voice beginning to edge towards gleeful. “Wherever you go, your dog goes. You will care for it, you will teach it, and by the time they are fully trained, so will you be. Those of you who are still here, that is. Do you understand?”
Charlie raises a had quickly because it seems stupid not to ask. “Each, sir?”
“Each.” The gruff trainer confirms and holds up eight leashes. “You have 20 minutes to choose. Once you have made your selection, you will leash them and fall back in. Begin.”
Roxy, of course, breaks from the group and goes straight for the Poodle. The little black bitch practically leaps into Roxy’s arms once the cage door is opened and Roxy walks them both over to a patch of grass to get acquainted.
Nate goes right for the Bloodhound and Charlie barely manages not to roll his eyes or snort. The man has the right to his choice, even if it’s a terrible one.
Charlie reviews the stack once more and makes his choice. He’s kneeling and coaxing out his little German Shepherd when a newly-familiar hand goes to open the cage above his dog, a cage containing one of the Pugs.
“You don’t want to do that.” He tells his soulmate as gently and quietly as he can. The man pulls his hand back and crouches down to give their conversation more privacy. “Pugs are pretty but very difficult to train and wayward. Generally, they only respond to fist commands about a third of the time, which is bound to count against us eventually.
“A Golden Retriever, though,” He nods to the cage above and to the right of the pug cage. “Is a gundog. Easy to train, eager to please, and friendly. We’ll have a better time with that one.”
“What are you taking, then?” Eggsy asks.
“A German Shepherd. They can be a little aggressive, domineering, but is one of the most intelligent breeds and are commonly found in police and military work. Versatile, protective, and faithful.”
Eggsy nods and runs his hand over Ajax’s head, getting a lick in return. “Okay, I’ll-” Eggsy starts to stand but Piers is already taking the Retriever.
Seriously, is the man ever going to give them proper privacy? He’s quickly crossing the line from ‘going to get stabbed’ to ‘going to get shot’ and he’s already taking a good look towards ‘going to get buried alive’.
Eggsy looks to Charlie, eyes wide and a little angry. His jaw is lowered and shoved to one side belligerently.
Charlie just shakes his head and huffs. “Border Collie it is, then.” He points to the dog in question. “One of the smartest of dog breeds in the world but a lot of energy. Runs like the devil is after it. We’ll have to exercise… her a lot to keep her from being destructive.”
Eggsy shrugs. “I like running,” And opens the cage.
Harry is scanning his way through CCTV footage when he spots the target. “Percival, target is located. ETA to your location is 10 minutes.”
“Roger that, Galahad.” Percival is slowly viewing the target’s black board. The younger man has already finished all the papers in the desk, sending them good footage of the neo-hippie pseudo-science the room contains.
The professor is obviously still distracted by whatever’s going on inside his head when he enters the classroom. He jerks back readily enough when he spots Percival but there’s something off about his behavior. He’s too.. comfortable. Yes, by far too comfortable being randomly approached by a stranger for a man that was violently kidnapped less than a week ago.
“Be careful, Percival,” Galahad advises. “Something is wrong here. Checking the surrounds for security.”
Percival nods, seemingly to Arnold’s timid “Can I help you?” but Galahad knows it’s for him.
“I do believe you can. I have a question about anthropogenic force.” Percival moves in a way that subtly invites the man into his space.
The man takes the invitation, drawing near with an excited smile on his face. “Really? Well, it’s actually quite fascinating-”
Percival grabs the man’s arm, slams him face first into his lecture podium and in a twists the arm in a single, painful maneuver. “My colleague died trying to rescue you and I’m sure you saw how well-trained he was, so I suggest you tell me who kidnapped you and why they let you go.”
“I have no idea what you’re talking about!” Percival leans on the arm just short of breaking it. “I’m not supposed to say! I! It was-” The man cuts off, screaming in horrible pain.
“Percival, what’s happening in there?”
“I don’t know, Galahad!” Percival starts to turn the man around and Harry gets a good look at his neck. His glowing neck.
“Percival, get down!” The warning comes too late as an explosion rocks the younger agent backwards. Something is covering the lenses of the glasses but the side cameras still have enough picture to be useful as two armed men rush into Arnold’s room. “Percival! Set a grenade and run as straight as you can! Jump out the window. Move, Mike! Move!”
The younger agent responds sluggishly but he still responds. He manages, blind as he is, to find a window rather than a column and slam himself through it just as his grenade-lighter goes off.
They lay together during their isolation period that night, nude and cuddling but not having sex because Eggsy doesn’t want to traumatize the puppies.
“I’m serious!” Charlie says around Eggsy’s laugh. “If Piers doesn’t start respecting you soon, I’m going to break his legs. Both of them.”
“Only if I get to do Digby.” Eggsy counters. “That boy wants to be so far up your arse that you can taste him.”
“He does not. He’s been my best friend since second grade, he’s just looking out for me.”
“He does!” Eggsy argues back. “He really does, bruv. He looks at you like you’re made of sunshine. Like he can’t breathe without you. It’s creepy, is what it is.”
“So, what? Do you want me to talk to him?”
“No, I want you not to be mad when I kick his arse.”
Charlie would be really surprised if Eggsy can kick Digby’s ass. Digby is pretty damn good. But Charlie has been told over and over again not to let his soulmate ever think he doubts him, so. “Alright. As long as it’s in a sanctioned sparring session so you don’t get kicked out for fighting.”
Eggsy grins and pulls him in for a kiss. There’s a bit of body language along with the kiss but Eggsy pulls back before things go too far. When he pulls back Eggsy sort of sighs and collapses into Charlie, “Roxy’s sponsor was put in the hospital today.”
And that dramatically kills the mood. Charlie forces himself to relax. “That explains her mood at dinner. Any idea when he’ll be out?”
“No. They don’t know what’s wrong with him other than getting knocked out. Roxy says Merlin says there’s hope but Roxy don’t believe it. She says her sponsor lost his soulmate so he has no reason to pull through.”
“Revenge.” Charlie reminds him. Because he knows that Percival, soulmate of the lost Lancelot, can elevate revenge to an art form.
“Revenge isn’t always enough. I don’t think-” Eggsy cuts off the sentence and frowns. “I think we need to get back to the dorms. Time’s up soon, yeah?”
Harry pulls off his glasses and rubs a hard hand over across his eyes, the bridge of his nose and then his forehead. He should probably go to bed and deal with this after a good seven hours but his friend is in a hospital bed, hanging on by a thread. If they lose him this will be two friends lost in less than two weeks and Harry’s just no okay with that. Whoever is to blame needs to be stopped and punished. Immediately. And not necessarily in that order.
“We need more eyes on this.” He tells the wizard, yet again. “We need a dedicated analyst. I know Amelia has your absolute trust but she’s a tech, not an analyst. I’m not as good as an analyst as I’d like us to have on this case and you have to focus on the Lancelot cohort.”
“Harry, we can’t do that.”
“I don’t see why not! I -”
“Galahad. Mordred has taken an interest in this case. He’s classified it. I can’t even brief Arthur much less bring in someone new. We only get to know because we were already involved.”
Well, there’s really only one thing to say to that. “Fuck.”
Mordred is not a Knight. Not technically. Mordred used to be a Knight but just about every time a new Arthur is crowned, a new Mordred is named.
Mordred is in charge of Table security. Threats to the survival of the agency. Threats from within or without, it doesn’t matter. Mordred has complete purview. He fixes whatever he feels he needs to, whatever grabs his attention.
Galahad should have expected that the first thing to flat out kill a Knight in 17 years would draw Mordred’s focus. Now that the situation has wounded a second it is no doubt his primary focus.
“So we’re assisting?”
“Aye.” Merlin confirms with a nod. “Probably you more than me because I’ve got this cohort to attend to. Mordred is personally investigating a mountainous area that the signal from Valentine Corporation seems to have come from. The company is not registered to have any holdings in the area and Mordred finds that very curious.”
“It’s a hacker’s trick to not get caught.” Galahad dismisses. “It doesn’t mean anything.”
“Mordred doesn’t agree with that assessment and he has lead. You and Amelia will be handling him personally. I’ve increased the security on your workroom so that now only the two of you may enter.”
“Alright.” This will keep him out of the field for quite a while, Harry thinks disgruntledly. “I feel we should keep looking into those neck implants, to aid Percival’s recovery is nothing else.”
“Mordred agrees with you. He also thinks the case may require undercover work which would fall to you.” Harry feels himself perking up a bit. “Which means I would have to call someone else in…
“To handle the training.” Merlin clarifies before Harry can do more than open his mouth.
Galahad frowns at the wizard as he snaps his trap closed. It’s not gentlemanly to falsely get someone’s hopes up, no matter how briefly.
It takes a good two weeks for Mordred to get near the GPS coordinates that the signal came from. The area is unpopulated and listed as a private forest reserve so the man can’t realistically take any sort of vehicle to get him closer more quickly.
When he finally gets to the top of a mountain near the coordinates he gets some fairly good, incredibly interesting photos of what looks like a villain’s lair straight out of a James Bond movie. He also gets pictures of Valentine’s private jet flying in with three passenger-heat signatures and leaving with only two.
Nothing damning, really, but curious. Very curious.
It takes few weeks for them to prepare special camouflage survival gear that will get him up the mountain that they actually need Mordred to enter. And another few weeks for him to trek back into the preserve and climb the correct mountain without being caught.
Most of it is very boring for all that it allows Harry to get to know Eggsy on a level that he’s never had with one of his previous picks for the Table. Watching the entire cohort is like watching a shining part of the future draw near, though Eggsy is definitely the best of them all. Eggsy is brilliant, sharp as a tack, and top of his class physically. He’s everything Harry would have imagined his son could be with a double shot of sass and terrible accent that obviously came from his mother.
Still. Normally, he would rather be actively in the field. Merlin’s assessing looks are getting less and less subtle as time goes by without Harry complaining about his desk-bound status but this is good. It’s great getting to see training from Merlin’s view and surprisingly fulfilling to be Mordred’s right hand.
As for the implants part of the operation, the pictures Harry and Amelia find on the internet of people with the Arnold Scar keep stacking up worryingly. Prime Ministers, Presidents, Cabinet Members, and Generals from governments all over the world are falling in line with whatever is going on and none of their security or intelligence services seem to have realized it. Or they could be in on it, too.
The educated, the influential, and the popular are either disappearing or suddenly have scars. It’s all very, very worrying.
And worst of all, they don’t know why.
After what feels like, and honestly was, months of preparation and work Mordred is finally ready to breach the mountain.
He climbs up it from the wrong side and climbs down to the lair’s opening but he doesn’t climb right in or run in, guns blazing or anything stupid like that. He watches. The three of them – Mordred, Amelia, and Harry- all watch.
There are sixty guards on the terrace which means there is probably at least double that number in reserve within the mountain. The observers quickly realize that the guards work in rather interesting shifts – two hours ‘on the wall’ and then two hours inside, repeat, and then wrap up with two hours outside.
Mordred manages to drop several tracker bugs on a few guards and they verify that the opening leads to a runway but just inside the opening, on either side of the runway, are stairs that lead to guard areas. The right staircase goes up to a big group fun room, the noise of the place overwhelms the small device so they don’t get much in the way of details about the room other than its general size and occupancy when the carrier enters. The stairs on the left go down to a bunch of individual break rooms, some with computers, some where the occupant just sleeps, and some with rather more… active and intimate entertainment based off of the moans coming through the speakers.
Mordred picks a few guards that, by their estimates, are at the end of their first two-hour shift outside and when one of them sneaks off to one side to piss, Mordred ambushes him. He breaks the man’s neck, takes his gear, and throws the vile creature’s body off the side of the mountain.
Mordred takes over the goon’s post and, when the lead guard waves him inside, he takes the left staircase down.
According to the glasses feed, the staircase opens up to a small lounge with scantily clad men and women waiting patiently. Mordred ignores them and moves toward the hallways they can see just beyond. There are three to choose from, each with little pictographic signs indicating what they can be used for. Without any hesitation in his step Mordred makes for the hall labeled with a boxy picture of a computer and one of a fainting couch.
He enters the first door that indicates a vacancy and locks it. He taps the laptop on the desk with the guard’s keycard and pops his Kingsman keychain into the USB port as soon as the thing is logged in.
“Tell me when you’re in.” The gruffness of Mordred’s voice seems to surprise him as much as it does them. The not-Agent abandons the laptop in Amelia’s care, turns to a mini-fridge in the corner and pulls out a bottle of water and a banana.
At Amelia’s nod, Harry accesses the security feeds to verify the security or Mordred’s position. Once he’s satisfied he sends the feed of four cameras to a secondary monitor and instructs Mordred to get comfortable. It’s not like he can leave for another two hours without arousing suspicion so he might as well get a nap out of it.
There are feeds from over 300 detainment cells containing the various global missing persons including Princess Tilde of Sweden and that singer that was on the news just the other day, Iggy Some-flower, Azalea. Iggy Azalea.
Prince Harry is in another cell. That’s disturbing. Their intelligence says he’s out on assignment in the sand. Though it really isn’t that surprising that MI-5 and MI-6 would hide his absence to prevent a panic while they look for him. It’s what Harry would do.
“But why?” It’s the question that’s haunting them. The biggest question, in Harry’s mind, that they can’t get an answer for. And it’s not like they can just question the implanted. They tried that and it failed gloriously.
Hopefully the hack will get them the information they need to keep from having to ask the man himself. Though, honestly, the more they learn the more Harry wants a meeting to happen. Valentine needs a good punch in the face and he would be glad to deliver it personally.
He keeps his feelings to himself, though, and continues not only monitoring Mordred’s security but the different data packets Amelia feeds him.
Atmospheric, meteorological, and climatology studies.
Many recordings of Professor Arnold’s professional presentations from the last ten years.
Chemical and biological studies. Detailed observations of the chemical attacks Lancelot was investigating. Detailed studies of more similar chemical attacks that escaped everyone’s attention completely. -Both of which are strangely lacking pictures.
Neurological studies on aggression, territorialism, inhibitors, and all kinds of other things.
Plans for satellites. Maps of his satellite grid with gradient colouring showing global coverage. Details about the new SIM cards that the Corporation is just beginning to distribute.
No details on how SIM cards are related to neurology but the organization of the files makes Galahad think they have to be connected somehow.
It’s all very puzzling. And the need for face-punching is swiftly becoming more urgent.
Training dogs is fun with Eggsy as your unofficial partner in it.
Both of their dogs take to him immediately, probably because they can sense the inner puppy in him, but the other man is horrible at punishing them so Charlie gets stuck playing disciplinarian when they misbehave and he can see it only getting worse when they have children.
Not that the ‘interview’ is all about dog training. In fact they have a period of generally around six hours a day that are dog-free so that the puppies can ‘socialize’. During that six hours they handle various different things.
There’s individual physical training, which Eggsy flies through, by far better than anyone else in the class. Especially on the obstacle course and tumbling days.
There’s weapons training. Two weeks on the gun range get Piers shown the door before they even graduate to long barrels.
There’s etiquette and neuro-linguistic programming and non-English languages. There are tests on every subject ever taught in school from algebra to geography to physics.
And through it all Eggsy blossoms. It’s magic. Who would have thought a street kid with barely an education could do all of this? And do it while maintaining two hours a night of isolation to nurture a soulbond and a minimum of hour a day in the library for pleasure reading?
Eggsy’s sponsor. Obviously. Whoever that is.
It’s been a shockingly dramatic day when Eggsy finally mentions his sponsor to Charlie. They are laying in their big bed, just hours after Nate got thrown out. Nate had mockingly tried to copy Eggsy’s particularly acrobatic dismount from an apparatus on the obstacle course and managed to break both of his own legs.
Merlin had been furious. At Nate and not any of them, of course, but it was still terrifying enough to keep them on the obstacle course and out of his way until the man had disappeared just before dinner.
“My sponsor wants to meet you.” Eggsy tells him when Charlie is not prepared for it. “He should be available for lunch tomorrow. Here. It’s Thursday so we should be free from lunch ’til dinner.”
“And you want us to spend all of that time with him?” Charlie asks curiously. Thursday afternoons are usually spent in independent study or with an individual’s sponsor, if they are available. Surely, Arthur can suck it up this one time. Maybe he’ll even introduce Eggsy to Arthur next week.
Eggsy pauses just a moment too long, studiously looking away. “Yes.”
“What is this man to you?” He’s not jealous. He’s not. It’s just-
Eggsy talks about girls he knows all the time. Eggsy’s also comfortable talking to girls all the time. But the only male he’s ever mentioned is his apparent best friend from his old neighborhood, Jamal No-last-name. So for this man to be mentioned? For him to receive so much, what is this? Deference? From Eggsy. It means that he’s special to Eggsy. Important.
“He’s,” Eggsy pauses thoughtfully. “He’s the first person other than my old coach to believe in me. He’s the first person, ever, to stand up for me.
“And. He recruited my Dad for Kingsman, yeah? Brought him in the last time Lancelot was up for grabs. But my Dad died in the final test or whatever and the other guy got it. I like to think that he is what my dad would have been like, if it went the other way. That he’s what I can be like, maybe. Someday.”
“I believe in you.” Not sure what else there is to say, Charlie pulls his soulmate closer. “If you really want to be like that we can make a list of things and start working on them.”
“Like what?” Eggsy asks. “You ain’t even met him yet.”
“No but he’s a Kingsman and a Kingsman is first and foremost a gentleman. There are skills and things we can teach you that gentlemen grow up with. No doubt you’ll pick them up so well that no one will ever know you didn’t grow up doing them. Unless you tell them otherwise, of course.”
“Yeah? Like what?”
“There’s horseback riding. Proper swimming.”
“Oi, you!” Eggsy pokes him indignantly. “Swim good enough to save your fool life.”
“You do, you do.” Charlie concedes as he laughingly fights off Eggsy’s cruel fingers. “My father is into hawking. My brother and I never took to it so I’m sure he’d be glad to teach you.”
“Hawking? Like with the great big bloody birds and all?”
“Yes. It can be quite dangerous but he says he finds it soothing, talking to the birds.”
“I’ll give it a go.”
“Alright. I don’t want you to consider it but we can work on the way you speak.”
“You like me sounding a bit rough, do ya?”
“Forgive me but I do. I’m not sure what I would do if you suddenly stopped cursing at me or cheering on Ajax and Niki so wildly. I don’t want you to be tamed.”
Eggsy nuzzles his chest for a moment, then peeks up with a bit of mischief in his eyes.
Charlie feels himself start to harden, in the weeks they’ve been together he’s become thoroughly familiar with that particular glint.
“I have a list of things we can work on for you, too.”
“Yeah. You need to learn to be a right pickpocket.”
“Your tumbling’s come along but you need to work on the still rings.”
“I thought you wanted me to focus on the bars.”
Eggsy waves a hand at him. “We can do both. Bet we can have you doing the Iron Cross in a few weeks. Before we finish training, probably.”
“Alright. What else?”
“Anal sex.” Eggsy grins at him.
“I thought I was doing damn good in that area. Unless this means you are finally going to fuck me.”
“We’re going to have to take three fingers first but, if you’re good and come on my fingers, I’ll fuck you,” Eggsy draws out his pause and hums a bit like he has to think about it. “Saturday.
“Now, on your stomach.”
Eggsy’s sponsor is fucking Galahad.
Of course, it’s Galahad. Who else but the most dangerous Knight at the Table would flaunt Arthur’s will so without fear of reprisal or discipline?
And the man’s just sitting there. On the other side of the dining table. Wearing a nice, gray, glen plaid suit, sipping tea, and Charlie is doing his best not to sweat and look nervous because that is the moment it dawns on Charlie.
Galahad isn’t just Eggsy’s sponsor, he’s Eggsy’s dad! Or as good as. This is a meet the family meal and Charlie didn’t even realize it until they sat down!
Ajax whines a bit from where he’s sitting at Charlie’s feet, breaking through his master’s distress and giving Charlie something else to focus on.
“I understand you’re being given leave to the village this weekend.” Galahad says as he sits back up. “Any plans?”
“My parents are coming for a visit, sir. We’ll be meeting them at the pub for lunch.”
“Do you have anything to wear?” Galahad asks Eggsy.
“I got what I came in.”
“Do you trust me?”
Eggsy nods, his lovely mouth pulled into a tight little frown.
“Proper attire will be in your locker before the end of the day. It’s a pub so formal attire isn’t required.” Charlie nods his agreement when Galahad shoots him a look that orders him to do so. “But you want to look nice. Casual but smart. And a bouquet for your future mother in-law would be wise. Do you know her favorite flower, Charlie?”
“Stargazer Lillies. Pink, normally, but recently she’s taken a shining to the Golden Stargazer.”
“Well, you won’t find Golden Stargazers in town. I’ll take care of that, too.
“I do want to warn you both not to ‘live it up’ too much this weekend. I know it’s in your inclination to do so but experience dictates that opportunities like this one tend to proceed rather large and important tests here at Kingsman and I think we would all rather it not get cocked up.
“I will, however, not be here to see it. I’m leaving tomorrow for a mission and I’m not sure when I will be back.”
“Something to do with the kidnapping thing, yeah?”
“Something like that,” Galahad gives Eggsy a soft smile. “If all goes well, I should be back in a week. If it goes better, it maybe longer. Merlin will keep you updated.”
First thing Monday morning they are issued HALO suits.
Charlie can’t think of a single possible test that could be given using HALO suits.
Still, Galahad is not one to speak idly so Charlie takes his preparation very seriously. He even goes so far as to have a 15 minute conversation with Roxy as the only member of their company to have a previous experience with very similar equipment about what to expect.
The woman is more than a little terrified about the entire thing but she puts up a good front so Charlie does her the courtesy of not mentioning it. Even when she admits to a fear of heights and turns to Eggsy for comfort 30 seconds out from the drop zone, he just gives her a firm nod, claps her on the shoulder, and does his best to ignore the conversation the two indulge in.
Her keeping Eggsy in the plane at drop time is a little infuriating but that’s remedied pretty handily by Eggsy ordering her to “Just stop fucking about!”
First Eggsy and then Roxy join them in short order and it’s all hooting, hollering and free-fall acrobatics from there.
Right up until Merlin breaks into their coms again. “My my, you’re all very cheerful! You really think it was going to be that straightforward? Any idiot can read a heads-up display.
“A Kingsman agent needs to be able to solve problems under pressure. Like what to do when one of your group has no parachute.”
And that’s the test. Fucking Kingsman!
Panic races through Charlie’s heart until Eggsy’s voice puts a reaches through to him. “Everybody listen, I’ve got a plan. Pair up. Grab the closest person to you.”
This is a terrible plan. Charlie hates this plan. Mostly because Eggsy is too far away for him to grab. He grabs Roxy instead because Eggsy would expect him to and they grip each other’s wrists as tightly as they can.
“Fuck! Rufus, you wanker!” Both Charlie and Roxy’s faces snap to where Eggsy is falling alone. Rufus floating safely above him, comfortable in the grasp of his open parachute. “We are an odd number now. Quick, make a circle.”
“Fuck.” Charlie hears himself say with feeling. And why are Digby and Hugo not moving? “He’s right boys. Let’s do it.”
Grudgingly Hugo grabs Roxy and Digby grabs Eggsy. Charlie takes Eggsy’s other hand and something inside him loosens a little bit.
“Good plan, Eggsy.” Merlin congratulates. “You have 30 seconds. Come on now. Hurry up.”
Digby goes first because he’s a fucking coward and he has a parachute.
Hugo goes next. He has a parachute.
“Roxy, your turn.” Charlie orders because no matter what happens now, he and Eggsy are going through it together. Roxy pulls her chord, she has a ‘chute.
Charlie and Eggsy grapple as well as they can in the air, bringing their bodies together.
“No matter what happens now,” Eggsy tells him, echoing his thoughts from earlier. “I’ve got you. Alright?”
He nods and reminds Eggsy of the very first conversation they ever had, confirming their dedication to their bond. “We can always leave.”
Eggsy’s laugh is thoroughly inappropriate and absolutely perfect. “Alright, pull.”
He has a ‘chute.
They get jerked around a bit but Eggsy manages to hold on, clinging to Charlie’s legs as tightly as he can while Charlie focuses on landing them in the damn K.
Heart stopping seconds later, they land in a pile of tangled, exhausted limbs. Inside the damn K.
Before he can think too much about it he and Eggsy’s helmets are both thrown off to the side and their lips meet. Needy. Desperate. They curl into each other, tightening their human knot and ignoring everything else until a thump and loudly cleared throat prompts them to pull back a little.
Roxy is standing at their feet, grinning. Merlin is a few feet behind her seemingly unamused if not for the tiny upward curl of his lip that reveals the truth. Rufus, the homophobic twat, looks furious and Charlie just really doesn’t have it in him to care about that arsehole.
Hugo and Digby are walking in together from wherever they landed on the green. Hugo looks disappointed, as he should be. Digby looks devastated. Charlie idly wonders if Eggsy wasn’t right. Wonders if Digby does think he’s in love with Charlie.
Well, it’ll probably be years before they see each other again. Especially once either Charlie or Eggsy make Lancelot.
They all stand together one last time on the opposite side of the K from Merlin. Charlie doesn’t hear much past “Hugo, Digby, you don’t land in the K then you’re not in the K.” Because Eggsy is furious and aroused and confused and just feeling so much that he’s shaking with it all. It’s very distracting and it’s not like he can just grab Eggsy and kiss him to help him focus on one emotion.
Well, he could but they would probably get kicked out for lack of decorum and they’ve already promised they wouldn’t do anything they know will get them kicked out on purpose.
“No, no, no. You don’t talk to me like that.” Merlin’s saying directly to Eggsy. Everyone else has already fallen out. “If you have a complaint, then you can whisper in my ear.”
Charlie steps away a bit and turns his back to give his soulmate the courtesy of a private dressing down.
There’s a pop similar to a parachute opening and a “Whoa!”
Charlie turns back around in time to almost get run over by Merlin and sees his soulmate sprawled on the lawn with an open parachute. A laugh bubbles up from his chest and manages to escape. Eggsy shoots him a look and lets out a little laugh himself.
“He didn’t actually say-” Charlie begins.
“Yeah. Let us assume though, didn’t he? Help me with this, I want to go climb in our big bed.”
Together they gather up Eggsy’s parachute but it’s not that simple, of course.
They have to check and put away their gear. Then they verify with Merlin that they have nothing else for the day. Once that’s confirmed, Charlie takes all three dogs for a walk while Eggsy indulges in a long, lazy shower. Charlie leaves the three of dogs in Roxy’s care and makes it to the Iso room in time for Eggsy to leave the en-suite in nothing but a towel.
The moment he sees him Eggsy lets it drop with a grin.
Harry frowns around the decidedly deserted gala and knows he’s been compromised. He reaches up and wiggles his glasses under the guise of resettling the frames, knowing the signal will send Amelia running for Merlin.
Merlin will probably come charging in, review the last few moments of feed and know that Harry’s been compromised.
By now Mordred will be in the room, too. Already on the case and ready to avenge Harry should worst come to worst.
The front door opens without him having to knock and Valentine gives him a huge smile. “Mr. DeVere! It’s a pleasure to meet you.”
Time for caution, play it off. “I am sorry. I seem to have my dates muddled up.”
“Oh no, no. I canceled the gala because of you.” The lisp does nothing to mitigate the menace of the man. “Anybody willing to donate that much deserves a private dinner. Come in.”
What follows is the most absurd evening of Harry Hart’s entire adult life. Ninety percent of it is spent talking around the fact that they each know what the other is and using spy movies as incredibly unsubtle metaphors. Five percent of it is pairing junk food with incredibly expensive wine and the last five percent are threats so subtle that they are almost innuendo.
So much for finding any sort of motive, the man is never leaves his side.
Never touches him or gets in close either. Valentine keeps a very specific, very paranoid distance and it raises Harry’s hackles in the worst way.
Valentine never questions or gets rough with him. The closest thing to a real threat during the entire night is when Valentine’s henchwoman slash soulmate sits behind Harry and shows off her very sharp legs. She’s a double amputee and her customised prosthetics have crossed the line from adaptation to straight into weaponisation.
Still, he’s a gentleman. He carries on with dinner, keeping his head up and his face neutral, and thanks his host for “such a Happy Meal” at the end of the night.
“Report to the shop immediately. Fitting Room 5.” Merlin orders him as soon as he’s alone again in the back of the car. “Medical will meet you there. Whatever he did, we’ll find it. You’re on quarantine for 48.”
“Of course.” It’s all standard procedure. “How did the test go?” No doubt Eggsy made it. The boy has no physical fear at all and wouldn’t be such a good acrobat if he didn’t love flying.
“Three down, three to go. You, Percival, and Arthur are in the final three.”
Eggsy, Roxy, and Charlie. Galahad grins to himself.
He had called it.
Tuesday morning starts off weird.
Breakfast in the dining room is normal. An hour on the obstacle course is followed by an hour on the range, all normal. Their post workout shower in the big open bathroom is normal.
The weird part is Merlin walking in while they are still actively showering. He has a stack of books under one arm and he just starts setting them out on the table in the TV nook without even looking their way.
Weirder, once everything’s arranged to his satisfaction, he walks right back out. All without saying a word.
Half an hour later, well after they are dressed and seated in the TV nook, he returns and takes a chair. “In front of you are the most advanced NPL manuals Kingsman has. This is the last new unit for you to master. This is in preparation for honey pot missions. Who can tell me what a honey pot is?”
They all raise their hands and Merlin picks Roxy.
“A honey pot is a mission where an agent seduces a target into either giving up information or lower their defences to that desired information can be stolen. It can also be used to facilitate more traditional theft or even kidnapping.”
“Very good. I do want to clarify that a honey pot does not always mean sleeping with a stranger. Flirting to cover a clean pickpocket is qualified as a honey pot mission as well.
“Kingsman does not do many of any type of honey pot but when we do it is vital they be successful, if nothing else than because failing will get you remembered and being remembered could compromise Kingsman.
“Take the manuals. Read through them. We’ll start review tomorrow. Your mentors will be on hand starting tomorrow afternoon to work with you and you will get three hours a day with them, one on one on this stage of training.”
Merlin looks at Charlie and Eggsy directly. “I believe you two need to discuss your boundaries on this type of mission. The library should be available for your discussion.”
The two of them stand immediately at the obvious dismissal.
Roxy does too, but, Merlin calls her back to the seating arrangement, stating a need for a private discussion.
The boys don’t have to discuss it. Neither of them wants to discuss their relationship in the library where recording devices no doubt abound so they grab Nikita’s Frisbee and Ajax’s ball and hustle outside.
“Ms. Morton.” Merlin starts after the door closes behind the two male recruits. “Roxy.” He tries again.
“He’s dead, isn’t he?” She looks directly into his face. Her eyes are a little wide, like maybe she’s fighting the urge to cry. “Percival’s dead?”
“Aye.” Merlin confirms with a nod. Figures his first time alone with his soulmate they’d be having this sort of conversation. Figures she’d anticipate him too. Still, it’s better to tell her than to let her go to the Infirmary and find a horrible surprise. “We lost him this morning. He slipped off without ever waking up. We still aren’t sure why.”
“Uncle Jim.” She tells him, referring to Percival’s lost soulmate and she’s probably right.
“Mordred has volunteered to step in and serve as your mentor for the duration.”
She just nods a few times and stands from her chair. She crashes right into his side, right there beside him on the couch, and her shoulders start to shake. No noise comes out of her more than particularly ragged breathing. She sounds like she’s just finished a particularly grueling three rounds on the obstacle course, not like she’s crying her heart out for her favourite uncle.
Cautiously, he lets a hand rest on her shoulder.
“So, boundaries.” Eggsy opens the conversation with his eyes focused on where he’s throwing Nikita’s Frisbee.
“I can handle you flirting. I think it would actually be pretty hot to watch you work someone up and know that you’re coming home with me.” Charlie admits. “But I don’t think I could handle anyone touching you. I might be able to handle you.. penetrating a man or a woman but I’d want to see it with people we both trust first.”
Eggsy shoots him a truly amused look. “I meant your own, bruv.”
Oh. Okay, so that might have been a bit presumptive. “I’ve been told my flirting is, well, awkward.” And god only knows how time with Arthur is going to help him with that. “I don’t know that I would want to sleep with anyone other than you. Definitely no other men.”
Eggsy nods emphatically. “Cause it feels like it would cross into our territory?”
“Yeah. It might be fun to watch you top a man.” Eggsy grins up at him at the confession in such a way that Charlie feels the need to defend himself. “Your back is a work of art. I’ve always thought mirrors in the bedroom were tacky, then I saw your back when they flooded the first dormitory and it suddenly all made sense.”
“Alright.” Eggsy nods. “Flirting’s fun. I think I do it most of the time unintentionally. Even when it’s inappropriate. Like when I flirted with your brother at lunch that day.” And hadn’t that been an interesting time? It was the closest thing they’d had to a spat yet.
“I think I could fuck people without you there but I don’t know that I want to. I definitely ain’t going bottom for anyone else unless it’s someone we both really, really trust like, I don’t know, maybe Merlin? And you have to be there when it happens.
“I think women could be fair game for both of us as long as we both know about it. I think sharing one would be fun, too.”
Okay so they’re pretty compatible. Though Charlie would readily admit that he is the less flexible one on this matter.
Nikita returns with the Frisbee, yet again, and before she gets in range to hand it back to him, Eggsy simply says, “Papa!” And the dog changes direction slightly to take the thing to Charlie instead.
Eggsy has determined, and already taught the dogs, that Eggsy is ‘Daddy’ and Charlie is ‘Papa.’ It’s adorable and makes Charlie feel a little stupid inside even though he knows he’s going to be stuck with the title forever and he didn’t even get a vote.
But it’s okay. It’s really, really okay.
Charlie takes the rubber disk and he throws it as far as he can while keeping it low so that it doesn’t get stuck in a tree. They learned that lesson quickly.
“We haven’t talked about oral.” Eggsy mentions mid-throw so that Charlie botches it because he’s an arse like that.
“What are your boundaries on oral?” Charlie hits that ball right back into Eggsy’s side of the court.
“I think it’s less intimate than intercourse. As long as you’re safe about it and I know before it happens, I’m okay with it. Might go in the ‘I’d like to watch it’ category.”
Charlie finds himself nodding. “I feel the same. I do think giving is more intimate than receiving but, yeah, agreed on all points.
Of course three days later they’re at a party in London trying to biblically win over a cute little blonde thing that must be smarter than she looks, otherwise she couldn’t possibly manage to breathe and walk at the same time.
He and Eggsy have agreed to try separately first out of fairness for Roxy. Then, if that doesn’t work, they will see if they can lure her in with the possibility of sleeping with soulmates. To most of their age group the idea of sleeping with a pair of bonded soulmates is kinky and alluring so if they can’t manage her on their own, they should definitely manage her together.
Charlie goes first. He opens with a compliment, just like Arthur told him to, and then turns it negative to reel her in but before he can set the hook Roxy sits down and calls him on it. Straight up calls him on it. Shamelessly.
Seriously, who uses ‘neuro-linguistic programming technique’ in an actual sentence? Very subtle, spy lady.
Eggsy’s unease coils in Charlie’s belly when the other man asks about the champagne but, still feeling stung by Roxy’s attack, he dismisses the champagne as just being cheap. When Roxy agrees suddenly agrees with him the sting inside him grows into a burn.
“You know, if you’re interested in seduction techniques, this guy is textbook.” Since they are playing separately right now Eggsy should forgive him for showing off a bit. “See what he just did? It’s called an ‘opinion opener’. He got you talking with a neutral question and got all of us involved in the conversation, so that you crave individual attention.”
“Nah, I’m just saying that the champagne tastes weird-”
Eggsy is cut off by a server that looks like the primary character in a slasher film. “Lady Sophie Montague-Herring, phone call for you at reception.”
The target frowns, stands, and leaves with a “Be right back.”
Roxy and Charlie start to bicker at each other, then the Slasher’s comments about “Rohypnol! Or even something stronger!” Make Eggsy’s concerns about the taste of the booze ring back through Charlie’s mind.
His last thought as his body succumbs to the drug is that, if they survive this, they are getting Eggsy’s palate tested.
When he wakes Charlie can’t move his hands and for a wild moment he thinks it’s all a dream and Eggsy is giving him a really kinky surprise but no. Eggsy would never do anything like this without days of discussion first.
It took him weeks to finally agree to fuck Charlie, after all.
There’s a figure standing not far from Charlie’s feet. He can’t make the stranger out yet, his eyes are too blurry, but the voice is the Slasher from the party. “This knife can save your life.”
Not that Charlie can see the knife either. He’s not even sure where he is other than in the dark with hard raised things under his head and ankles… train tracks? Is he tied to fucking train tracks?
“My employer’s got two questions for you, Charlie.” He can make out Slasher’s ugly as fuck coat but the face is still hidden from him by very his own eyes. “What the fuck is Kingsman? And who is Chester King?”
Charlie doesn’t respond. He’s too busy blinking, trying to clear his eyes, and reach through their bond to Eggsy. Eggsy is nearby. He’s uncomfortable but not in distress. He’s awake.
“Strong and silent type, huh?” A train horn sounds. Charlie turns his head to see the front end light of a train bearing down on him at a rapid pace. Train tracks it is, then. “I just killed two of your friends because they don’t know the right time to talk.”
Lies. Eggsy is alive. Charlie is certain of it. Maybe it’s a grace under pressure test? “Cut me loose, please.”
“Is the Kingsman worth dying for, Charlie?”
Charlie’s inclination is to deny and to beg but Eggsy would never and Eggsy is close enough that he could be watching this farce so Charlie just closes his eyes and waits. He waits for the other shoe to drop, just like it did with Eggsy’s parachute about week ago now.
He hears the train. The horn is going wild. The tracks are vibrating. The light is painfully bright.
And then the train is above him.
Then the train is past… and he’s still alive, in no pain.
When he opens his eyes, he’s in a hole, several feet down from a completed set of tracks. The tracks above him retract and the panel he’s on rises, settling into place as if it was never anywhere else.
Arthur is there, holding what Charlie thinks is probably Slasher’s knife. He nods a few times and in a soft voice that Charlie’s never heard before says, “Well done,” and for a few heartbeats it means everything to Charlie. He’s never heard Arthur compliment anyone before. It’s amazing.
Then Eggsy and Roxy are there, still in their rumpled club clothes but wonderfully alive and that means more. They are babbling at him and congratulating him and cutting him free with their own knives that they already had out because there was no doubt in their minds whatsoever that he would stand with them. It’s perfect and no, he won’t cry -is, in fact, not crying- but it’s fucking perfect.
He doesn’t even care if Arthur is insulted because he goes ignored while they all hug each other. Or if he’s pissy because of the informality of Charlie’s arms draping over both his companions’ shoulders. He’s just doesn’t care. He’s alive, they’re alive, they’re all together and he doesn’t care.
Merlin, Galahad, and a dark curly-haired man Charlie has never seen join them.
Merlin speaks as soon as the group is assembled. “Arthur, Galahad, Mordred. Congratulations. Your candidates have reached the final stage of the testing process. As tradition allows, you now have 24 hours to spend with them.
“Candidates, from now on there are no safety nets. Understood?”
Charlie, Eggsy, and Roxy all share glances and nod.
Harry and Eggsy work like a pair of well trained sheepdogs to herd them all into a tunnel that gets them back to the Estate rather quickly. Once they are back in the now familiar underground levels of the Kingsman Mansion the mentor-mentee pair cut Arthur and Charlie from the group, allowing Merlin, Roxy and Mordred –fucking Mordred!– to continue without them.
“Arthur,” Galahad addresses the head of the order quite jovially. “I have reservations for four at a nice little place on the way home for all of us. I was hoping the two of you could join Eggsy and I for a late dinner.”
Charlie turns to Arthur and does his best to will the man to agree.
Arthur opens his mouth, probably to disagree, but Galahad speaks up again. “Both boys will have to change, of course, but I’m sure they both have suitable attire.”
Arthur obviously doesn’t believe Galahad’s claim and grudgingly agrees. “As long as they both have suitable attire.”
Galahad makes a gesture to Eggsy, the first one Charlie has seen but something similar must have lead their herding efforts.
They make it to the dormitory in time to find a blue jean clad Roxy pulling on a collared shirt but, honestly, the sight of each other half naked is so common for them now neither of them even think to pause and give the female recruit privacy.
“Do you have suitable attire?” Charlie asks apprehensively, feeling in no way ready to be completely separated from his soulmate for the next 24 hours.
“Harry wouldn’t say something like that to Arthur if he didn’t already take care of it.” And sure enough when Eggsy opens his locker there’s a suit jacket and tie hanging with the trousers and dress shirt Galahad had provided Eggsy for their lunch with his parents.
The jumper Galahad had provided is separated from the grouping but the colours would all work together in the even Eggsy chose to wear it that way.
He doesn’t but he could.
They get in and out quickly enough that not even Arthur should be able to complain about it.
He doesn’t complain but the momentary flash of pain when Arthur sees Eggsy in proper attire is pleasing none the less. Really pleasing. It gives Charlie every bit of insight he needs as to why Galahad loves to pull the man’s tail so much.
Dinner is going well.
Everything is going to plan. The seating arrangement is exactly want he wanted. Charlie and Eggsy are on opposite of the square table, looking at each other each other, just as Arthur and Harry are. Eggsy is on Arthur’s right in the ‘most favoured’ position. Charlie is on his left in the ‘most trusted’ position.
They’ve just finished the salad course and Arthur and Eggsy have actually had a direct conversation. Eggsy did brilliantly, managing to draw the old snob into the conversation without resorting to arse-kissing.
Charlie is watching his mate with his usual vaguely-dopey grin and Arthur, well, Arthur seems preoccupied with something on his neck. Something that apparently itches quite a bit.
Galahad doesn’t get a good look at the thing until Arthur leans over to say something softly to Charlie, which, rude! But seeing Arthur with an Arnold Scar keeps him from saying anything about the gaffe. Instead he blinks the pattern to make sure a duplicate of his personal feed is being sent directly to Kingsman Headquarters and adjusts his glasses in his and Merlin’s emergency code.
Eggsy is now watching him without watching him. His body is giving away some of his interest but for anyone else it would read like interest in Charlie’s conversation or perhaps jealousy over Arthur’s attention to Charlie.
Harry gives the boy a small smile, he’s doing very well.
Harry knows the moment Merlin sees what he sees because he hears the man’s very low but heartfelt, “Fuck.”
Harry nods, seemingly to Eggsy. Eggsy leans in like they are about to have their own secret conversation when really Eggsy’s just being nosey.
“Okay, keep him there.” Merlin instructs. “I’ll call in Mordred and Arthur will get an emergency call to HQ. Can you take Roxy for the night?”
Eggsy must hear some of that because he practically falls back into his chair, laughing and nodding theatrically, allowing Harry to smile fondly and, more importantly, nod along with the boy in a way that makes sense.
“Good. Keep him there. I’ll let you know when we’re ready.”
They are just finishing up dessert and discussing the various cheese options likely to come in the next course when Merlin pings him again. “Alright, we’re ready. I have a cab waiting to bring him to the shop and a team out front in case he decides to run. I’ll be calling him in 3, 2,-” The line goes a bit flat, telling Galahad that he’s been muted.
“Merlin!” Arthur speaks so that the whole table can hear him. “You’re calling rather late.”
“Yes, sir.” Harry hears Merlin say. “I’m afraid I have a situation that needs your attention and cannot wait.”
“Of course, Merlin.” Arthur sounds relieved at the call to attend his own death.
“There is a cab waiting outside for you, sir. It will bring you to the Manor.”
“Quite right, quite right. I’ll be there directly.” Arthur doesn’t cut the line as he turns to Charlie. “I’m afraid there’s an emergency I need to attend to. I don’t know how long it will take. A Kingsman cab can take you to my home and you can wait for me there or you can go with Galahad and your-” Arthur doesn’t finish the sentence, he just gestures toward Eggsy dismissively.
“If it’s alright with Harry,” Charlie emphasizes the name. Quite correctly, too, they are off duty and in public. “I’ll go with him and Eggsy for the evening. Perhaps we will see you for breakfast, sir?”
Arthur’s smile looks a little pained. “Of course, my boy, of course. Galahad?”
“Charlie is welcome, of course. It’s probably better for their bond for them to spend the evening together anyway.”
If anything, Arthur’s smile becomes even more anemic. “Of course. I must be off!” The old bastard practically leaps from his chair, snatches up his umbrella, and is out the door faster than you can say his codename.
Harry just shakes his head and turns back to their previous conversation. “Now, nuts are also a popular after-meal selection…”
“Merlin!” Arthur greets him with a shit-eating grin as the older man makes his way up the stairs to the front door of the mansion.
“Arthur.” He returns with a nod. “Thank you for coming.”
“You are quite welcome. As always, your timing was most opportune. What is the emergency?”
Merlin makes a show of unlocking his tablet as Mordred coalesces from the shadows at the traitor’s back and silently jabs the man in the neck with a sleep dart. Merlin for his part just throws the Personal Signal Jammer around Arthur’s neck and helps Mordred carry the traitor into the bowels of the mansion.
“So,” Mordred opens with terrible faux-casualness as the two of them haul the old bastard down stairs. “That trainee you gave me. Roxanne Morton.”
Merlin closes his eyes and takes a deep breath, he doesn’t want to have this conversation. He especially does not want to have it with fucking Mordred.
“Poor lass is in a bit of a state.” The bastard keeps talking absently. “And it’s probably exacerbated by going through training with a brand new bonded pair. Seems she isn’t terribly or even primarily attracted to women but she has a woman’s name on her wrist. The name of one Ashley Greer.”
Mordred glares at him as they deposit Arthur in the chair that he will probably die in. “When are you going to confess your sins, Merlin?”
“When I’m no longer in a position of authority over her.”
“So when she’s either seated at the Table or leaves?”
“That’s why you made a big deal about there being multiple accessors that are not you?”
“Good!” Mordred shoots him a vicious look that might be somewhere on the same family tree as cheerful but is not closely related. “Are you prepared to grovel?”
Merlin might actually roll his eyes. He is just done with this conversation. “Come on. We’ve got an hour before this bastard wakes and I want to review at least his last week before he does.”
Mordred, of course, takes his avoidance as a fucking victory. “Of course, Merlin.”
The same non-Taxi Kingsman car that brought them to the restaurant picks them up after their meal.
Harry rather carefully watches Eggsy as they climb in. The surprise the young man displays when he sees Roxy already in the back of the vehicle seems so genuine that he wonders what exactly Eggsy heard over the glasses. Did he not hear the question about Roxy? Could he have just heard the questioning tone and decided, on faith, to give Harry the opportunity to react? Or is this surprise the deception?
He really can’t tell so Harry nods to the boy that he wins and the man just serves him a cute little grin without doing anything to reveal the truth. The little bastard.
“Ms. Morton,” Charlie reverts to formality in his surprise, not a bad habit to be in. “Shouldn’t you be with Mordred?”
“I could ask you the same thing,” She shoots back. “I don’t see Arthur anywhere.”
“He was called into HQ for an emergency. He didn’t even stay the whole meal.”
Roxy frowns and shoots Harry a look. “What are the chances of two different emergencies in the same night?”
“Extremely slim, I’m afraid.”
“An emergency that needs Mordred and Arthur?” Eggsy asks him. When Harry nods to him once, he throws himself back in the seat and sing-songs, “Somebody’s going to die.”
The silence in the car lasts until they make it back to his home. After they exit the car but before they enter the building, Roxy directs them around to the boot. “Merlin wasn’t sure what supplies you had so he sent some things.”
Specifically four sleeping bags, Kingsman pajamas in everyone’s sizes including a set for Harry, and a few bags of un-popped popcorn, among other things. How his one-on-one time with Eggsy became a sleepover for would-be agents, Harry will never know-
No, no, he knows. He knows exactly how it happened and it’s 100% Arthur’s fault.
How’s he supposed to have a serious heart-to-heart talk about what a Kingsman is supposed to and should always be with three of them in such an informal setting?
The answer to the question eludes him.
Maybe he should tell stories about his and other Knights exploits? He’s not much of a storyteller but Eggsy always seems to enjoy it anyway. Maybe they should just drive it home with actions rather than words? They’d have to be very picky on the first missions they send these three on but it could work. Or maybe they’ll just need to do another 24 hour one-on-one period? Maybe after the dog test?
Though, honestly, if he had his way none of them would ever take the dog test. At this point in their training, trust has either already been established and tested or not. Doing anything more to it is just abusive.
“Sleeping bags, Harry?”
“I have three guests and but one guest room, Eggsy.”
Roxy’s eyes light up. “I’ve never had a slumber party before.”
“You got things or do we need to run down to the store? I can do your nails and you can do my make-up.” Eggsy says teasingly.
“Can you really do nails?”
“Course I can, got a little sister. I’ve been practicing since before she was born.”
The two look to Harry, grinning. They honestly look enough alike that they could be siblings and those grins are frighteningly contagious, judging by the twitching of Charlie’s lips.
He gives them his best put-upon sigh. “I suppose you can do my make-up, too.”
Harry actually did find time and opportunities to have serious ‘what a Kingsman is’ conversation with all three knight-candidates.
Roxy was first. Not long after Eggsy and Charlie’s makeovers were finished, the two boys curled up together in their sleeping bags and fell straight asleep. Out of respect for the pair of mates, Harry and Roxy went up to his office to conduct his makeover and got in their conversation in.
Charlie was the first one up in the morning after Harry himself and they had their conversation around the toasting of bread and frying of bacon.
Now, Harry’s fitting Eggsy’s conversation in on the leisurely stroll to the shop.
The others were showering when they left and would take a cab. They would probably end up beating himself and Eggsy to the shop but that’s perfectly okay.
Chatting with Eggsy is so easy, so refreshing. The boy takes to the concepts of sacrifice not just of life but of recognition and true discretion like breathing. Not that Harry was involved in the boy’s introduction to the concepts but Eggsy applies them so well. He understands them just as deeply if not deeper than Harry does.
He is stuck on the elocution and etiquette thing which is annoying. Harry isn’t even sure who he needs to beat over it. Arthur? Some of the failed members of the Lancelot cohort? Himself? God only knows where Eggsy got stuck on it but since he feels this strongly about it they’ll take care of it.
Well, Harry will take care of the lessons himself if he has to, that is true, but surely Charlie will give him a hand. Assuming he hasn’t already started on the problem himself. They should probably coordinate their efforts.
Harry allows Eggsy to open the inner door to the shop for him in a perfect duplication of how he had opened the outer door for Eggsy just moments previous.
He’s right, Roxy and Charlie beat them to the shop. They are both sitting on leather benches in the front of the shop, chatting with Andrew, the older tailor -actual lifelong tailor- at work in the shop.
To Andrew’s open -and Harry’s secret- amusement the two Knight-Candidates pop to something like attention from the neck down the moment they see him.
Eggsy laughs and his smile is incandescent. Harry follows his line of sight to Charlie’s hands. The lad has left on the deep burgundy nail polish Eggsy put him in last night. Harry can’t decide if it goes wonderfully or clashes horribly with the man’s olive green jumper.
“Now, the first thing every gentleman -or woman- needs is a good suit.” Harry tells the three after a round of greetings. “By which I mean a bespoke suit. Never off the peg. And Kingsman suits are always bulletproof.”
All three Knight-candidates eyes widen and they look at each other. It’s just so lovely. And more than a little hilarious.
“So let’s get you measured and then, whether you get the job or not, you will all have a lasting and useful memento of your time at Kingsman.”
Harry turns to lead them into Fitting Room 1 but Andrew stops him with an, “I’m so sorry, sir, but a gentleman is completing his fitting. Fitting Room 2 is available.”
“One does not use Fitting Room 2, when one is popping one’s cherry.” He reminds the tailor since he has obviously forgotten. “Perhaps I’ll show them Fitting Room 3 while we wait.”
The four of them pile into Fitting Room 3. It’s more of a squeeze than it would be in Room 1 but it’s not uncomfortable.
Eggsy shoots him a smug look via the mirror. “So we going up or down?”
The other two look between them amused and Harry does his best not to grin as he answers Eggsy with a deadpan “Neither.”
Eggsy’s face falls hilariously. “This it?”
“Of course not.” Eggsy gives him the glare he deserves. “Pull the hook on your left.”
Eggsy does so and grins when they all hear the click of the door unlocking. He allows the door to pull him into the room and is the first of the candidates to see the other side. “Nice. Very, very nice.”
“You’re going to need a pair of shoes to go with your suit.” Harry instructs them all. “An Oxford is any formal shoe with open lacing. This additional decorative piece is called broguing.”
“Oxfords, not brogues.” Eggsy reminds him with a small smile.
“Words to live by, Eggsy. Words to live by.”
Their reaction to the various Kingsman gadgets are fantastic.
Putting Charlie in the shoes to demonstrate the toe-knife was the right decision, the boy giggles when the knife makes its appearance. His face grows into a grin the likes of which probably only Eggsy has ever seen when Harry informs him that the blade coated with one of the fastest-acting neurotoxins known to man.
Eggsy starts lusting for the lighters basically from the moment he sees them and it only gets worse when he finds out that they are, in fact, hand grenades. Harry thinks for a moment that they should probably start production on replacements now for when Eggsy sits at the Table but in the end he dismisses the thought as premature.
Roxy, surprisingly, goes for the Kingsman pistol. Harry would have thought she’d be an umbrella worshiper like himself but, none the less, it’s a good choice and the gun fits her hand very well which is probably a new sensation for someone with hands so small. They spend more time than he intended in the weapons room while he explains to them what the different colours of the shotgun shells mean.
Long after Harry figures Room 1 should be empty, they exit Room 3 and Harry is startled when Andrew just looks up and says, “Perfect timing. Gentleman’s just finished.”
And Richmond fucking Valentine walks out.
Of course, the arsehole recognises him immediately and calls him out. “Mr. DeVere!”
Harry adjusts his glasses, yet again alerting Merlin to the fucked up encounter.
“What a coincidence. You’re totally the reason I’m here.” Harry just bets. Their countermeasures weren’t sufficient, goddamn it. At least this sort-of explains how Valentine found Arthur. “When you left my house, I was thirsting for that dope-ass smoking jacket you had on. And since I’m going to Royal Ascot and, apparently you need one of these penguin suits, here I am. What are you doing here?”
“My children and my son’s soulmate.” He lies to the man without having to think about it. “Getting measured for wedding suits, of course.”
“Congratulations! Nothing is more rewarding than a lifelong relationship with your soulmate.” Valentine shakes hands all around as Madam Sword-Feet approaches. “This is of course my soulmate, Gazelle Santos-Valentine.” Hands are shaken again and the woman seems to take a special interest in intimidating Eggsy for some reason.
“A word of advice,” Harry says, stopping the candidate-criminal interaction as quickly as possible while not being rude. “Ascot requires top hat. I might suggest Lock & Co. Hatters, St. James.”
“‘Lox’, as in smoked fish?”
Oh, so they’re playing this game again, are they? “As in ‘locked up’.”
“I have trouble understanding you people sometimes. You all talk so funny.”
Merlin speaks up as Valentine quits the shop. “I’ve alerted Jeremy at Lock, he’ll take care of the bug. Amelia and Mordred are set to monitor.”
Harry nods and turns back to his three candidates. “Well, who’s first?”
They can’t do the dog test without Arthur and, honestly, without Arthur, none of them -Harry, Mordred or Merlin- are at all inclined to do the dog test so the 24 hour pre-test period stretches to 48 and then 72 and on as Merlin fails to call them back to the Mansion. Probably too busy interrogating or something.
The kids accept it and don’t press when Harry explains that the delay is due to the emergency and that they can’t return to the Mansion until everything is taken care of. They settle in for days of cooking lessons and shopping and generally having a good time.
To his shame it takes them no time at all to talk him into a weekend in Paris followed by another two days looking at various German castles.
When they are in London it takes less than a day for Eggsy to have his running route scouted and a day after that for the rest of them to join him. Fitness is very important to the life of a Kingsman after all. They don’t even look at him funny when he lets them into his basement gym, though Eggsy pouts because there isn’t enough room for any sort of tumbling.
On Day 9, Mordred and Merlin invade Harry’s home wearing full suits. Pinned on their lapels are the Kingsman medals with the ribbon and enamel colouring to indicate their positions. Mordred’s is a black ribbon with an white stripe down the middle dividing the ribbon into three equal section and black enamel overlay in the circle around the four-pointed rope-compass and lazy K. Merlin’s is blue with a thick green stripe down the middle and green enamel.
Frowning because he knows what this means and while he won’t fight it he’s not thrilled, Harry runs up to his room to grab the coat of his own suit and pin the Galahad medal to it -red with two thin white stripes and red enamel.
When he returns Mordred and Merlin have the kids all seated at the Dining Room table.
Merlin is standing behind his open suitcase at the head of the table with the chair moved off to the side. Mordred is standing at Merlin’s left, further confirming Harry’s suspicions, so Harry moves to stand at the Wizard’s right.
Mordred and Merlin pull on their glasses. Before copying them Harry urges, “Let them join in. They’ll never see anything like this again.”
Merlin gives a single down-up nod and pulls glasses cases from deep within his suitcase. He checks them for markers that he can only see because of his glasses and passes each Knight-candidate their individual pair. Merlin always makes personalised field glasses for the surviving candidates after the train test. Normally he ends up destroying and recycling all but one pair but Harry thinks it might be different this time.
Once everyone is properly adorned Mordred begins. “Chester King has been found guilty of corruption and treason against the Kingsman Agency.” Regret fills Harry as he hears Charlie’s hard swallow. “His sentence was carried out this morning at approximately 0600.”
“Conspirators?” Harry asks.
“We are still investigating. No Knight is to be informed until we have verified they are free of corruption.”
Harry nods once and looks significantly at the children. They all start nodding immediately.
“That said.” Merlin cuts in, holding up a red ribbon with a gold band bisecting it and red enamel. “We need an Arthur.”
“It’s always either a Percival or a Galahad.” Harry says more for the children than himself as he takes the ribbon. “And we have no Percival.” Chester King had actually been Percival before he was promoted and Mike took the seat, so maybe there’s more to it than there being no one else. Though it would be thoroughly false to assume that Mike has ever been anything like Chester.
Eggsy pops up from his chair and turns Harry towards him. It’s quite irregular but Harry can’t really deny the lad as he gently unpins the Galahad medal and puts the Arthur one in its place. He pointedly ignores the fond but mocking looks Merlin and Mordred exchange not-actually behind his back.
“Congratulations, Harry.” Eggsy says softly, handing him back the Galahad medal.
Harry just rolls the boy’s fingers up, encasing the medal in his fist. “Hold on to that, my lad. It may come in handy, soon.”
Eggsy flashes him a big smile and sits back down in his chair.
Harry exchanges handshakes with Merlin and Mordred.
“I hope you don’t mind if I remain your Mordred,” The oldest of the three, in the room really, asks. “There isn’t anyone else we can really let fill in right now.”
“No, it’s perfectly fine. You should remain Mordred as long as you feel you can. I trust you to do what’s best for the organisation.”
“The reason we needed to do this now is because Valentine is finally saying something of note.” Merlin tells them as he pulls out a tablet and plays a recording for all of them to hear.
“You know what I love about pen and paper?” Valentine’s lisp fills the air. “Nobody can hack into this shit.
“Our worldwide tour was a complete success. We have total coverall. Like when all your numbers in bingo are crossed out.”
“Bingo?” His henchwoman-soulmate asks over the recording.
“Bingo. The game. You have played Bingo, right?”
“Do I look like I play bingo?”
“Point is, if our tests go well at church tomorrow, we are good to go!”
The one bit of intel he got from the not-gala pops to the forefront of his memory. “South Glade Mission Church.” Harry makes it a statement but both men nod anyway.
Harry frowns, the only agent-resources he has available are the ones in this room plus Amelia unless he misleads his own people. But then it’s not like Valentine -between his education and his race and what the bigots would assume about his sexuality because of his lisp and his fastidiousness- could go into a place like South Glade Mission Church and expect to get out again. Not alive at least. So it’s not like they really need agents on the ground in the church. “Alert the FBI that there is a credible terrorist threat against the Church and have Amelia hack their security so that we can monitor this test.”
Special Agent in Charge Gabriel Raf does his best to blend with the congregation as they react to the beyond-offensive ‘sermon’ that their holy-man is giving. He might look like all-American white bread but these people just don’t have the first fucking clue about anything they are putting down. It’s infuriating on levels.
Still, he’s here for a job. And he’s honestly surprised that the pastor allowed him and three other male-only agents into the congregation to do it.
It’s his turn for a perimeter sweep. He stands and makes for the back of the chapel, studiously keeping his eyes away from their long-term undercover couple. And anyone else, for that matter.
He’s even with the last pew when an annoying as fuck tone starts beeping out of a woman’s phone. He snatches it out of her hand, angrily and angles it around, making a show of trying to turn it off but really he’s just giving the security camera behind him a good look at the screen with Richmond Valentine’s signature symbol pulsing on it.
The tone grows louder and starts replicating itself around the room. At least a quarter of the phones in the room start making the noise. It’s infuriating!
Before he can better of it, SAC Gabriel Raf pulls his service weapon and shoots the caterwauling woman in the face.
Eggsy’s exclamation artlessly but aptly sums up the situation as the church turns into a fucking brawl in front of their eyes. It’s fast. It’s violent. Many participants are armed in a number of ways so it very quickly becomes fatal. The FBI agents could be more effective, though. Harry’s not sure if that’s because their training is just lacking or if they are fighting whatever is causing them to fight.
“You’re monitoring the airwaves in the area?” Harry asks Amelia.
The kids hadn’t been happy with him over the deception but they’d been thrilled to learn the tech was alive and that their negligence hadn’t killed her.
“On all frequencies we can with the equipment available, sir.”
“What is going on with the phones? Is Valentine causing this?”
“I would say the timing is too convenient for anything else, sir. I’ve started on the frequencies Valentine’s communications network utilises. There is a particularly strong signal coming from a house down several down and across the street from the church.”
“Alert the FBI’s external team.”
“Yes, sir.” The woman’s hands keep flying.
After a shared glance Merlin’s start flying, too. “The FBI strike team is caught up in the melee, sir.” The wizard shortly announces.
Christ, none of the strike team should have personal mobile phones on them while on duty. Did the FBI convert all their duty phones to Valentine’s network or are they just being affected by the phones inside the church?
Is this what Valentine meant by a test?
A test implies that there is something else, something bigger, coming next. Harry doesn’t even want to imagine it… Can Valentine do this with all of those free SIM cards? At the same time or even in stages it would be devastating.
“Alert the local police. Suspected terrorists at the signal house’s address.”
“Of course, sir.”
Of course, it’s not so easy. The involvement of local police alerts the new-sensationalist vultures that hover around places like South Glade Mission Church that something is going on. They smell the blood in the water. Especially when half of the responding uniforms redirect themselves toward the melee because they made the mistake of charging past the church. Two police officers actually go so far as to jump curbs and slam their vehicles directly into not only FBI personnel but the church itself.
By the time the group that took the apparently longer route make it to the house, Valentine is gone. Hustled out by his security mercenaries and just plain gone without any clues to his next move or location. Not even whatever device he was using has been left behind.
“If they’re going to run the story, let’s make sure they run the right one. Amelia, prepare a leak package. Merlin, do we have any data about whatever device they used?”
“We didn’t see it so we can’t be sure but the hack did reveal two devices that communicate to his free SIM cards in the same way. A small one labeled only as ‘test’ and a larger one in his mountain facility labeled ‘master’. I need some time to see if I can hack it. They updated the security to it recently so we had to back out of the system or risk being caught. Most of our doors are still open, though.”
“Do it. If you’ve cleared anyone in your tech department I want them on this too. Mordred, contact everyone -Interpol, U.S. Customs, CIA, MI-6, everyone. Tell them that Valentine is not to come to Europe for any reason. Keeping him Stateside would be best and I don’t particularly care if you’re subtle about it.”
Seizing the opportunity, Harry turns to the Knight-Candidates. “Our options? For if they fail to contain Valentine.”
“We can take out his satellites.” Roxy answers immediately. “Does he require a full coverage network to send his signal? If he does, taking out one will stop him for at least several hours. If not, we can take out the satellites over major cities to prevent or reduce casualties.”
Harry nods, “Merlin will give you a tablet with the data you need on it. Get the answers to your questions and based on what you find I want three action plans. Go.”
Charlie steps up next. “Can’t get the signal without the SIM card, right? We’re already educating the public, make sure our leaks encourage people to destroy the SIM card immediately.”
“Work with Amelia.” Harry orders. “And don’t just stick with traditional news sources. See how far the internet and social media can get you.”
Charlie moves to the woman’s work station with a “Yes, Sir” so crisp that Harry is half surprised it doesn’t come with a salute.
“We can storm the castle,” Eggsy offers last, his eyes shadowed. “Destroy the machine and he can’t send the signal. Or he could have an accident. I think he should have to answer for what he did at the church but it might be better to cut off the snake’s head rather than let it come back to bite us.”
“Cut off the snake’s head?” Harry said speculatively, turning to look at Merlin. They could cut off the snake’s head alright. Quite explosively, if they need to.
“We can’t verify if he has one.” Merlin says, purposely cryptic. “The triggers in the system aren’t labeled with any naming convention that I can decipher and we can find no pictures of him with the scar.”
“So it’s all or nothing?”
Merlin nods, his mouth set in a hard, grim line.
“That will be a last resort, then. Is there a list of everyone he implanted?”
“Not on his system. Perhaps that he was referring to in the transmission? If so, he’s right. We can’t hack pen and paper.”
“Check again anyway but don’t devote yourself to it, we have too much to do.” Harry says, knowing Merlin will probably set up a search program and let it go.
“Eggsy, you will coordinate with Mordred on a physical assault. He has actually been inside the ‘castle’ and he is familiar with Kingsman’s available resources.”
Valentine is looking at at least 13 hours of flight time from Kentucky to his lair in the Western Carpathians, assuming nothing they are trying actually delays him. It’s a 3 hour flight for them, assuming they are going in directly through the front door. That’s 10 hours to prepare the world and prevent Valentine’s madness.
Setting his mental clock to five hours so that he can at least see the children to bed, Harry moves to his own terminal. He has five hours to clear as many of the various techs as he can to give their presumed-mission the support staff it needs.
An alert tone wakes Harry.
It’s the same alert tone from the church but it sounds only once. What in the fucking Mansion would make that Valentine noise?
With a frown he starts digging through the desk he’d been using for hours. The sound must have come from there. Some electronic device somewhere in the- Fuck. Arthur’s phone?
Harry is rendered speechless as he takes in the ugly two shades of purple screen with blocky, unforgiving white lettering. Valentine’s symbol. The coordinates for Valentine’s lair. A countdown clock just short of six hours. The tone must have, in fact, sounded at six hours.
How many tones did he miss in his sleep? Could this be the first one? Please let this be the first one. Harry checks his watch, 20 hours since the church. Could their efforts have delayed the mad man seven hours? Or had he slept through precious madness-preventing hours?
The door to his temporary office opens and Merlin walks in looking particularly fresh. “Arthur, Peter just notified me of an outgoing signal from Valentine’s mountain.”
“I’m aware.” Harry holds up Chester Kings phone where Merlin can see it.
For a moment, the magician looks as thunderstruck as he feels but it clears quickly. “Your orders, sir?”
“Assemble the team. Half an hour, in the conference room. I want to review the current situation as well as Eggsy and Roxy’s plans. We’re going to pick them apart as best we can and then we go. Warn your people that we’re probably going to need some planes ready. I’ll want at least two PDJs fully loaded and ready to go when we are.”
“Of course, sir.” Merlin gives him a quick nod and leaves.
For his part, Harry grabs a quick shower, changes his suit, and is in the conference room in right around 20 minutes.
Eggsy, Mordred and Roxy are already seated in the room when he arrives though Mordred’s shoulder-length hair is still wet from his shower. Merlin, Charlie, and Amelia show up fully loaded with trays of food and insulated carafes of tea and coffee. Upon seeing them Mordred and Harry move to the cabinets around the room and pull out appropriate plates and utensils.
The food disappears quickly and they set to working on the plan.
The big question: do they actually need to do anything? The unfortunate answer to that is yes.
Despite the leak package with so many facts distinctly marked by Valentine’s own mainframe going out into the internet and the unedited footage of the madness at the church, a number of international governmental sources have declared the leak package a hoax. Several social media icons and news networks, particularly ones linked to Valentine, have also come out declaiming the leak package. Combine that with the absolutely insane ‘it’s too good to go wrong’ attitude that has cropped up about the SIM cards and too many people are #StandingByVSIMs for anyone to be considered safe.
So that means they need to stop the signal.
Can they hack the ‘master’ device and stop the signal? No.
According to Merlin the device has biometric security and it’s not your average biometric security. Valentine’s biometric security is very advanced. So advanced that it only accepts live tissue and cannot be hacked past. Yet. Maybe if they had a few months but they don’t. He’s got a team working on it anyway.
Roxy’s analysis of Valentine’s communications network and its relationship to his SIM cards reveals several things. The man has a network, literally a web, of satellites around the globe and for the violence-inducing signal to be distributed globally, he needs every single one of them to be functioning correctly. However. He can also cover large regions with smaller satellite networks if the web gets broken.
The conclusion being that if Valentine is set on a global signal, they can take out one satellite, and break the web. Valentine will then have to hold off the signal while he rearranges his entire web into a secondary configuration, buying them hours to permanently prevent the wave.
Destroying just one satellite won’t help them if he’s not set on global distribution, though. Theoretically, as long as he was fine with just affecting large swaths of population, he could just hold the signal as they take out his satellites one by one and the signal would not be completely stopped until all of his satellites are gone.
So, they need to break in to Valentine’s base and get Valentine out without him setting off the wave device. The question is how?
Answer: They have Chester King’s phone-invitation.
“I will pretend to me Chester King and lead a group into Valentine’s base.” Harry tells the group. “We will disable him, set a diversion, get him back to our plane and leave in the confusion.”
“Two problems with that.” Merlin shoots him down with great aplomb. “One, you are Arthur and cannot be risked on field work. Two, you have already met most of his personal staff under the name of Armand DeVere. His people are highly trained and very concerned about his security, they aren’t going to accept you as Chester King.”
“Mordred will do it then.”
“No, if we are putting people in Personal Defense Jets to shoot down satellites it needs to be Mordred and Charlie. They are the only two in the room currently certified on PDJs. And we only have two of them because King insisted Charlie get time in simulators during training but he’s very, very good. It would be the most effective way to utilise them both.”
“A two man fighter screen? Don’t you think that’s overkill?”
“I’m worried it might not be enough.”
Merlin looks positively distraught so Harry lets the argument go and moves on. “Mordred, Charlie, what do you say?”
The two men visually evaluate each other and then nod. “We can do it, sir.”
“Very well.” Harry accepts. “We still need a Chester King, though. No one Eggsy’s age could pass for King. No one would give a 22 year old the kind of power that attracts Valentine. so we’re stuck unless you’re going to do it?”
“No. I’m the pilot.” Merlin answers. “No one would believe a man of King’s status flying himself anywhere unless it’s the kind of thing he takes a great deal of pride in and the plane we need in order to get Valentine out would be too big to appeal to such a personality.
“I was actually thinking of an old friend. One that knows all about Kingsman and has kept himself out of our way even after joining MI-6.”
Harry narrows his eyes. There’s really only one man that matches that particular description.
James Bond was part of Lee Unwin’s Lancelot cohort but, unlike the other two, he had failed the dog test. Harry knew that Merlin had refused to see the boy’s potential wasted and had arranged for several opportunities to find the lad, setting him on a path that would eventually lead to him becoming the most effective and longest-lived double-0 in her Majesty’s service.
“We would have to verify his… status and availability.”
A cough breaks the stare off between Harry and Merlin and they turn to face a grinning Mordred together.
“I’m sure I don’t know to whom you are referring.” The lying liar tells them with a straight face. “But I met with 007 to pass the information on Valentine and the Arnold Scars along to MI-6 and, of course, I took the opportunity to physically examine and question the man.”
Oh, lord, that must have gone over well. Harry must have said it out loud because everyone in the room laughs at his observation.
“He did not enjoy being taken down by an ‘old man’.” Mordred’s grin gets a little meaner. “But he seems reliable and he did share with us that the Prime Minister, several high ranking members of MI-5, and the entire royal family have been implanted. Though we agree that the royal family was probably implanted under duress seeing as young Prince Harry is on Valentine’s list of hostages.”
Harry sees where this is going but he feels the need to clarify. Immediately. “So the two of you want us to call in a failed Kingsman recruit that happens to work for MI-6 to pretend to be Chester King?”
Mordred shrugs. “He’s a good age for it and in excellent physical condition. He hasn’t visibly aged in ten years despite his… extreme lifestyle so he could easily pass for ten years younger or older than he really is, allowing a number of ways to explain the younger agents’ presence -anything from his lovers to his personal assistants to his children.
“And I was able to verify that his handler, a man he called Q? Has not been implanted or corrupted either as they were in the hotel suite together.”
Merlin snorts. “Q is definitely not his handler. Q is no one’s handler.”
“Well, there was quite a bit of handling going on.” Mordred says just a touch too innocently and Eggsy spits his tea laughing.
Since it’s a three hour flight, the strike team isn’t rolling out until the timer is down to four hours.
There’s plenty to do in the hour they have left but Charlie and Eggsy have left it all in the hands of others. Mordred, Merlin and one of Merlin’s minions named Peter are personally handling or merely overseeing the preparation of their various planes and weapons. Roxy, Harry, and Amelia are briefing 007 and Q and preparing them for the mission.
Charlie and Eggsy are back in their Iso room, sitting together on the edge of their big bed.
They haven’t really been able to touch in hours and the stress of it has apparently become so evident in their attitudes that Harry had practically grounded them, literally sending them to their room.
Now they are reluctant to touch. They need it. Charlie knows they need it and he knows that Eggsy knows they need it but neither is willing to push.
The time limit means someone has to push, though.
“Come one, Eggsy.” He finally says. “I want you to fuck me.”
Eggsy gives him his confused puppy look. “We’re about to take on an army to save the world. Six verses 200. Doesn’t that bother you?”
Charlie shakes his head and finds that he’s surprised by the peace surrounding his heart. He does his best to share that peace with Eggsy. “Normal day at the office for a Kingsman, I expect.”
Eggsy nods reluctantly and then shakes his head. “You know, I learned something when Harry was talking to Valentine. Something about myself that I never expected.”
“That Harry Hart thinks of you as his son?”
“No, I knew that. We’d talked about it. It was right after that, when he said the bit about our wedding suits I realised I want wedding suits. I never thought I’d want a wedding. It didn’t help my Mum and Dad. And it didn’t help my Mum with Dean. Why would I need it?
“But I think I do. Need it. I know I want it. Our wedding.”
“Well, you’ve put your foot in it now, Unwin.” Charlie says with all the mock-severity he can muster. “When this is all over, we’re going out to dinner and I’m proposing to you properly. And none of your short-cuts, young man, you have to make it all the way through dinner and answer my question properly.”
Eggsy just grins up at him. “We can always leave.”
For a moment Charlie’s world stops and he can hardly breathe, the words are wrong but it feels like ‘I love you’ and it’s the first time Eggsy has said since they said it together the first time on the very day they met.
He blinks, clears his throat and then gives the best snort he can to his soulmate. “Like you would let your sister save the world without you.”
If anything Eggsy’s grin grows as he pulls Charlie down for a searing kiss. “I do believe I owe you some cock, sir.”
Roxy watches with not-so-hidden amusement and a little pain as James fucking Bond adjusts his ‘new’ suit in the air plane’s one and only mirror.
Thankfully it’s not as much pain as Merlin is experiencing when he looks at Bond. Not even close. But that’s probably why it’s so amusing.
It goes without saying that Bond is in a Kingsman suit. It’s bespoke and fully bulletproof but it isn’t bespoke for 007, which is the source of Merlin’s pain. The jacket, shirt and tie are Merlin’s. The holsters, belt, and trousers are Harry-Arthur’s because Merlin is much too slim in the waist and long in the leg for Bond to borrow from. And the guns, umbrella, and glasses are Mordred’s because the contrary man insisted.
Bond probably could have straight up borrowed a suit from Eggsy seeing as, even though Bond seems bigger, they are the same height with similar chest and arm dimensions but Harry had only one suit made for Eggsy and they all insisted Eggsy wear it.
It’s not like Bond is accustomed to the luxury of full body armor anyway.
And it isn’t like the fit is bad on Bond. It’s just the propriety of the thing, even though it’s hardly noticeable with all the little tricks the tailors and Merlin’s department were able to work up for the man. If you didn’t know, you probably wouldn’t guess the gray glen plaid suit wasn’t made for him. Probably. Maybe.
Eggsy is in his own suit – a size-adjusted replica of Harry’s own favorite navy with white pinstripes all the way down to the tie and tie pin. Eggsy is on the floor, working through a series of stretches and testing out how the suit limits him physically. For such a formal look it really doesn’t seem to limit him much even though there isn’t the room for him to test it as thoroughly as the gymnast-spy obviously wants to.
Roxy keeps her glasses following him quite closely, and makes sure that they are recording the entire time, so that she can bribe Charlie with it later. She has no idea what she would need to bribe him for but she’s never been one to waste an opportunity when it presents itself in such a pretty little side split on the floor.
Harry’s voice sounds calm and in control over the plane’s speaker system. “V-Day has commenced. I repeat, V-Day has commenced.”
“Arthur, we’re still an hour out!” Merlin’s voice is carried into the cabin by the speakers.
Eggsy checks the phone on the table in front of him. “There’s still two hours on the phone, H-Arthur.”
Either there was a leak or the Mansion is under surveillance and they missed it. It’s the only thing that makes sense. She doesn’t even know which one to hope for because either could turn their efforts into a suicide mission so, so easily.
“Please confirm V-Day is live.” Merlin asks, his voice is tight.
A second, younger voice breaks in -either Peter or Q, she can’t be sure. “Satellite activation confirmed. And,” The speaker swallows audibly. “There’s footage. Live footage.”
“Show us.” Bond orders.
Harry confirms and orders them to the mission desk, telling them how to activate it. They open the panels of the mission desk and, honestly, she could have done without the sight that greets them.
Knowing was bad enough. Seeing the church was bad enough. But seeing it happening and knowing that it’s going on below them right now is horrible.
On the far left screen Roxy personally recognises London. On the middle-left is, she thinks, Paris. Right middle is Saint Petersburg because she recognises Peterhof’s unique combination of fountains, golden statues, and the checkerboard floor done in marble from her reading and daydreaming as a girl. The far right is somewhere in Asia based on the reds and golds and the Buddhas but she can’t identify the exact location.
“Cŵn Annwn One and Two,” Mordred and Charlie, her mind translates. “Are in the air. Estimated 10 minutes to target.”
She turns away from the screens when she can’t look any more.
A hand lands heavily on her shoulder and she turns to see Eggsy’s sad but furious face. “Start your stretches. No idea what we’re going to find but let’s assume it’s going to be a workout, yeah?”
She nods and moves as far away from the mission desk as she can. She also does her best to ignore the conversation about using the Arnold Implants.
Before she was adamantly against it, there were just too many unknown factors to them to use the damn things. They didn’t know who all was implanted. They didn’t know the circumstances of the implantations. They had no way to pick who was implanted or where- wait, yes there is.
“You said Valentine knew that Professor Arnold was being questioned and about to confess when he was blown up. Is there a way, maybe using his own system, that we can verify which implants are in his lair and blow only those? Only his actual supporters have been invited to his hide out today, right?”
“Right.” Comes the slow response from the speakers. “We haven’t tried to access the implants too deeply because the security on them was too tight but maybe we can-”
“We can.” A new, still young, but lower and sharper voice says confidently. That must be Q, making the other speaker Peter. “But it won’t be instant or soon and we still have no way to guarantee Valentine will be one of them.”
“Estimate?” Merlin asks.
“An hour, maybe more.”
“Get on it.” The Wizard orders and the typing they can hear in the background redoubles. “Cŵn Annwn Flight, status?”
“Two minutes to range but we have a problem.” Mordred tells them. “There’s an air defence screen. Once we take the shot, our stealth will be useless.”
“Because you’ll be in visual range.” Merlin’s voice confirms.
“And they’re faster than us. We’re more manoeuvrable but they are faster and there’s more of them.”
“The world is going to shit, you have to take the shot.”
“There’s no guarantee it will work.”
“There’s no guarantee it won’t.”
“Respectfully, it will work.” Charlie’s voice breaks in. “Rox had to dig for hours and run numerous simulations to verify the individual-satellite options. The chances are Valentine isn’t even aware of them. We have to take the shot.”
“Three lives is better than however many will die in the 50 minutes it will take us to get to the base,” Eggsy speaks up. “And it will be longer than that before we get to him.”
Roxy shoots her best mate, her brother a look, tears tugging at her eyes. Two pilots but three lives? Eggsy doesn’t plan to survive Charlie? No. She can’t think on it. That’s- Just- No.
“Taking the shot.” Mordred replies firmly.
She gets up from her stretches and moves to the screens. The formerly French screen now shows targeting data, the satellite, the missile and a dotted line connecting the two as the distance dwindles.
Impact and detonation.
By wordless agreement the three in the cabin all focus on a different screen. Saint Petersburg is starting to lose the light it had but she can still see people. Survivors. For the most part the survivors are confused. Some take longer than others to pull back from the abyss but they stop. They all stop fighting, hitting, kicking, stabbing.
They’ve saved the world. For now.
People are stumbling. Some crumble immediately into tears of mourning and regret. Some stare listlessly at blood-covered hands. They aren’t okay by any means but they are alive and that’s the important part.
But it’s not over yet. Cŵn Annwn One and Two are still fighting for their lives. Fighting to escape. And it’s rough.
She’s not familiar with the jargon the men use or the commands that they throw at each other but she’s learned their voices and they sound of strain. Stress. Terror. The fight is not going well.
The last thing she hears is Mordred shouting “Dammit, Two!” Before 007 orders the feed off because they need to concentrate.
Eggsy is quiet. Goes quiet in a way she can’t readily describe. There’s a stillness in him that is wrapped in rage and that rage is wrapped in silence. Even his breathing is different and she doesn’t know what to do for him. She can’t confirm or deny anything, she has no idea what’s going on in his head, so she just pulls him close under her arm and holds him there.
She doesn’t know how long it is before Bond wakes them with a five minute warning and they both hustle to make sure they are presentable and unwrinkled.
She hears Merlin’s voice float in, calm and confident, from the cockpit. “This is November 2-4-7 Charlie Kilo requesting permission to land.”
They all wait, holding their breath in the face of two surface-to-air missile platforms and no less than 60 soldiers until the operator tells them that “Permission is granted.”
Eggsy, as he is wont to do, sums the situation up nicely for everyone as he collapses back on the couch with a heartfelt, “Fuck me.”
The landing is perfectly smooth and professional, as she has come to expect from the wizard at the helm. Maintaining his persona as their pilot, Merlin opens the cabin door for them.
Bond is the first one down the stairs, leaving her and Eggsy at the top of them, waiting for permission to deplane.
The older blond stands casually in front of Valentine’s PA and two soldiers, hand resting jauntily on his umbrella -the absolute picture of a perfect English gentleman.
“Chester King,” He introduces himself as he hands her the previous Arthur’s phone then he waves vaguely over his shoulder. “My personal assistant and our lover.”
And what an interesting introduction that is. Not only does it imply that the personal assistant ranks above the lover both by naming it first and with the use of a plural possessive that is inclusive of the PA but it in no way identifies which is which.
“Mr. King, welcome. Your guests are, of course, welcome as well.” Valentine’s minion’s face is pleasant but rigid as Bond motions for them to come down. “I’m sure you’ve adhered to Mr. Valentine’s strict no weapons policy but if you don’t object.” She holds up a handheld weapons detector and starts using it on them one by one at Bond’s nod.
They actually haven’t adhered to any weapons policy other than Kingsman’s but had left their pistols behind on a guess. It’s not like her little wand will find anything else they are wearing. No such wand could detect the weaponised umbrellas both 007 and Eggsy carry. Or the suitcase that she carries. Or the signet rings of zappy death, poison pens, and cufflink garrottes they are all wearing.
The woman’s smile is more pleased when her scan is done. She dismisses the guards and personally leads them into the hallway behind her. Well, she escorts Bond. Roxy and Eggsy are left in their wake as minions of men like Chester King always are in society.
The room they are lead into after many twists and turns is a party. There are pyrotechnics and strobe lights and music. People are getting down on the dance floor.
Bond leaves them at the bar to get drinks while he mingles, hunting for Valentine and gathering intel. As they previously arranged, she keeps her eyes on him, watching his back and doing her best to look like a perfectly besotted fool while Eggsy chats up the people around them.
The faux-posh accent he’s using is soft and passable but she hates it. It’s just not Eggsy so she doesn’t want it. She’s certain Charlie would agree with her.
Assuming Charlie still can, she swallows hard.
Bond is chatting up the Prime Minister of Sweden. Jesus fuck. The entire party is a who’s who of Europe, Asia, and northern Africa.
It’s heartbreaking to know that this many of the world’s leadership hate their own constituents. But they must. Why else would they all be here, now, in this bunker, disappointed that the show was delayed. Like it’s a play or something rather than mass genocide.
Was delayed as in isn’t anymore. Sometime between the start of landing procedures and them reaching the bar the Wave began again. She’s not sure when it happened because that information, while motivating, is not essential to their immediate mission and wasn’t passed on to them but Merlin had started cursing under his breath right about the time of their first left turn into the cellblock.
She taps Eggsy’s shoulder as Bond returns to them.
He smiles at the older man who reaches his hand out to cup Eggsy’s cheek in greeting, like Eggsy is someone so precious to him that being out of physical contact for mere moments was intolerable. You’d think a passionate kiss would be more believable, an easier sell, but there’s something so restrained about the both of them that makes that simple, innocent touch delightfully naughty.
“Come.” Bond orders, making for a door below and to the right of a big glass wall. As they draw closer the angle of the light on the glass changes and she can see Valentine standing with his back to the party.
Merlin’s voice directs them to the left and up the stairs. There’s no security that she can see but then with all the security they already have on the outer layers, starting before they even landed in the mountain really, why wouldn’t they run the interior on trust?
Valentine’s personal assistant looks up from her big glass and chrome desk as they exit the stairwell. “I’m sorry but you can’t be here.”
“I know.” Bond assures her. “But there seems to be a mistake. I was left of the internet access list, I can’t get on the wifi.”
She frowns at him and stands, coming around the desk. “I’m sorry to hear that, Mr. King. I’ll be glad to check on that, if you’ll just follow-”
007 cold clocks the woman. Eggsy catches her and together they stuff her in a supply closet in the stairwell while Roxy keeps watch.
When they make it to Valentine’s room, he’s alone and doing the most awkward dance she’s ever seen to the music going behind him. The man has no sense of rhythm but, more than that, he’s acting like his hand has been super glued to the desk. Or at least to the biometric trigger.
There’s nothing big and dramatic. No snappy lines or witty comebacks. Eggsy just shoots the man with a sleep dart from his watch and they all unrepentantly let him smack headfirst into the control table, his hat flying off into nowhere.
The music stops down below and the crowd give a big disappointed “Awe!”
Bond moves around the table, makes a show of checking Valentine’s vitals and waves to the crowd down below that everything is fine.
007 and Eggsy slot themselves together under the taller villain’s arms and start carrying him out as quickly as they can.
When they reach the party level, she assures the concerned that the excitement has just gotten to Mr. Valentine and that they are taking him to Medical for treatment. That the ‘party’ will carry on as soon as Mr. Valentine has been cleared. The well-wishes and condolences delay them dangerously but they can’t risk an alert to security so they go with it.
They are barely halfway through the cellblock, turning through the one corner Merlin couldn’t see, when they run into Gazelle. The woman’s gasp and loud shout of “Intruders!” get the alarms going.
Madam Sword-Feet rushes toward them but before she can get up to speed Roxy meets her and hits her square across the chest with her reinforced briefcase. Valentine’s soulmate staggers out of the way and goes down but she’s not out.
Roxy orders the man to go ahead with a cocky, “I got this.”
The other woman is up not long after the boys round the corner and she is mad. She’s also quick, limber, and highly trained with fucking swords in place of her feet.
Roxy don’t got this.
Honest to god one hallway away from the plane and they are pinned down in the doorways of two cells. James is on one side of the hall, Eggsy and the still-unconscious Valentine are on the other.
Eggsy is pretty winded but, be fair, he’s been carrying Valentine solo pretty much since they left Roxy behind and 007 went on the offensive. Eggsy doesn’t have a gun. Bond’s gun is out of ammunition. Bond has seen both umbrellas destroyed and they’ve already used both of their lighters.
The hallway between them and the plane is corked by men in snow camouflage carrying automatic weapons but at least they’ve made the mercenaries afraid enough they aren’t trying to get past them to Roxy.
Eggsy would feel better about their imminent fate if he was more certain of Charlie’s. Fuck! This fucking sucks!
“Q!” Bond’s roar fills the air. “Now is the time!”
“Just a moment, James, Jesus!”
The sheer petulance in 007’s snarky little soulmate’s voice makes Eggsy laugh. James throws him a feral grin.
“There!” Q’s victorious shout reaches them just after the first head explodes.
The explosions are wet and they echo in the stone and metal hallways forming a great cacophony. It’s honestly worse because they don’t all do at once.
They do go in quick succession, though. Not as quick as you would expect from a computer program but there are not even entire seconds between pops. Maybe because of the whole fact that it’s ‘heating the soft tissues’ thing rather than the activation of actual explosives thing?
Eggsy doesn’t feel the need to explain or understand it. Seeing it is enough. Smelling it is more than enough. And walking through the aftermath is going to be disgusting -though he’d be tempted to drag Valentine through it if he didn’t think Merlin would skin him alive when they finally got to the plane.
James helps Eggsy pick the megalomaniac up off the floor and then unexpectedly leaves him with alone the bastards entire weight. “Go.” James orders him. “I’m going back for Roxy.”
Eggsy opens his mouth to argue. He should go back for Roxy because she’s one of his. But Bond is just as capable as he is, if not more so, and they have a mission to complete so he closes his mouth without saying anything.
Eggsy hefts Valentine and turns toward the plane then on second thought he adjusts his grip on the ‘philanthropist’ so that he hangs in a way that is more comfortable for Eggsy and less comfortable for Valentine.
Hope he doesn’t mind getting his feet dirty, Eggsy snickers to himself.
She’s so tired she’s shaking, she has a cut across her left eye and the blood has rendered it useless, and she’s just heard something snap in her torso. Probably a rib.
Gazelle, on the other hand, broke several somethings in her torso with Roxy’s first little ambush before the men left and is now also down an arm. Roxy’s pretty sure she managed to detach her bicep and break the two forearm bones in one move. That’s what the move was supposed to do anyway and exactly what happened the first time she’d used it years ago.
Roxy hasn’t been able to touch Gazelle much but when she has she’s made it count.
The gunfire from down the hall stops and Gazelle shoots her a taunting grin that Roxy bloodies because fuck you.
The last several minutes have been accompanied by what’s sounded like a hailstorm of bullets and two explosions. Probably both boys’ lighters. This new silence is unnerving.
Her feed was handed over to Amelia when they broke into two groups so she hasn’t been following or updated on the boys’ progress. As much as she’s wanted to, she wouldn’t have had to time or the focus to do so and kick this bitch’s face in but now she just has to know.
“Are the boys dead?” She asks Amelia.
“You’ll know soon enough.” Gazelle taunts, “When you join them.”
“They live.” Amelia says tightly and there’s definitely a ‘for now’ on the end of the sentence even if Amelia skips it.
Roxy takes control and firms herself, preparing for what she has to do. She needs to do something to shock this woman so- that’s it!
Roxy initiates the attack. She forces Gazelle back several steps.
As expected, Gazelle kicks out in a flurry of blades.
As expected, Roxy dodges but what’s different this time is that she hits the contact on the back of her signet ring. She then backhands it onto the flat one of the henchwoman’s foot-blades and maintains contact for as long as she can.
Gazelle’s whole body seizes, going rigid and straight. She hits the floor, hard, on her back, and flops around for several moments.
Roxy watches the whole time. She doesn’t move to help the woman and preserve her life. She’s honestly not sure it would do any good if she tried but, once she’s fairly certain the electricity in the other woman’s body has dissipated, Roxy checks her pulse. It’s weak but it’s there so she leans back and thinks for a minute.
She can’t kill her, not in cold blood, but she can’t leave this human weapon armed and at her back. God only knows when she’ll wake up and when she does she’ll be after them with everything she has.
Then the explosions start. It’s worse than the longest string of fireworks Roxy has ever heard because there’s something wet about it and it’s coming from the direction her boys ran.
The post-explosion silence rings heavily through her ears, wrapping her mind in cotton wool and suffocating it for several very important moments until Roxy finally manages to shake it off.
With new determination and energy Roxy falls on Gazelle, taking the woman’s weapon-prosthetics and arming herself with them.
Then she almost drops them when she rounds the corner to find James fucking Bond seeking her out, coming back to rescue her.
She opens her mouth to speak several times but nothing comes out.
“Come on.” He smiles at her and touches her arm. “They’re waiting for you.”
They make it to the plane and find Valentine thoroughly zip-tied and still unconscious on a clear plastic sheet in the bathroom.
Eggsy and Merlin are a bit down the runway moving one of the surface-to-air missile platforms out of the plane’s path. Roxy and James help them move the three remaining headless bodies into a pile with the other two that two Kingsman must have already relocated.
And then it’s time to go.
Time to get the hell out of there and call someone else to deal with the hostages… only, James won’t get back onboard the plane. He just smiles and rolls his eyes. He takes off the field glasses and thanks them for letting him play along as he gives them back to Merlin.
Roxy really just doesn’t get it, right up until Merlin shakes his head at her with a small smile. “Who do you think is taking care of the hostages? One of our princes is in there, you know.”
Roxy sighs as she relaxes back onto the couch beside Eggsy. James has just fit with them so well. It’s strange to remember he’s not actually a Kingsman. Him and Q. But, well, there’s no denying it.
The ride back is solemn. Or, at least it feels that way to Eggsy.
There is a sense of waiting in the air like the one time Dean put Mum in the hospital, and no one has mentioned Charlie yet. Not Merlin. Not Harry. Definitely not Mordred.
Maybe that’s good news?
The dogfight was pretty desperate but surely they wouldn’t leave Eggsy hanging if they knew Charlie was dead. Surely they would warn Eggsy before he got close enough for his soul to realise its mate is gone. Surely Harry would warn Eggsy to prepare him for the incoming soul damage.
The fluttery feeling in the pit of his stomach is same as it’s been since they crossed into Germany on the outbound flight. He knows it’s just their bond being stretched and that the feeling will stay that way until they are within a certain physical range of each other. The physical range being limited by how new their bond still is.
If theirs was a settled and vibrant bond it wouldn’t stretch, it would just reach. He would always know Charlie’s status just like Charlie would always know his. Like how his Mum had known the moment his Dad had died.
Dread settles at the base of his spine and he allows himself to sink into it. He allows himself to know something bad has happened and tries to accept it.
They make it back to the Mansion in record time. When they land in the underground garage, there is only one PDJ on any of the landing pads and Mordred is the one leaning against it.
Roxy takes Eggsy’s arm when his world stops at the absence of his soulmate. She keeps him moving, whispering to him. They have to go to Medical. Surely that’s where Charlie is. Alive. In Medical.
She’s right. She has to be right. He hasn’t been stung yet by a bond snapping so Charlie is alive and if he’s alive then he should be in Medical. Standard post-mission Medical.
They find him.
Alive. In Medical.
He can’t think, he can barely breathe around his relief. Roxy stops Eggsy from charging straight into his lover’s private unit. Physically stops him. Then points out the seals and things around the door, they way he’s laying, the type of material he’s on and is on him. The missing hair and raw skin. It’s a burn unit, charging right in could give him an infection, could kill Charlie.
Harry is there, too, helping Roxy support his weight and hauling him away from his soulmate. Eggsy starts to fight again until Harry stops the three of them in the hallway, still within sight of Charlie.
“He’s in a great deal of pain.” Harry explains. There was an explosion, not surprising since he was in a dogfight but it happened and Charlie mostly caught the edge of it. His Kingsman flight suit took most of the punishment so the only burns he received were in the gap between his flight suit and helmet but that area is, of course, his neck and fairly important. It also managed to get the hair on his head.
His hair was too long, Harry says ruefully. Like it’s his fault that Eggsy prefers it that way and Charlie’s a pushover.
Charlie also took some shrapnel but most of it failed to penetrate Charlie’s suit except for a big chunk that got lodged in his thigh and had to be surgically removed.
There was also some exposure because of where his parachute managed to drop him but the transponders worked and they found him quickly. The first aid he received on site was excellent because of course it was, it was Kingsman.
And he’s strong because of course he is, he’s Kingsman.
“The doctors here are the best and use several advanced techniques not available on the open market,” Harry assures both Eggsy and Roxy. “No doubt he will be back on his feet and out on the obstacle course in just a few weeks, rather than the months if ever he would be looking at outside.”
“Can I see him? Harry, I need to see him.” Eggsy rubs his chest and does his best not to cry. “I need to touch him. I need to know.”
“I’ll get his doctor but that should be fine. You need to be clean, though. Go shower. Roxy, the training room is still set up with all your things. Take him there.”
Fifteen minutes later Eggsy is freshly showered and scrubbed down like a surgeon and wearing brand new scrubs inside Charlie’s temporary home.
He walks up on the side his beloved is facing and touches an undamaged hand. As much as he wants to he doesn’t sit on the bed. He doesn’t play with the forelocks that somehow managed to survive.
Charlie actually has most of his hair on the front of his head, the helmet must have done something to kill the flames. The back, though, is pretty raw. No one’s mentioned whether he’ll get it back or not. Charlie’s going to hate it if he doesn’t but it’s okay because he’s alive and a living Charlie is the most beautiful thing Eggsy’s ever seen.
Eggsy doesn’t say a word until Charlie’s doctor walks in with a guarded face. She’s probably expecting a fight but she’s not going to get one. It’s probably stupid and superstitious but Eggsy is not going allow any negativity into Charlie’s healing space, so he’s definitely not about to spout any.
He stands with a “See you soon” but something stops him.
He looks down and Charlie is looking at him! His eyes are open and hazy but he obviously knows who’s there because he speaks. It’s very faint and pain filled but it’s clear.
“We can always leave.”
A month after V-Day and Charlie is standing. He actually made it through two full laps around -as opposed to through– the Kingsman obstacle course and he has been thoroughly introduced to the sadistic practices of Kingsman physical therapy.
He’s standing in one of the Mansion’s formal dining rooms wearing the suit Harry had had made for him with his fellow Knight-candidates and all the remaining Kingsman. Of the ten seats at the Table -Arthur plus nine knights- five are empty.
Lancelot’s empty seat is, of course, what began this entire adventure.
Percival’s empty seat is the natural reaction of a man losing his soulmate Lancelot.
Galahad’s empty seat is the result of Arthur’s betrayal and the promotion of a Knight to a King but it’s not the only seat empty due to betrayal.
Lamorak’s empty seat is empty because the man was implanted and inside Valentine’s mountain stronghold. According to Valentine’s own security footage, Lamorak is, or rather was, the one that gave Valentine the idea to execute the V-wave two-thirds of the way through the timer without updating said timer, just to be sure they hadn’t been discovered and couldn’t be prevented.
And finally Tristan who had died from his V-day injuries. Who died alone in a country on the other side of the world that is still struggling to get its feet under it.
After a too long of a debate all five remaining Kingsman Agents move to stand as if united on the side of the table opposite Roxy, Eggsy, and Charlie.
Merlin enters with a redwood and glass case and sets it on the Table in front of him. He opens the lid so that the glass is standing perpendicular to the Table and steps back. The wizard pauses a moment and steps back up to the box. He adjusts the five Knight Medals, pulls a sixth medal out of his pocket, and lays it with the others.
It’s not a pretty medal. Charlie really isn’t even sure what counts as the ‘main’ colour because down the center is a thick black stripe nested between two thin green stripes with two thin light blue stripes outside of the green. He’s pretty sure it’s the light blue, though, because the enamel on the medal is light blue.
“As first in the class,” Harry-Arthur tells the assembled once Merlin takes his place at Arthur’s side. “Lady Roxanne Morton may choose her position at the Table first.”
“What’s that one?” Roxy points to the medal the magician just set down.
“That’s Nimueh.” Arthur answers. “One of Merlin’s two seconds, the le Fey and Nimueh. We haven’t had either in several years but I do believe Nimueh is the one in charge of handling missions for Knights.”
Harry makes the last statement a question and Merlin nods in answer. “Merlin, the le Fey, and Nimueh are the only three in my department that the Table recognises by rank. Nimueh is the only empty position.”
Harry looks surprised but pleased by this announcement and nods before turning back to face the Knight-candidates. “Roxy?”
Roxy swallows and reaches into the box. Her hand moves beyond Galahad’s medal without even pausing because that one is Eggsy’s. She strokes over Uncles’ medals, the ones for Percival and Lancelot, but doesn’t pick either. She runs her fingers over the enamel for Lamorak, Tristan, and Nimueh before settling back on Lamorak and lifting it from the box.
Harry smiles and comes around the table. He takes the medal from Kingsman’s first female Knight and pins the two shades of blue medal on the lapel of her heather gray suit. “Welcome, Lamorak.” Harry escorts her around to the ‘official’ side of the table, four Knights grow to five as Harry instructs Roxy to, “Be greeted by your brothers.”
Handshakes, smiles and a hug or two are exchanged.
Once decorum is reinstated Harry instructs Eggsy to choose his position.
It should surprise exactly no one that Eggy’s hand shoots out and snatches up the Galahad medal like someone is about to take it from him.
Harry doesn’t even bother to hide his grin of paternal pride as he rounds the table again and pins the medal to Eggsy’s lapel. After an enthusiastic “Welcome, Galahad!” they walk around the table together. Handshakes and hugs and five Knights grows to six.
There are three medals before him. Well, four but only three of those are for Knights. Percival’s is stark with white enamel and a white ribbon with two red lines on it. Lancelot’s is interesting – just like the one Eggsy showed him months ago but this one has blue enamel where Eggsy’s has pink. Tristan’s is the one he likes best though, all of it’s a rich green except for the single white and two gold stripes on the ribbon.
But Nimueh. Nimueh calls to him the hardest, actually, even though just a week ago he’d have assumed Merlin put it there for either Roxy or Eggsy. Now he’s fairly certain Merlin put it there for him.
They’d become surprisingly fast friends while everyone else they knew was out trying to stabilise the world.
But he’s a Knight. He trained to be a Knight. He successfully completed a Knight’s mission. He deserves a seat at the Table. He doesn’t want to be a Knight.
He wants to be part of the organisation. He wants to save the world, he just doesn’t want to do it with his own two physical hands.
Should he have discussed this with Eggsy? Probably but it’s too late now.
He steels himself, locking down on his soul’s emotional flow and, with a huff, he picks up the Nimueh medal. Charlie looks up at Merlin and only at Merlin. He can’t look at Eggsy. He doesn’t want to feel his mate’s disappointment so seeing it is completely off the table too.
Merlin grins and gives him an approving nod before coming around the table and pinning his new rank on his lapel. “Welcome, Nimueh.” Merlin tells him, the man is really fucking smiling. It’s almost frightening. “Come on, I’ll show you around. These stiffs have a lot to do.”
Charlie barely hears Harry’s warning “Cheeky!” as Merlin hustles him along.
He manages to maintain his emotional lockdown and avoid Eggsy for the rest of the day. It’s a lot of strain but he manages it… right up until he’s leaving his post-work shower and finds Eggsy sitting on their bathroom cabinet wearing nothing but a pair of boxer-briefs.
“There a reason you hiding from me, bruv?” Eggsy asks, his face pensive. “You can’t think the Nimueh thing was a surprise to me.” Charlie shoots his lover a sharp look and the man laughs. “Merlin fucking put that medal there for you. The way he wouldn’t look at you? Might as well been pointing. With fucking neon or something.”
“I didn’t talk to you about it first.” Charlie tells him.
Eggsy just nods his agreement. “No, you didn’t. I would have liked you to but sometimes it takes a bit to get the words out and I know that, so I’m waiting.”
What in the world is Eggsy talking about?
“Are you mad at me for taking Galahad?” The blonde asks.
“We didn’t talk about it,” Eggsy reminds him, holding out his hand.
“Right but I know you,” Charlie says as he takes his mate’s hand. “I knew you would take Galahad as soon as it became an available option.”
“Exactly.” Eggsy tries to pull him in but he resists and Eggsy lets him keep his distance. “I’m not mad because I know you aren’t ready to be a Knight. You might never be and that’s okay. That doesn’t make you broken or weak or a coward or whatever you think taking Nimueh makes you. You’re still taking a position where you can help. You’re still in the fight. Not being a Knight doesn’t change that and if I was literally burned on my first mission like you were, I would probably feel the same. Be looking for alternatives, too. I hope. I don’t know, I can be a little dumb sometimes.”
Charlie laughs and relents, allowing Eggsy to pull him into his arms and between his legs. They just hold each other and breathe for a while. Slowly Charlie peaks out from behind his emotional lockdown to feel Eggsy’s certainty, his contentment, and that low-level arousal Eggsy always has humming under his skin whenever they’re together.
Charlie lets himself sink into Eggsy’s arms, trusting Eggsy to keep him upright.
As always his faith in Eggsy proves to be well placed so he allows his emotional walls to do the same, allows his walls to fall and for Eggsy to feel his tangle of fear, hope, and frustration.
Eggsy for his part groans and lets his head fall onto Charlie’s shoulder. He accepts Charlie’s emotional touch without complaint and pulls them together so tightly on that deep mental-emotional-soul level that neither of them can really explain that Charlie knows that Eggsy’s arse is numb before the blond man deigns to acknowledge it.
“Now,” Eggsy pulls back a bit physically and claps his hands down on Charlie’s shoulders. “I believe I was promised dinner when all that madness was done.”
Charlie shoots him a grin, thinking about the ring he’s actually had since they spent the day with his parents so many months before. “I have it on good authority the pub in town is open again.”
“I suppose that will do.” Eggsy sniffs playfully, sinking into the faux-posh accent that drives Charlie crazy. Whatever face he must make forces a laugh out of Eggsy and he continues with an appropriate ‘bit of rough’. “No suit. I want you in that green jumper and I’ll wear the blue one for you, yeah?”
“Alright.” Charlie steps back so that Eggsy can hop off the counter. He points his lover to the shower and with a smack to that lovely arse orders him to “Take a shower, you beast.”
Eggsy’s laugh follows him into the bedroom.
This story is also cross-posted here on AO3.