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This Land Between Us

Chapter Text

It was at the wail of the horn near the gate that Harry knew they reached the kingdom. His men, all wearied from the battle south of the land bloodied and bruised, rejoiced at the sound. They tread down the road along with their heavy carriages and their horses, excited to finally come back home.

Home. It was still a foreign word to Harry. He was nothing but a young boy the last time he knew what it meant. Not since he lost his mother, bless her spirit. He can only imagine what it must be like for his troops: all smiles and laughter. Together they are with their family or lover. A happy reunion. Sadly, that’s not the case for him.

Harry has yet to report to Chester about their progress.

He turns to Merlin who was looking longingly at the village coming closer to view, searching beyond the buildings themselves and through the crowd. He throws him a knowing look.

“I suppose you are wondering where Miss Roxanne is?” Realizing he’d been caught unawares, Merlin shakes his head and minutely glares at him.

“Bugger off, Harry.”

“Oh, I bet you two certainly will.” Harry chuckles when Merlin knocks him on the shoulder, flushed like a tomato. Seeing his dear friend easily embarrassed over his infatuation on the young lady who was the daughter of the town librarian was never less amusing. He likes ruffling that hard expression off his face because he’s seen it for as long as he can remember with very rare moments to see him so gone for someone. This might as well be the first and Harry can only ever be proud that Merlin and Roxanne are going the right path. Harry pulls his hands a bit from his grip on Mr.Pickle’s reigns to get a steady pace because there wasn’t really anything to look forward to once he’s beyond the gates. “Really, now, when will you finally confess you intentions? She’s not going to wait forever for you to speak up.”

“That doesn’t mean it will be difficult to find the words to say it.” Merlin mumbled.

Harry rolls his eyes. “It’s quite simple, dear friend. ‘Roxanne, I like you very much. Please give me the honors of being your partner. I will gladly take care of you and buy all the books the world has written and lay them upon your bed.’”

Another punch. Hard this time.

“If there’s anyone I’d avoid asking for advice for my romantic life, that would be you. Books laid upon her bed? You can’t be serious.”

“She is a book lover, isn’t she? Surely she’ll be swayed at the number of them presented as a courting gift. And you love that about her.”

Merlin shrugs but the small smile on his face didn’t hide how true Harry’s words are. Harry takes it as a good sign that he’s not that bad at advices at all. “I must be mad to even consider this from someone without experience.”

“Nonsense. I have enough knowledge about this subject.” Their conversation was cut short when he heard the cheers and hurrahs coming from the people becoming louder. From their windows, on the streets, and ahead, they were everywhere, clapping their hands and waving at them as they pass. It was a wonderful welcoming after being away for three months. This was one of things that pushes Harry to keep fighting. To protect them.

Little by little, his men scatter to join their own friends and families, colliding into each other’s arms. Harry gives them the benefit to say a quick greeting before they are assembled back to the castle.

A familiar face flashes into the sea of people, but not hard to miss. Merlin looks reluctant to leave his side but a firm nod from Harry was all he needed before trotting his mare towards the individual, dismounting from his saddle and pulling the lovely woman, Roxanne, into his embrace. It was endearing and also left an emptiness inside.

Harry doesn’t waste another breath before he moves on, straight to the castle. His men will follow after. Right now, he still has business to deal with.

 

***

 

Chester’s castle was, what a man of less would say, a paradise built in stone and gems. It was famous for its large structure and graceful features across the country and the king was proud for it. Wanting everything just as perfect as he envisioned, Chester personally had Harry gather all great architects and builders to create this masterpiece. Anyone who came across it would find it admirable.

Harry, on the other hand, saw nothing but a dark passageway with nothing but politics and deceit.  He’s been in and out of this place for the past fourteen years since he was converted to a servant of the crown to know the truth behind every mask. A margin of them are corrupted but they have so many allies to keep themselves from being pulled out of their hide. It was a disgusting revelation Harry had to live by every time he visits. He might be a popular figure to the public, but it does not change anything if his support from the people can easily be bought by the name of gold and glory.

He sends polite greetings to the folks he passes, he’s not a snob like the rest of them after all, until he reaches the Throne room, swung open by the guards posted on each side.

“Ah. Galahad, I’ve been expecting you.” Chester was cozily seated on his throne with a woman by his side. Chester watches Harry expectantly as he approaches, studying his every movement. “I take it everything has been dealt with?”

“Yes, Your Majesty.” Harry says. He can see the eyes of the man glitter with mirth, one that is also a telling sign that he is expecting something.

He wants proof.

Harry gestures for one of the men who came with him to come forward, a small box on his hands. Harry takes it and makes a few steps on the small staircase to the throne and bends on one knee, lifting the object in front. He hears Chester open the lid and fumbles his hands to bring out what was inside. A sinister hum of approval rumbled in his voice.

“Very good, Harold.” On Chester’s hand, was a golden necklace with miniscule details of a vine rounding up a carved scenery of an island, an initial ‘U’ at the back. This was the proof he wanted, the possession of one Lee Unwin, the leader of the Southern rebels. He was better known for his resourceful traps before ambush which was quite hard if facing the royal knights of the kingdom.

Harry’s face remained impassive to the pleased look on Chester’s face. He remembered the night before; Lee holding onto his bleeding stomach, bloodshot eyes looking through Harry with trembling hands.

“You’ve proven so many times your devotion to me, Harold.”

Harry’s image of the dying man disappears and meets Chester’s face instead, smiling widely at him.

“It is my duty, Your Majesty.”

“Yes and you’ve done so well. I find it a miracle from the gods that we are blessed with a hero. And with that, you deserve a reward.”

“You’re too kind. I only did what was for the kingdom. I do not deserve anything as such.”

“Nonsense. Your men did well, but with you it was better.” Chester gives a sign to the woman who had been quiet the whole time. She claps her hands twice.

Even if Harry’s not looking back at the sound of the doors opening, he doesn’t need to guess what it was when he hears the audible giggles of several females. This time, he stands up and turns around, finding three beautiful women dressed scantily with little to hide, eyeing him appreciatively.

“They are just partial gifts the rest will be distributed to you tomorrow along with a feast for you and your soldiers. For now, these are your new set of whores. They are the best from the brothel the kingdom could ever own. You’ll be surprised on how skillful they are.”

Considering himself as dumbstruck was a severe understatement to what Harry feels right now. He turns to Chester, using enough strength to not sound anything as rude.

“With all due respect, Your Majesty. I don’t believe this is necessary.” He kept an even presence with himself when Chester looked insulted. “While I am flattered you have brought to me these lovely ladies, I am not one so inclined to take part in such activities.”

“If you prefer men over them then I can make an arrangement for that.”  Chester easily stated although the disgust was not hard to find.

Harry shakes his head. “Men, women, it doesn’t matter. My duty is to the crown and its people and if I wanted a whore to myself, I can simply buy one.” He knew that the king hated being refused even if he was providing ‘gifts’ but the king also knew that Harry can fight back if he disagrees.

Chester eases into his seat. “Very well. They shall be returned to the brothel.” Then adds, “After One night”.

“You have got to be joking.”

“One night. That’s all I need otherwise what good was their travel here? The least you can do is enjoy what I’ve brought you.”

In another lifetime, perhaps Harry would have punched him but he was exhausted from the war to keep up this pointless debate. One night and that’s it. He can go back to being the Commander and perform his responsibilities. He’ll have to bear with it for now.

“Fine.” Chester motions him to come closer, once he did, he felt something fall around his head, the weight tugging gently down to his collar. He froze at the sight of Lee Unwin’s necklace draping on him.

“Another gift. You have earned it.” He hears the king say proudly, still surprised to even answer back. Harry was then pulled away as the women hold onto his arms, dragging him out of the room and into his chambers. They undress themselves and mutter sweet words of adoration as they praise him and remove his armour, eager hands everywhere.

This is wrong, Harry thought. While he has no issues with his sexual partner, he cannot help but feel guilty to enjoy this when he lost good men. He should mourn for them and honor their sacrifice rather than have a fuck on bed.

Instinctively, Harry jolts at the unexpected mouth down his cock as one of the women devours it hungrily. Another brings his hand to her cunt and then another planting wet kisses to his neck. All what should have been great pleasure to Harry was nothing but complete distaste to himself. But if Chester hears word he did nothing to what he was given, Harry will suffer in his rage and possibly be held from his duties.

So Harry works his fingers on the folds of the one woman, massaging and intruding, alerting her and causing her to mewl at the aggressive digits while he kisses back the one on his other side, accepting the painted lips and when that was done, he grabs onto the third woman’s hair and thrusts, thrusts, thrusts into her open jaw until he released. He will have to make them lose themselves enough for Chester to know that his gifts were welcomed lest he loses his head for offending him.

But throughout what’s happening, Harry cannot help but hark back to the picture of the limp figure by the tree a day ago: Lee Unwin dying in front of him. What was called a brave hero of the rebels looked very much like a scared man as he gripped on his necklace tightly, whispering ‘Forgive me’, ‘My love’, ‘My boy’…

‘Eggsy’…

 

***

 

“Oi, Eggsy!”

“Mate, you here?”

Ryan and Jamal, Eggsy muses. He adjusts himself on the branch he was on, his favorite tree. He only wanted to be alone and think. But what was there to think about when the pain on his chest was overpowering? His mother is back with the camp, weeping with the other widows and young daughters who had lost their man and father just yesterday. If Eggsy were a girl, he doubts he would do the same. He refuses to be weak even at this time.

But he just lost a part of him not too long ago– his Father – and crying sounded very tempting when everything just hurts so, so bad.

He found Lee sitting against a tree, still and quiet. Eggsy scrambled to him, lightly slapping his face and stilled when he realized it was stone cold. He can see it clearly now. His chest wasn’t moving, no breath coming out from Lee’s lips, the blood on his abdomen starting to dry.

He was dead.

A stray tear falls on Eggsy’s dusty cheek. He should have been there even when they refused him to fight. He had attested to his skills in combat and setting traps like his Father but still. He sniffs and rubs his nose with his ragged sleeve, listening to his mates getting desperate in finding him.

He can’t hide, not forever.

Not when there’s so much that needs to be done.

Eggsy swings his legs over the branch and lands perfectly on the ground, startling Ryan and Jamal whose backs were facing him.

“Fuck, Eggsy! We were looking all over for you.” Jamal exclaims. Ryan nods angrily.

“Sorry.” He quietly apologizes. His two friends stopped rambling right away and softened. They come together to give him a firm group hug, not letting go and not saying anything because words can’t change what happened nor bring back the family they have lost.

Jamal’s brother, Ryan’s cousin and Eggsy’s Father – the clan’s leader, friend and respectable freeman.

While some men and women will shed a tear, others will pull themselves together to let each other know that they’re still here, that they’ve got each other - that it’s not over yet. And that’s exactly what Eggsy is going to do. Finish what was left behind.

 They slowly let go of each other, Jamal and Ryan patiently waiting.

“What do we do now?” Ryan asks.

Eggsy regards them, eyes hard and reflecting the strength and determination that they have never seen before.

“We start the real war.”

Chapter Text

Looking at himself in the mirror, Harry was relieved that there were no markings left to hint what took place last night. He wasn’t one to indulge in sexual activities with random people or reward himself a whore for his achievements but when it’s Chester who pushes them to him, Harry can only do what he can to be done with it and move on.

The sun outside wasn’t fully exposed, faint purples and pinks crept from the dark sky, and it was too early for the people to be up. But Harry was not like most people and he had things to do that can’t wait until everyone is awake.

He put on his robes that were designed for his position as Commander in the army. Mainly red with golden patterns coated on his sleeves and dark brown pants stuffed inside his knee boots.

Harry made sure to put on a chest armor. It was an old practice he took into habit since his beginnings of knighthood. One that wouldn’t inconveniently have a sword through his heart. He decided to forgo with the cape because what does it matter when you’re not trying to create too much of a chivalry figure of yourself.

Harry set out to grab for his sword on the table beside him until sharp clink of metal echoed from the ground, startling him from his quiet dressing. On the floor was the necklace of the late Lee Unwin.

It casted a frown on Harry’s face as he bent to pick it up. Wearing something that once belonged to an enemy meant strength and power depending on who owned it. The higher the status of that deceased person, the higher your rank in society you become.

And everyone knew Lee Unwin. For a leader of the rebels near their kingdom, he was known to be strategic, creative in his ruses and very brave and selfless for his men. His last battle proved how remarkable a man Lee was and how careful he was in his strikes.

Sadly, it was the first and final moments Harry witnessed his skills face to face. A dying man bled to death, taking his ending breaths with the prayers of who Harry could assume as his family disappearing with him.

Harry can already envision it: A woman of a brave warrior, crying in anguish with a small child holding her hand. It was not the first time Harry took someone from someone. No matter how he wished it was nothing personal but for the greater good of the kingdom, the pain and blatant hatred written on the outlanders’ faces towards him doesn’t lessen the guilt or sympathy for them.

Those who survived, who lived for a bit longer while they’re away from the army, will find ways to come back and kill him be it dying in the process. It was inevitable and Harry is prepared for it every day.

 Carefully, Harry puts on the necklace, ignores the chill as it touches his skin and leaves his room. The halls were empty except for one person standing by a pedestal. The familiar bald head was sign enough to know it was Merlin. Although they never speak of this since the first occasion, Harry still finds it funny that he can easily sight out it’s his friend just by the outlines and shine on his head. Merlin, on the other hand, distastes that joke only because Roxy was with them and unexpectedly cackled.

Merlin sensed his approach and stood erect, silently regarding him. Harry thought he noticed a slight bloom radiating from his face. He internally grinned. A good evening must have happened. As tempting as it was to call him out on it, there were other things that need focus.

 "Alright? You look like shit, Commander." Merlin said, using Harry's title as a feeble nudge to his apathetic face, instantly wiping off the mischievous smirk on Harry’s face. His eyes must be tired since everything else was nothing out of place.

 "How do you do?" Harry greeted flatly. "I suppose you have them assembled?"

 Merlin nodded, not minding the change of subject. "They're waiting in the rose garden."

 "Let's go then." They stood next to each other as they walk silently.

 Merlin remarked teasingly, “You smell funny. Is that a woman’s scent?”

 “Merlin.” Harry said. “Do shut up.”

 

 ***

 

"Absolutely not!"

Eggsy gave a small flinch at the taut tone from Michelle. His mother looked tired, blonde locks tangled on her frame, her usual bright blue eyes waned into a dim deep sea along with the vivid red lines formed by dried tears exposing themselves on the fading bonfire as she spoke. Eggsy's beautiful mother is now broken, in ashes and angry.

 "Mum, we can't keep on hiding. They're on an advantage unless we turn the tables against them."

 "We'll seek help from the east woods. Randall Marlee can give us more men and weapons."

Eggsy shook his head. "No. You know we can't send a falcon or anyone in this place. They're keeping an eye out for us. It will take 3 days' time to reach them and another to get them here if we try but that’s too much of a risk. We have to act now while they're still re-establish their troops."

 Michelle whirled her back to face him, shocked. "And who's to lead them? You?"

 "No one's taking the role so yeah." Eggsy shrugged.

 "No!" Her abrupt shout caused the handmade cot on the corner of their tent to rustle, little whimpers turned into baby wails and Eggsy was quick to reach the little bundle causing the sounds, tucking his little sister, daisy, into his arms as he sweetly shushes her back to sleep. Eggsy looks back at Michelle who hadn't moved from her chair, pale as ever.

 "Mum-"

 "What's gotten into that head of yours? You think you can just sneak under their noses and backstab them and then come back just like it's over?"

 "It's war, Mum. It's never just going to be over or easy to get back at them. I'm the only one who can set the traps. The tribes are not doing anything unless an Unwin leads them. They’ve been following us for years and I'm the only male Unwin who they can look up to."

 "And that's exactly why!" Daisy starts to sob louder as she awakens. Eggsy turns away from Michelle and drops his voice into a soothing octave and coos at her as she muffles her sobs, gazing starry eyed at her brother. Eggsy wasn’t going to take changes so he had Blair, their usual helper, come in and quietly take Daisy away from them to avoid another possible exchange of yells.

 Now that it's two of them alone, Eggsy meets Michelle's eyes straight. Clear determination and stubbornness burning in his irises. A striking resemblance of Lee which caused Michelle to quiver and break more.

 "Oh, Eggsy..." Ever slowly, Michelle's fury leaves her until she bore the image of a helpless and weakened woman. "You are the only male Unwin left. That's why I can't... I can't lose you. Especially when I lost your Da not even a day ago. Why must you have to take after him on fighting them? If you're gone, it'll just be me and Daisy. How...?"

 If he's gone. Eggsy won't easily go down or give a single thought for death. He'll live whatever it takes.

 Slowly, Eggsy sits by her side and gently pulls her to an embrace, her shoulders shaking against his. It's hard for her, he understands and he would do anything to stop this madness. If only ending a long war were simple. If only ending this nightmare were simple. If only moving on from the sense of loss were simple. But it's not. Never will. That's why he has to face it and continue what was left for him to do.

 Gradually, Michelle’s heavy breathing backs down to an even pace.

 “How will you do it? She asks, her voice hoarse and timid.

 Now that’s the next problem, right? But Eggsy is a quick thinker and when he thinks, he doesn’t stop until he finds a way around it.

 Then it struck him.

 Gently, Eggsy pulls his mother from his arms and looks at her, wiping a stray tear from her cheek. He smiled warily.

 “I happen to know someone inside who can give us a hand. She’ll give us an opening on how to get past their front defenses. She does owe me one.”

 “‘She’? “ Michelle arched a brow at the admitted gender. Eggsy knows very well she’ll start giving out more questions about how he met a woman in the opposite side but it was better to give a quick explanation than leave it longer.

 “Yes.” He nodded. “She’s a friend I met back in Bluestone, saved her from thieves who wanted to have a go with her. She’s living in the kingdom right now. Nothing more is going on between us, swear down. But I’ll need to meet her later tonight to plan this out.”

 Michelle shook her head, “No.” She broke away from Eggsy’s hug and stood up walking from one side to another as she bit her fingers. “I mean, it’s wonderful you saved the poor girl but what if she’s a spy? What if she’ll trick you then hand you over to Chester's men? Gods know if the mad king is offering a bounty for our heads or yours!

 Eggsy smiled which should be a huge no-no because he’s still in an argument. He just couldn’t help but also find humor in his mother’s creative imagination. Supposing these are true, he’ll take his chances.

 “Mum, if there are two risks we have to choose from, I wouldn’t choose the one that could easily kill everyone.”

 

 ***

 

Night time slowly reigned on the kingdom and most of the people were now in bed. The creatures of the dark start to sing and wander the streets, spending their own ‘day’ before they return to their homes.

 Light footsteps roamed a dim neighborhood, a hooded cloak blanketing his form, walking past some people passed out on the road and others having a drink and shooting glares at him. This was the least favorable part of the kingdom because of the violence this place raises but also least guarded by the army. This could be a good entrance but there are also people who’d tell on them. Anything to get money or food.

 He stopped in front of a small house, its countenance marred and worn out from life but he knew someone was waiting inside. He makes two brief knocks on the door before he hears a metal clamber inside and the door swings open, revealing a beautiful woman. a meaningful smile on her face.

 “Eggsy.” She said. Eggsy smiled back.

 “Hello, Tilde. I have a favor to ask.”