Everything changed in an instant. He was sitting there in his lab, supervising Lancelot’s mission, listening to Eggsy’s feed as Guinevere guided him through. It was a recon mission, nothing dangerous. It was a conflict of interest for Merlin to handle Eggsy's missions, now, but that didn’t stop him from listening in.
Lancelot was hacking a safe, so he kept an eye on the security, several traps set electronically so he would know if someone started moving. It had been going fine for a while, so he leaned back, watching Eggsy with a faint smile. Six months had passed so fast. It was so easy to think of it stretching longer.
“Hired second-rate thugs,” Eggsy grumbled. Galahad, Merlin corrected himself. Harry was Arthur now, locked up in his office going mad.
“You would outclass them anyway,” Merlin pointed out, drawing a snort from Eggsy and a chuckle from Guinevere.
“Stalker,” Eggsy said, and from the movement of his head Merlin could tell he winked.
“The mission, Galahad,” Guinevere said with no bite. “They’re getting closer.”
“Yeah, yeah.” Eggsy wasn’t impressed.
Merlin turned his attention back to Lancelot’s screen. She had hacked the safe and was now installing the safeguard, ensuring that when Mr. Megalomaniac attempted to send out his massive virus, it would shut down and destroy his own equipment instead. Merlin was quite proud of that.
The first beep was innocuous, a vague alert. It meant a trap had been triggered, movement had been detected, but nothing was dangerous. Yet. He leaned up, checking through Lancelot’s screens and pausing when he saw nothing.
Then the beeping got louder. Higher pitched. Lancelot continued doing what she was, almost done. Merlin’s heart was starting to beat faster.
He hacked into Guinevere’s computer, copying the feed to his computer. The beeps were faster, practically shrieking alarm. Guinevere was speaking too fast for Merlin to follow, because his brain had temporarily shut down. Three of the cameras revealed different security teams heading into the building. The building where just Eggsy was, where no backup could reach him.
His fingers dug into the arms of his chair, trying to stay at least vaguely composed and utterly failing. “To your left,” Guinevere said, her voice strong and not panicking.
“Lynette, take Lancelot’s mission.” Merlin tapped the feed over without talking to Lancelot, or briefing Lynette. It wasn’t dangerous, but there was no way Merlin could focus at the moment. Not that it was the first time Eggsy had been in trouble, no.
But it was the first time he had been this outnumbered, since V-day. That so many people had been converging upon a single person, a facility with few hiding places.
“To your right there should be -”
Guinevere’s words were drowned out by gunfire and Eggsy shouting, then more gunfire.
Merlin’s heart didn’t stop, but it was a near thing.
“Fucking hell,” Eggsy grumbled. Merlin could hear the sound of him running now, the way his breath was ragged. “Where the fuck did they come from - fuck!”
He ducked around the corner, shooting around it, his chest heaving. “Please tell me there’s not many more.”
“Wish I could, Galahad,” Guinevere said grimly.
Merlin was already typing furiously, summoning at least two of their emergency teams. “A half hour,” he murmured, barely aware of the words.
“What?” Eggsy paused, then ducked some more gunfire.
“Two recon teams will be to you in a half hour,” Merlin said, his voice as professional as he could.
“Fuck,” Eggsy said, feelingly, before kicking out a window and jumping through it to avoid a locked door. “Can’t make it faster?”
“Considering the transit time is an hour,” Guinevere said wryly, “I think Merlin’s doing quite well.”
A hand fell on Merlin’s shoulder and he jumped, the feelings clogging his throat. He muted his microphone, and turned to look at Harry.
“It’s bad?” Harry asked, his voice grim.
Merlin turned to look at the feed. Eggsy was running down a hallway, dodging bullets as best he could. Merlin could see flickers where the integrity of his suit was starting to fail. It wasn’t perfect, no matter how much they worked on the technology. It could only take so much, and between the armored teams, Eggsy was taking a beating.
“It’s bad,” Merlin said. There was a countdown, but there was still twenty five minutes left before the recon teams were there.
Harry squeezed his shoulder, trying to provide some comfort. Merlin sat where he was, his body failing him. He was so far away. There was nothing he could do. It wasn’t like it was Valentine’s computer program, where hacking something would help. These were humans, with weapons that weren’t connected to technology.
The first bullet to hit Eggsy was in his shoulder, knocking his left arm out of commission. His arm hung limply, pain creasing Eggsy’s face.
Merlin swallowed thickly.
“Find a safe place to hide,” Guinevere ordered, her fingers scrambling furiously. The distant part of Merlin knew she was trying to get the recon teams there faster, no matter how many laws they broke.
The second bullet was in Eggsy's stomach, as he was scrabbling around a corner, slowing down.
Harry’s hand on Merlin’s shoulder was painful.
“Is Merlin there?” Eggsy’s voice was ragged.
Merlin unmuted his com. “Yes.” He barely got the word out without choking. “You’re going to be fine.” He couldn’t even think about what would happen otherwise. There was no way he could fall to pieces in front of his team, no way he could let himself break down. But he wasn’t certain he could stop it, not right now.
“I’m a cockroach,” Eggsy agreed. His step faltered, and he leaned against the wall. For a moment, he looked so young and so vulnerable. Merlin didn’t cry, but his throat was clogged, emotion threatening to drown him. “Just in case, though, tell Mum and Daisy I love them, yeah?”
“Of course.” Merlin wasn’t entirely certain how he managed that.
“We got an audience, so I can’t tell you what I want to,” Eggsy continued, the words still lucid.
Merlin felt the corner of his lips attempt to quirk up in a smile. It was weak, but it was something. “You can tell me when you’re back.” His voice was the steady even-ness of a serious situation, one where there were lives on the line. Important lives. Merlin didn’t falter, but he did draw strength from Harry’s hand on his shoulder, his unwavering support.
“Seven minutes out,” Harry murmured.
Merlin swallowed around the lump in his throat. “Seven minutes.”
“No prob,” Eggsy said, but there was something wavering under his cockiness. He was fleeing rather than fighting now, out of bullets and down to his last grenade. “Just in case - you know I love you, yeah?” He turned and looked at the camera closest to him, and smiled the smile he only gave Merlin in private.
Merlin had to swallow a few times to get past the lump in his throat. “Yeah,” he said finally. “I know.”
“Good.” Eggsy peeked around the corner, starting to head down the stairs. He was slow now, his pace lagging. Gunshot wounds and blood loss could do that to a person. “Don’t let Harry stuff JB.”
Merlin laughed, even though it was hysterical. “I’ll make sure he never graces the loo.”
“Good.” Eggsy’s voice was fading a bit now, his movements jerky. Then there was shouting, doors banging open somewhere near him. “Well fuck.” Eggsy swore, digging his grenade out of his pocket.
The words were drowned out by an explosion, and all of their feeds went dark.
“Eggsy?” Merlin could barely get the words out, couldn’t tell how loud he was shouting. “Eggsy!”
Merlin jolted awake so fast he nearly fell off the chair he was sitting in. He sat back up, his heart racing as he checked the monitors. Eggsy’s vitals were good, or as good as one could be on the verge of death.
The bits of Eggsy that hadn’t been shot were covered in bruises or scratches, and a total of four bullets had been taken from his body. Harry had bodily removed Merlin from the medical ward until Eggsy was out of surgery, to keep Merlin from going in and bossing the surgeon around.
Merlin almost shot him, but Harry had confiscated his gun.
He stood, stepping close to the hospital bed. Eggsy lay in it, a tube down his throat and wires and IVs poking out from everywhere. Critical but stable, that was what the doctors said. Merlin knew what that meant.
He could be okay, but he could not be.
Even if he was okay, he could be crippled. He would need months of rehab, and his whole life would change.
No. Merlin corrected himself. He would be okay. Eggsy had to be. Merlin was going to ensure that he got the best rehab possible, that his recovery was taken as slow or as fast as needed.
The door to the intensive care suite hissed open. Merlin didn’t have to look back to see it was Harry. Instead Merlin twined his hand with Eggsy’s, resting his other on top of it.
“You should get something to eat,” Harry said, coming to stand next to him.
“I’m fine.” Merlin ignored the way his hands were shaking. Was that from exhaustion, a lack of food, or something else? He had been at Eggsy’s bedside of the majority of the past twenty four hours, only leaving when Harry kicked him out to take some care of himself.
“I’ll order some in,” Harry said finally. He dragged another chair close. Merlin didn’t take his gaze off of Eggsy, off of the way his blonde hair was tousled and darker from sweat, from exhaustion. At least it wasn’t Harry. Harry was vain. Eggsy would laugh it off. “Is there anything you would like?”
“Huh?” Merlin blinked and turned to look at him. Oh. “Don’t care.”
Harry made a noise as if it’s what he had expected. “How is he?”
Merlin gripped Eggsy’s hand tighter. “The same.” Every time he looked at Eggsy, the moment played out in his mind. Watching him get weaker and weaker. Struggling to find a hiding place.
You know I love you, yeah?
Merlin gently lifted Eggsy’s hand to kiss it, then sat it back down, careful of the IV in both the front of his hand and his wrist.
“Get some sleep,” Harry said softly.
Merlin shook his head. He didn’t want to close his eyes.
Harry had basically turned the ICU suite into a hotel suite, complete with a shower and a small kitchenette. How he had gotten the medical crew to agree to that Merlin had no idea, but he wouldn’t lie and say he wasn’t grateful for it. He sat at Eggsy’s bedside, a bowl of cereal in his hands. Harry had stopped by earlier, taken a look at Merlin’s face and left.
No change. The worst words you could hear in this sort of medical situation. It was a waiting game, right now. Eggsy would wake up, or he wouldn’t.
Okay, Merlin was a sentimental bastard. That’s why he was digging into a bowl of Eggsy’s favorite cereal, some sugary monstrosity he allowed himself to indulge in on the weekends. On a whim, he had asked Harry for it.
“I don’t understand why you like this,” Merlin muttered, taking another bite of it. It wasn’t horrible, but the sugar popped like bright bits and it was just not what he was used to. “Next time I’m going to see if I can get you to eat oatmeal for breakfast.”
He took another bite, then held his breath. But all he heard was the hissing of the ventilator, saw the artificial rise and fall of Eggsy’s chest.
Merlin didn’t cry. He didn’t let himself. But at that moment? He really wanted to.
“You can’t stay here forever.” Harry spoke softly.
Merlin turned to look at him. Whatever on his face caused Harry to raise an eyebrow. “I’d like to see you try and stop me,” Merlin said mildly.
Harry rolled his eyes, even though there was something sad there, and squeezed Merlin on his shoulder. Then he left, closing the door behind him.
Merlin sat the bowl of cereal aside, took Eggsy’s hand in his. “Wake up, please,” he said, allowing a moment of sentiment to overwhelm him. “Please.” The word caught in his throat, threatened to break him, but he fought it down.
“His vitals look better,” Harry said cautiously. Merlin was sitting at his bedside, eating a sandwich Harry had blackmailed him into eating. He didn’t even taste it.
“Yes,” Merlin said dully. Eggsy was less critical now, starting to stabilize. But he hadn’t woken up.
“Have they started weaning the sedatives?” Harry asked.
Merlin wanted to glare at him but he didn’t have the energy. “Yeah.” It wasn’t that he felt defeated, he was just...so tired. Hope threatened to choke him and drown him at the same time. He leaned his head down, pressing his forehead to where he was holding Eggsy’s hands. Please.
For the umpteenth time Harry squeezed his shoulder. At least he had stopped saying anything. Merlin didn’t know how many empty platitudes he could take. There was no guarantees, not in this life, not in any life. Especially not in their career.
He heard the door hiss closed behind him, knew that Harry had left. He was shaking now, his shoulders heaving. There wasn’t tears, but it was close. “Am I going to have to promise something to get you to wake up?” There was a faint teasing lilt in his voice, all he could manage. “I’ll let you steal the covers without waking you up, or kicking you off the bed. I’ll even let JB on the bed.”
“Please,” Merlin whispered. Please.
The advantage of not having hair was it was easy to tell when someone was touching his head. It was easy to feel the calluses of someone’s fingers when they tried to smooth over the skin.
He grumbled, waving a hand at Harry. Until he realized there was an IV attached to that hand, that it was too small to be Harry’s.
Merlin bolted out of his seat so fast he nearly fell over and took Eggsy with him. “Eggsy?”
Whirr-hiss. Eggsy made a face, tugging at the tube in his throat.
Merlin reached for the call button and slammed his hand down on it. He could see Eggsy’s eyes crinkle in amusement. Eggsy turned his hand over, careful of the IV, and wiggled his fingers. Merlin twined his fingers with Eggsy’s. He wasn’t going to cry, no. He didn’t cry.
If a tear or two sneaked out, well, Eggsy wouldn’t mention it to anyone. Especially not Harry.
The door hissed open. Eggsy’s eyes flickered from Merlin to the door, his face still lined with exhaustion.
“Excuse us, sir,” the head doctor said to Merlin. His name was Morvydd, which Merlin thought was particularly morbid for a doctor, but hey, he hadn’t picked it.
“Merlin.” Harry was suddenly there (for all he scolded Merlin on not sleeping, Merlin personally felt like Harry had no room to talk), reluctantly untangling Merlin from Eggsy in order to let the medical personnel surround Eggsy’s bed.
“We’re not going to kick you out,” one of the nurses said. Her name was Morgana. Merlin remembered her, she had been assigned to Eggsy quite a bit.
Merlin crossed his arms over his chest without saying anything, standing out of the way but in a position where he could see everything. Morvydd was checking Eggsy’s pupil reactions, asking him to do things to establish his neurological status. Eggsy raised his hands when asked, squeezed when asked, wiggled his toes.
“We’re going to take the tube out, okay?” Morgana said, her voice soothing. Eggsy glanced at her and then looked around the room, some of the alarm in his eyes easing when he locked eyes with Merlin.
Merlin locked that away with the rest of his emotions, using every trick in the book to remain standing. Eggsy was awake. Eggsy was awake.
“Cough,” Morgana said, starting to pull the tube out.
Eggsy did, gagging slightly before it was out. “That was rank,” he said, his voice raspy.
Merlin barely smiled, but Harry bit back a sigh. “Always with the one-liners, aren’t you?” Harry said, his voice fond.
Eggsy overcorrected the movement to focus on Harry, his head wobbling almost like one of the bobbleheads Harry kept on his desk. “Like you have room to talk.”
Merlin had to agree with that.
“Ice chips only,” Morgana said, speaking to Merlin. She handed him a cup with a spoon. “He’ll go back to sleep soon and be weak for a while.”
Merlin took cup of ice chips and the spoon mutely. He hadn’t really caught up with what was happening, his body dealing with the ever-present panic response. All he could do was stare at Eggsy, relief threatening to swamp him.
Eggsy had his head back on the pillow, his eyes not entirely focusing. Slowly Morgana was the only medical personnel left in the room, lurking in the background. Harry put a hand on Merlin’s shoulder, steering him back towards the chair that had been placed next to Eggsy’s bed.
“Hi you,” Eggsy murmured, his voice hoarse and slurred.
Merlin stared at him. His brain hadn’t quite come back online yet. He dropped the cup and the spoon and leaned in to press a kiss to Eggsy’s forehead, wrapping his arms around Eggsy’s shoulders as gently as he could, burying his face in Eggsy’s shoulder. It was an awkward position, probably for both of them, but Merlin didn’t really care. It was the closest he was going to get to falling apart, to admitting weakness.
The door hissed shut, but Merlin barely noticed.
By the time he settled back in the chair, one of Eggsy’s hands clutched in his, Harry had returned with a new cup of ice chips and another spoon. “Since you lost yours,” Harry said politely.
Merlin took it from him, trying to kick his brain back into working. “Want some?” he asked Eggsy, gathering a couple ice chips on the tip of the spoon.
“Yes,” Eggsy rasped.
It felt sort of weird doing that with Harry there, but Merlin couldn’t care less. Eggsy was awake. Eggsy was okay. That won out over everything. He held the spoon out so Eggsy could take the ice chips from it.
Eggsy closed his eyes briefly, his lips curving into an exhausted smile. “Never thought ice -” he coughed, winced.
“I know you like to talk, but you might want to wait on that,” Harry said wryly. “I’m glad you’re awake.” He stepped forward and squeezed Eggsy’s arm gently. “I’ll be by later to check on you.”
Harry took a few steps and then turned and looked at Merlin. “I’ll be watching you.”
“Stalker,” Merlin said without any heat. He turned back to look at Eggsy, who had his eyebrows raised.
“Do I gotta be worried about you two?”
Merlin arched an eyebrow. “I have better taste.”
Eggsy smiled. “More ice, please.”
It wasn’t long before Eggsy’s eyes fluttered shut, his fingers twitching in a request for Merlin to take his hand. Merlin did, twining their fingers together. His heart rate was finally starting to come down, his brain no longer spinning in circles. Eggsy was awake. He was okay.
They would have to wait on the final doctor’s assessment, in terms of his recovery, but. He had woke up.
He was okay.
“Your head is fuzzy.” Eggsy sounded reproachful.
Merlin raised an eyebrow at him. “Been a tad busy.”
Eggsy frowned at him, waved a hand in his direction. “Doesn’t it like. Not grow?”
Merlin struggled to keep a straight face. “How do you not know this?”
Eggsy arched an eyebrow right back. He looked so much better now, color in his cheeks. “I actually have hair, bruv.”
Merlin rolled his eyes. “I’m aware.” His hand was on Eggsy’s left, the injured arm. Eggsy’s shoulder was bandaged up, but he grimaced every time he moved it. Physical therapy would be required after healing, with the goal of returning to full function. Sitting up was difficult, due to the gunshot wounds in his middle, the final one removed from his back, perilously close to his spine. Yet Eggsy seemed to suffer no ill effects.
Sometimes their age difference was obnoxious, especially in public. But Merlin had never been more grateful for it. There was no doubt that if it had been him, he would have fared differently.
Eggsy had been ridiculously lucky, all things considered. One bullet had gone cleanly between two of his ribs, hitting nothing fatal on its way out his back. Another had cracked a rib and gone out his side. The one in his shoulder hit nothing major. The one in his back had been the most dangerous, the closest to paralyzing him, but they had been able to remove it with no ill effects.
“And don’t call me bruv,” Merlin added.
Eggsy grinned. “What about babe?”
Merlin eyed him. “We’ve had this discussion.”
Eggsy looked put upon. “C’mon. A brush with death warrants a re-evaluation of pet names.”
“No it does not.” Merlin stood and leaned over to kiss him, distracting Eggsy in the easiest way. Eggsy’s lips parted easily, one of his hands finding its way to Merlin’s jumper. It was a soft, slow kiss, a tangling of tongues, and it sent molten heat down Merlin’s spine.
Eventually Merlin pulled back, and the soft smile Eggsy gave him made his insides clench. He kept his face steady, sinking back into the chair. “I suppose I’ll allow you to hog the covers, when you’re home.”
Eggsy’s face broke into a wide smile. “That’s if I allow you on the bed.” He winked.
Merlin smiled, allowing the fondness to bleed through.
There was a knock on the door, then it hissed open. It was Morgana and Morvydd.
Merlin and Eggsy exchanged a glance, uneasiness settling deep in Merlin’s middle.
Morgana looked from one of them to the other, then winced. “It’s not bad, promise.”
The knot in Merlin’s stomach eased a bit. “Look less like death,” Eggsy informed them. “Don’t want this one keeling over from a heart attack.” Eggsy nodded towards Merlin.
Merlin rolled his eyes, but couldn’t keep the smile off his face. He curled his hand slightly over Eggsy’s, his thumb tracing the line of Eggsy’s knuckles.
“Your recovery is going better than expected,” Morvydd started.
Merlin bit back a groan. “Don’t tell him that, he’s going to be insufferable.”
Eggsy looked offended. “I am not!”
Merlin just looked at him. It was more of his normal, non-work self than he had ever shared at work, but it turned out two weeks of your lover being in the hospital did a number on a person.
“Provided that there is someone who can monitor your care -”
Merlin leaned back in his chair, crossed his arms over his chest, and just looked at them.
“Thought so,” Morgana said with a grin. “In that case, we’d like to discharge you in four days. On Friday.”
Eggsy made a face. “Why not sooner?”
Morvydd fixed him with a look, sterner than Merlin thought he could look. “As is, normally you would be required to stay longer.”
Eggsy rolled his eyes, as if he was the longest-suffering human. And he called Harry a drama queen.
“Is your home accessible?” Morgana asked, turning to look at Merlin.
“I’ll make sure it is,” Merlin said easily.
“Hey.” Eggsy sounded indigent. “I ain’t no invalid.”
“You were shot four times,” Merlin said mildly.
“Whatever.” Eggsy went to cross his arms and winced. Instead he pouted.
Merlin turned back to the medical staff. Eggsy was a bad enough patient in the hospital; Merlin could only imagine what he was going to try and get up to at home.
Merlin typed the code into the small keypad on his front door, ending it with a double-press of the exit button. The door clicked open, and he carried Eggsy’s belongings inside. Well. What Eggsy had decided he had to have, that wasn’t already there. He hadn’t officially moved in, not really, but he might as well have.
Eggsy stood behind him, muttering under his breath. He hadn’t been thrilled with the wheelchair ride to Merlin’s car. Or with Merlin’s insistence on a slow, steady pace. Especially when even that slow pace caused him to run out of breath. He leaned against the wall, sulking without appearing to.
Merlin sat the couple bags next to the entrance hall, then turned to face Eggsy. Eggsy shuffled inside, at this point apparently pouting because he wanted to. “I’ve turned the guest room on the first floor into a bedroom,” Merlin said evenly. He closed the door and locked it behind Eggsy, then turned on the external alarms. No one would get near his house without him knowing.
“Just for me?” Eggsy frowned. There was something vulnerable to his face, like the pain made it so that he couldn’t keep his guards up as high. There was something there that Merlin didn’t like, even if he couldn’t pinpoint what it was.
“Unless you want company?” Merlin arched an eyebrow. “I assumed that was a given.”
Something in Eggsy’s shoulders relaxed.
Merlin narrowed his eyes, taking Eggsy in. There was a hunch to his shoulders, a tightness to his face. All signs of pain. A glance at the clock told him he wasn’t due pain meds for another couple hours.
Suspicious, Merlin pulled out Eggsy’s med pack from one of the overnight bags. It took a few seconds and a couple glances at the painkiller bottles before he put two and two together. “You’ll heal better if you actually take your meds,” he said evenly.
Eggsy didn’t look at him. “They make my brain fuzzy.”
Merlin opened his mouth and then closed it, his teeth clacking together. He took a breath in through his nose, out through his mouth. He wasn’t angry, not exactly. Instead, he was smart enough to put the pieces together, to realize that this was associated with something they hadn’t really talked about - Eggsy’s past.
For all that Eggsy smiled at him with open affection, that smile that was just for Merlin, he hid things, too. In a way it was good for their line of work - he would never be compromised. But it made it very difficult to figure out when things were wrong.
“What if you just take half a dose?” Merlin steered them until they were sitting on the sofa in front of the television, one of Eggsy’s favorite movies already ready to play.
“C’mere.” Eggsy wriggled his fingers at him. “Leg here.” He pointed to the back of the sofa near the cushions.
Puzzled, Merlin obeyed. It hit him once his legs became a vee, even before Eggsy had turned around and scooted towards him until his back was against Merlin’s chest.
“I’m not gonna break,” Eggsy said, exasperated. He reached with his good arm to grab Merlin’s, gingerly wrapped it around his middle. “Give me your other one.”
Still a bit caught off guard, Merlin obeyed, wrapping both of his arms around Eggsy and holding him close. Eggsy wriggled a bit in his lap, and Merlin accommodated him by scooting down some, until Eggsy’s head was tucked up under Merlin’s chin, and both seemed comfortable.
“I’d prefer to do this the other way,” Eggsy murmured, “but dunno if my stomach could take it.”
Merlin had severely underestimated how stressed he had been the past couple weeks, how much tension left his body when he could hold Eggsy close. He could feel the movement of Eggsy’s chest as he breathed, could feel Eggsy’s breath against him when he tilted his head just so.
“I thought you were gone,” Merlin said finally, the final knots in his middle unraveling. This was the version of himself he didn’t show to anyone but Eggsy, not even Harry.
“Nah,” Eggsy said with a smile. Merlin couldn’t see it, but he could feel it. He pressed a kiss to Eggsy’s hair. “I’m a cockroach, remember?”
“I would say you’re more attractive than a cockroach,” Merlin said pointedly.
Eggsy tapped fingers on Merlin’s hand. “Up to proving that?”
Merlin arched an eyebrow, his expression severe.
Eggsy laughed, but from his expression it hurt. “Joking. Promise.”
Merlin studied him suspiciously. “What about your meds?”
Eggsy was quiet for a few moments, then turned his head enough that he could press a kiss to Merlin’s neck. “Don’t want to let go.”
Merlin’s breath caught in his throat. He tightened his grip around Eggsy, fractionally, and closed his eyes, pressing his face to Eggsy’s hair. It was easy to breathe deeply, to remind himself that the danger had passed, that Eggsy was still there. He was okay.
“You gonna put that movie on or not?” Eggsy asked, sounding petulant. There was enough amusement under there that Merlin rolled his eyes fondly.
“You’re not the boss of me,” Merlin informed him, even as he reached out and grabbed the remote. JB was staying with Roxy until Eggsy could navigate on his own, so it was just the two of them.
“Uh huh,” Eggsy said, clearly not believing him.
“I could fire you,” Merlin threatened with no bite.
“I’d like to see you try.” The cheeky bugger winked at him.
Merlin sighed, exasperated, and shook his head. Then he held Eggsy just a bit closer, as tight as he dared, and tried to let his breathing slow. All Merlin wanted to do was hold onto this moment forever, where Eggsy was safe and he was going to be okay. He didn’t want to think about six months in the future, maybe more, when Eggsy returned to active duty and he would have to watch him on his missions again.
Because he couldn’t not watch. If something happened, he would never forgive himself. As it was, that was something he was going to struggle with.
It took a while, but eventually the lull in Eggsy’s breathing tipped Merlin over the edge to sleep. Both of them were exhausted.
It was Eggsy’s whimpering that woke Merlin up. He didn’t know what time it was, just that it was dark outside and Eggsy was obviously in distress. He sat up and switched on the bedside lamp, a faint glow cast across the room.
Eggsy was laying on his side of the bed, face creased. He was on his back, his hands clenched into fists, eyes closed, body shaking. He was obviously still asleep.
“Eggsy.” Merlin reached out to touch his shoulder and then stopped. Some people didn’t react well to being touched during nightmares. “Eggsy, love. Wake up.”
Yeah, they were going to have to talk about endearments, but whatever. It was four am.
Eggsy whimpered again. “Please…”
Chills ran down Merlin’s spine. He could guess what Eggsy was dreaming about. It was the same thing that had been haunting him. “Eggsy, love.” He pitched his voice higher, took a risk and reached for his uninjured shoulder.
Eggsy’s eyes flew open, his chest heaving. Every breath creased his face with pain, and Merlin could see a tear or two slide down his cheeks. “Fuck,” Eggsy whispered.
Merlin sat there next to him, reaching over to cup Eggsy’s cheek with one of his hands. Eggsy looked up at him, something raw and frightened in his face.
“I’m here,” Merlin told him, leaning down to press a gentle kiss to his lips. “I’m here.”
“Fuck.” Eggsy looked at the plate that had shattered all over the floor, defeat blooming over his face.
“It’s alright,” Merlin said evenly.
The glare Eggsy shot him could have killed the devil. “Fuck you.”
Merlin looked at him, reproachful. He wasn’t going to pull rank, that didn’t work at home. It almost broke him that he couldn’t make it better as it was. Eggsy had been home almost two weeks, and he still could barely walk. Couldn’t use his left hand, couldn’t depend on its grip. He still couldn’t lay on his side or his stomach.
It had been easy to see the frustration bubbling to the surface, but Merlin had been helpless to defuse it. And now there they were, Eggsy standing in the kitchen, looking like he wanted to murder someone (maybe himself), and Merlin standing there, not sure how to fix it.
“Fuck,” Eggsy said, his voice softer now. He looked so broken, so fragile. All Merlin wanted to do was make it better, and it was the only thing he couldn’t do.
Instead Merlin left it alone, heading to fetch a broom so he could sweep up the ceramic remnants. He was wearing his oxfords, Eggsy had on slippers, so at least he didn’t have to worry about stepping on fragments for the moment.
He could only imagine what it would be like to be in Eggsy’s shoes, unable to take care of yourself, having to depend on someone else entirely for the first time in your life. Merlin had read his file, had been listening when Harry confronted Dean. Maybe that was why they hadn’t talked about it. Maybe Eggsy considered it something that didn’t need to be said.
Scouring the ground for any remaining shards, he kept his eyes down when he saw Eggsy sink into one of the chairs at the table.
“I’m sorry,” Eggsy said, his voice raw.
“Water under the bridge,” Merlin said softly, borrowing one of Eggsy’s favorite phrases.
“I just…” The words trailed off, Eggsy clenching his jaw shut, as if he couldn’t bear to say the words. “I feel so helpless.” His eyes flickered to Merlin, then away. “It’s not you,” Eggsy added hastily.
“I know,” Merlin said. He came close, sinking into the chair next to him. Concern swamped him. Maybe Eggsy needed to talk to someone. That could be something he set up. With Eggsy’s permission, of course.
“I’m sorry,” Eggsy said again, eyes downcast.
“Come here.” This time Merlin was the one to pull him close, carefully so that Eggsy could sit on his lap. It let Eggsy wrap his arms around Merlin’s shoulders, his cheek pressed against Merlin’s. For a moment Merlin just held him. It was intimacy that mattered, a lot more than sex or anything else. He lived for these little moments, when it was just the two of them, breathing in the same air, existing in the same place. Yeah, he found Eggsy irresistible, but at the moment nothing mattered more to Merlin than Eggsy healing and being okay.
“I love you,” Eggsy murmured, his breath catching at the words.
It wasn’t something that had been said before what had happened, or after. It had been hanging between them, the weight of it unsaid. Merlin pressed a kiss to his cheek, lingering and kissing slowly up the line of Eggsy’s jaw until he kissed just under his ear, feeling Eggsy shiver underneath him.
“I’m ticklish,” Eggsy complained.
“I know.” Merlin moved and kissed him lightly on the lips. “Love you too.”
There was only so much Merlin could handle from home. While Eggsy was getting better, he wasn’t anywhere near fit enough to start any type of physical rehab. He couldn’t lift anything that was over 5kg, couldn’t stand for extended periods of time.
Merlin hated leaving him at home alone. He knew Eggsy well, knew what sort of trouble he could get up to on his own. But he couldn’t smother him, either.
“How is Eggsy?” Harry caught him off guard, apparently having entered while Merlin was lost in thought.
Well wasn’t that a loaded question. He let out a long exhale, leaning back in his chair.
“That well?” Harry arched his eyebrows.
“Like you have room to talk,” Merlin said with no bite.
Harry bit back a grin. “I don’t think Medical has ever quite forgiven me for that,” he admitted.
Harry had made his escape not once, not twice, but three times from Medical when he was recovering from his head wound. One time he had even made it off Kingsman property, before Eggsy found him and helped Roxy drag him back.
Merlin scrubbed a hand over his head, his chest clenching. His gaze was distant, and it was hard to focus completely on his work. Part of him wanted to ask for medical leave for himself. He was a professional, though, and he should have been able to get over it.
“It’s okay to be bothered,” Harry said, moving until he was facing Merlin, leaning back against his desk.
Merlin ignored him, ignored the long line he made. He had never really understood how Harry walked around with legs that went all the way up his neck. Probably his ego. “He’s bored,” Merlin said finally. That was the truth. Depressed, probably, too. When he wasn’t sleeping or staring at the wall, or trying to do things he couldn’t, he was curled up against Merlin.
“It’s a long healing process,” Harry agreed.
“You’re telling me,” Merlin muttered. Guilt settled deep in his chest. If only he had caught the alarms sooner. If only he had gotten the recon teams there faster. He knew it wasn’t logical, that he had done what he could, but maybe, just maybe, it would have made a difference.
“Stop.” Harry’s voice was authoritative.
Merlin arched an eyebrow at him, but this time Harry didn’t flinch. “What?”
“You’re blaming yourself, aren’t you?”
Damn him for being perceptive. Merlin would have been personally insulted, if he hadn’t been too busy walloping himself. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Talk to him,” Harry ordered. “I don’t want to see this break down over it.”
Merlin looked at him, alarmed. Okay, he meant to keep a poker face, but from Harry’s expression that sort of went out the window.
“Resentments build up,” Harry said. His eyes were distant.
Harry had Percival now, but it hadn’t always been an easy route for them, Merlin knew that much.
“And take some time off,” Harry added. “You’re annoying me.”
Merlin snorted and rolled his eyes. Harry smiled.
Eggsy could walk now, could do most daily things without help. The wounds had scabbed over and healed, so it was only the internal bits left. The worst, but hey, Merlin would take it.
The guilt, however? It hadn’t eased up. Instead it sat in his chest, weighty like an anvil. It was with him when he woke up, with him when he went to the Mansion, with him when he went to sleep. It never went away.
It had gotten worse, to the point he was avoiding Eggsy when he could. Staying late at work and hating himself for it. Harry had noticed, and would often drop by his lab and give him that look. Bastard.
Merlin hung his head in his hands, his heart racing. He was going to fuck the whole thing over, he knew it. Maybe it had just been meant to end that way. He was twice Eggsy’s age, after all, there were so many reasons it would go wrong.
“Merlin.” Eggsy sounded reproachful.
Merlin’s breath caught in his throat, almost choked him. He coughed until it cleared, using it as an excuse to not look at Eggsy. Then he put his best poker face on and lifted his head to look at Eggsy.
Eggsy’s look very clearly told him he was taking none of Merlin’s bullshit. No wonder he was Harry’s protege. Wankers.
“Why are you avoiding me?” Eggsy sank into the dining chair next to Merlin, having spun it so that he had the support of the back of the chair to lean on. He was guarded, something that yanked at Merlin’s heart.
He wasn’t enough of a coward to deny it. He wasn’t brave enough to say what Harry had said. It was so easy to be calm and confident at work, but so difficult when it came to his private life. To be fair, it had been a long time since he had had much of a personal life to be concerned about.
“If you don’t want to talk about it, we don’t have to,” Eggsy added. “I just…” He sounded frustrated, but he didn’t meet Merlin’s eyes. “I don’t want to lose you.”
Merlin closed his eyes, Harry’s words ringing through his mind. “I -” He stopped, cleared his throat. He opened his eyes again. The guilt sat heavy there. Did he really need to burden Eggsy with this, add it to his list of problems? But this was something that concerned both of them. Merlin didn’t really have a right to make a decision without Eggsy’s input, or at least without telling Eggsy about it.
Eggsy was watching him, moss-green eyes wide and perceptive. His hair was a mess, but the artful type of mess that looked purposeful. That was the other advantage of not having hair - no wild sex hair to deal with. Although Eggsy had it nearly as good - he looked fine no matter how messy his hair looked. He sat there in Merlin’s dressing gown and Merlin’s pajama pants and Merlin’s t-shirt, open and patient and far too good for Merlin.
Merlin exhaled slowly. He opened his mouth, then closed it. “None of it is your fault.”
Eggsy blinked at him, confused. “What do you mean?”
Merlin looked away from him. “I feel guilty.”
Eggsy studied him for a few moments, and then understanding dawned there. Merlin exhaled, his breath embarrassingly shuddery. God he hated emotions. He hated feelings. Work was so easy to compartmentalize. Personal feelings got shoved to the side until later or never. Work was no place for personal feelings.
Considering Merlin had practically lived at HQ until the thing with Eggsy began, adjusting to actually having personal feelings was something new.
“Hey.” Eggsy reached out for him, his hand settling over Merlin’s. He swallowed thickly, the bobbing of his adam’s apple drawing Merlin’s attention.
All Merlin could think of was leaning in to kiss the hollow of his throat, feel Eggsy’s pulse point against his tongue. But there was time for that later.
Eggsy cleared his throat. “Did I ever tell you what happened to Mum when I was twelve?”
Merlin looked at him. His heart was starting to race some. “No.” He wasn’t going to interrupt more than that. Something weighty hung between them, something fragile that he didn’t want to break.
“Let’s move to the living room.” Eggsy stood, wobbling a tiny amount, and then padded into the living room. He still couldn’t lay on his stomach comfortably for long, but they had set up a series of pillows on their favorite sofa to make it easier. So Merlin laid down, letting Eggsy lay against him. Since Merlin had longer arms, he adjusted the pillows until Eggsy made a comfortable noise, and curled closer.
He was quiet long enough that Merlin wondered if he had forgotten. He wasn’t going to mention it, wasn’t going to push Eggsy for something he wasn’t willing to share.
“Dean had been mad,” Eggsy said into the crook of Merlin’s neck. Merlin shifted slightly, allowing Eggsy’s sore arm to drape across his hips, Eggsy’s good hand curling around Merlin’s shoulders so he could trace patterns on Merlin’s biceps through his jumper. “I came home from school, he wasn’t thrilled. Mum already had a black eye.”
Merlin traced a hand up and down Eggsy’s spine, not interrupting, and careful to dodge the bullet wound that he could feel, a raised bump of scar tissue that had no sensation.
“Dean went out, and Mum was home alone. I didn’t think he was going to be back.” Eggsy’s voice trailed off, the patterns on Merlin’s bicep faltering. “He broke her arm. I was out with Jamal and Ryan, hadn’t been there. They called it a spiral fracture.” Eggsy’s voice threatened to break, but it softened.
Anger flared under Merlin’s skin. A spiral fracture was a particularly vicious type of break, often caused by someone wrenching someone else’s arm up behind them, twisting it and fracturing it. Something eased inside him when he connected the dots. “You blamed yourself.”
Eggsy nodded against him. “If I’d stayed home -”
“You may not have been able to stop him,” Merlin said quietly.
“I know.” Eggsy shifted so he could tap Merlin’s nose, which made Merlin go cross-eyed. Eggsy smiled his smile, the one that made Merlin feel all gooey inside. It was sickening, but he liked it. He just would never admit it out loud. “But if I had been there, I could have at least tried.”
Merlin kissed the top of his head again, holding him close. “I couldn’t save you.” Embarrassingly, his voice wasn’t as steady as he would have liked. It even wavered. For all that Merlin prided himself on being an emotional rock, Eggsy had somehow gotten under his skin. Eggsy broke all the rules.
Eggsy poked him on the nose again. Merlin rolled his eyes, but it was fond. Eggsy bit back a grimace and scooted up a bit, ignoring Merlin’s frown. That way he could press a kiss to the side of Merlin’s head, slow and steadily moving until he could kiss Merlin on the lips.
It was hard to say no, to tell Eggsy to save his strength, when Merlin had missed this, missed the slow slide of their mouths against each other, the way Eggsy slid his tongue in his mouth. It wasn’t dirty, it wasn’t hurried and hushed. It was the kiss of two people who had all of the world in front of them.
Eggsy was the one to break the kiss, using his uninjured arm to hold himself up so he could look Merlin in the eyes. “It’s gonna happen again, yeah?”
Merlin wasn’t certain he had ever seen Eggsy take something so seriously. Usually he was cocky, winking and flirting as casually as he breathed. This? This was serious business Eggsy. It was almost alarming. “Yes,” Merlin was forced to admit. There was no way around it. He knew how much Eggsy loved being a Kingsman. There was no way in hell Merlin would take that away from him.
“I can’t guarantee I’ll be safe,” Eggsy told him. “But I can’t guarantee I won’t get hit by a car crossing the street, either.”
Merlin opened his mouth to argue that it wasn’t a fair comparison, and then stopped at Eggsy’s raised eyebrow.
“Maybe you could come on a mission with me,” Eggsy offered.
Merlin looked down at him with an ‘are you kidding me’ expression.
“Serious.” Eggsy shrugged. “I remember V-day, you know how to handle a gun.” There was that ever-so-charming way he waggled his eyebrow.
Merlin couldn’t help a smile. “You’re trouble,” he told Eggsy.
“So’re you.” Eggsy reached up to kiss him again, and then settled back against his chest. “Now stop worrying.”
It wasn’t a guarantee, but Merlin felt that weight on his chest ease just a bit.
Merlin stood at the entrance to the rehab room, watching Eggsy stand on one leg, then hop and switch. There were hints of frustration on his face, but it smoothed when he saw Merlin. “Fancy seeing you here,” Eggsy said with a wink.
“Turning into a rabbit, are you?” Merlin smiled at him, ignoring the physical therapist standing off to the side. Lyon was her name. She was nice (the best), but not who he was there to see.
“You’ll have to check if I have a tail,” Eggsy quipped, turning to show Merlin his backside.
Merlin narrowed his eyes but there was no heat there. Yes, Eggsy had a fabulous arse. Merlin was more than aware of it. But Eggsy had still not been cleared for any sort of strenuous activity, and despite Eggsy’s best attempts, Merlin wouldn’t give in. His rib was still healing, and the last thing Merlin wanted to do was puncture a lung.
Okay, he’d definitely be tempted by something where Eggsy didn’t move. But Eggsy was vocal, and responsive, and there was absolutely no way he was going to make it through anything without doing something that would put him in danger. Even a blowjob.
“He’s almost done,” Lyon said, her arms across her chest as she watched Eggsy.
Eggsy threw Merlin a mock salute. “Gotta finish my time.”
Merlin rolled his eyes, but it was affectionate. “Come by the lab when you’re done.”
Eggsy just looked at him. “As if I had any other plans.”
Merlin shook his head, not letting Eggsy see his smile, and then turned and went back to his lab.
It wasn’t long before Eggsy showed up, sauntering in and plopping on Merlin’s lap. Merlin reached out and toggled the electronic lock to his door, ensuring no one could enter. “How was it?” Merlin asked.
Eggsy made a face. “Swear I’m gonna grow a tail at this rate.”
Merlin made a humming noise, letting Eggsy straddle his legs and smoothing a hand up and down Eggsy’s spine.
“Have a check-up on Friday,” Eggsy said casually.
Merlin raised an eyebrow at him, even though heat rushed through him. He knew what Eggsy was insinuating. “Do you.”
“X-rays and everything, to check on my ribs.” Eggsy tilted his head, almost coy.
Merlin leaned in and kissed him. “Doesn’t work on me, lad.”
“Oh, I think it works quite well.” Eggsy smiled at him and then kissed him again, again and again until Merlin’s mind was spinning and he was more than half-hard.
“None of that,” Merlin said, attempting to sound stern.
Then Eggsy pouted. “I probably won’t puncture a lung.”
Merlin’s eyebrows shot to his non-existent hairline. “Think about what you just said.”
“You’re worse than Harry,” Eggsy grumbled. He wrapped his arms around Merlin and rested his chin on Merlin’s shoulder, finding that spot next to his collarbone and resting his bony chin on it. It was just enough pressure to be uncomfortable, but not enough for Merlin to do anything about it.
“I do hope you haven’t been making these sorts of proposals to Harry,” Merlin said mildly.
Eggsy rolled his eyes. “I’m dying of blue balls and it’s your fault.”
Merlin looked up at the ceiling for patience. “After your X-ray on Friday,” he told Eggsy. “If you’re cleared.”
Eggsy immediately lifted his head up, his smile practically devious. “I’ll be counting.”
Merlin shook his head, but he couldn’t deny the heat rolling through him. “I look forward to it.
It had been an agonizing wait after Eggsy had been cleared. Merlin’s job, rudely, did not get the memo, so he spent an extra two hours clearing up some bomb thing that he couldn’t shove off to someone else. Eggsy, who of course had headed home early, had started sending him creatively angled photos from his glasses.
Merlin was quite grateful he had upped the security on those.
It had been more than worth it to go home and spread Eggsy out on the bed, take him apart until he was a begging, moaning mess, his muscles clenching around Merlin. It had been a long time coming, and it had been more than worth it.
It was slow and gentle, long, soft kisses and broad strokes of his tongue, the type of passion that built like lava. Eggsy laid on the bed, watching Merlin with sleepy eyes. Merlin sat on the side of the bed, watching Eggsy with the smile he always got around him. “I love you,” Eggsy murmured.
Merlin leaned forward and kissed him. “Love you too. Now get some sleep.” He went and got a towel, cleaned Eggsy off and tucked him back into bed. He wasn’t really tired, but he crawled in next to Eggsy anyway, letting Eggsy distribute himself as he saw fit.
Tonight, apparently, Eggsy was testing laying on his stomach, draped over Merlin with one leg slotted between his. It was nice, sometimes, when their height difference didn’t matter. Merlin rested one of his hands on the small of Eggsy’s back, just above the swell of his arse. He traced small designs on Eggsy’s skin with his fingers, felt Eggsy shiver underneath him.
“Medical says three months before I’m cleared for duty,” Eggsy said, his voice quiet.
Merlin swallowed thickly. He knew the moment was coming, and it was only going to get worse in the lead-up to it. He could almost feel himself withdrawing.
“Hey.” Eggsy lifted his head. “Don’t run away from me.”
Merlin met his eyes, Eggsy only a tiny bit blurry without his glasses. He wasn’t sure what to say, so he didn’t say anything at all.
“We should get married,” Eggsy decided.
Merlin blinked. Then blinked again. Then reached out and grabbed his glasses, putting them on, just to double-check that Eggsy was still alive, breathing, and awake on his chest, and Merlin wasn’t hallucinating.
“Very funny,” Eggsy said dryly. “If you don’t want to, that’s fine.”
Merlin could hear the tiny thread of uncertainty wavering under his voice. A wave of affection washed over Merlin, and all he wanted to do was look after Eggsy and take care of him forever, in every way he could. “I suppose,” Merlin said, letting out a sigh as if he was exasperated.
Eggsy poked him in the ribs, making Merlin twitch underneath him. “As if you’d say no.”
Merlin rolled his eyes. He turned to kiss the top of Eggsy’s head, squeezing him almost infinitely closer. “Not about this, at least.”
Eggsy lifted his head, eyes narrowed. “What does that mean?”
Merlin just looked innocent.
It was a hurricane that blew through his lab door, no one would tell Merlin otherwise. The fact that the hurricane threw itself into his lap and started snogging him like he had totally not left the door open was a series of minor details.
“I take it your medical check-up went well,” Merlin said against Eggsy’s lips. Eggsy reached out and cradled Merlin’s face, the warm metal of his wedding ring gently indenting Merlin’s cheek.
“Mhmmm,” Eggsy said, happiness warring with heat in his voice. “Fully healed. Mission ready.” He draped his arms over Merlin’s shoulders and winked at him. “Now you can fuck me proper.”
Merlin looked at the ceiling, as if he was praying for patience. He resolutely didn’t think about the want that curled low in his middle, how his dick was starting to get very interested in the conversation. “We could do that,” he said, his hands settling on Eggsy’s waist. “Or we could talk about that.” Merlin nodded to a manila folder.
“Both?” Eggsy looked hopeful.
“Considering your plane’s supposed to leave in twenty, and we would need at least fifteen for what you’re suggesting…” Merlin tilted his head to the side, an eyebrow raised.
Excitement warred with disappointment on Eggsy’s face, then he leaned in and pressed an obnoxiously loud, smacking kiss to Merlin’s lips. “Brief away.” He got off of Merlin’s lap, discreetly adjusted his trousers, and sank into the chair opposite him.
Merlin shook his head, smiled, and started the briefing. It was light recon, checking on the status of a drug kingpin rumored to be in Berlin at the time. Of course, like many missions, it didn’t go as planned.
A few hours later Merlin was watching Eggsy’s feed, the security cameras strewn around Berlin. Not nearly as good as London’s CCTV, but enough that Merlin could track him. Turned out the kingpin had been looking for a rival, and decided that Eggsy was him. Now Eggsy was darting his way down side streets, so cheerful even his footsteps sounded happy.
The tension was slowly easing in Merlin’s chest, although he couldn’t help but twist his wedding ring, the silver-platinum thing that Eggsy had picked. Merlin hadn’t really been partial one way or another, his mind still spinning over the whole situation.
“How’s he doing?” Harry had entered without him knowing.
Letting go of his wedding band, Merlin glanced at the screen as if he hadn’t been staring at it all along. “Fine,” Merlin said with a hint of pride. Eggsy was good at what he did, and more importantly, he loved his work. The fact that Eggsy’s confidence and the way he moved was hot while he took down bad guys was just sort of a secondary benefit, in Merlin’s opinion.
“You trained him well,” Harry said warmly.
He didn’t want to, but he could feel the soft smile curving his lips. “He trained himself well,” Merlin corrected. “It wasn’t just me.”
Harry looked at him, a smile playing on his lips. “Going soft now, are you?”
Merlin swiveled to look at him. “Don’t tell the recruits.”
Harry snorted. He opened his mouth to reply when a warning beep went off, drawing their attention to the screen.
Merlin’s heart sank but he forced himself to take deep breaths. It was going to be okay. Eggsy could handle himself.
Okay, and Merlin had made sure at least two recon teams were in Berlin to intervene if necessary. He wasn’t going to deal with that half-hour delay shite.
But Eggsy tricked his pursuers down an unmonitored alley, shot them when a car’s exhaust kicked off, hiding the noises.
“Almost to the extraction point, information in hand,” Eggsy said cheerfully. “Had a heart attack yet, Merlin?”
Cheeky bastard. “I’m fine, no thanks to you.”
Eggsy looked at the nearest camera and winked, his grin wide.
Merlin spun and looked at Harry, ensuring his microphone was off. “Don’t say a word,” he told Harry. “Don’t you say a word.”
Harry just looked smug.
“It’s been over a year now,” Eggsy said at the other side of the breakfast table.
Merlin blinked up at him over his tablet, absently answering emails while his breakfast cooled in front of him. He was going to have to heat it up for the third time. Maybe he would just cook something new.
“Since I was shot.” Eggsy paused. “The four times, not the others.”
Merlin just shook his head. “Thanks for the clarification,” he said dryly.
“You’re welcome.” Eggsy grinned, wide and carefree.
Something prickled under Merlin’s skin, something he couldn’t identify. Fear? Hope? Disbelief? Part of him still woke up most mornings and marveled that Eggsy was there beside him, often curled up next to him like he didn’t want to let go. That was quite fine with Merlin. He wasn’t going to let go either.
“I even got shot once since and you didn’t cry.” Eggsy’s grin widened.
Merlin narrowed his eyes. “Because you shot yourself.”
“How was I supposed to know it was gonna ricochet and hit my leg?” Eggsy almost pouted.
“Because you were in a metal safe,” Merlin retorted. The heart attack had almost been worth Harry laughing so hard he fell into his chair. Not that they particularly enjoyed laughing at Eggsy’s pain, but after everything that had happened in the past year, it was good stress relief.
“I think we should go on a honeymoon,” Eggsy said, glancing up at Merlin over his cup of coffee.
Merlin sat his tablet aside, deciding that Eggsy wanted (and was going to get) his full attention for the moment. “Any particular reason why?” he asked slowly. Was there something going on that he didn’t know about? Some event that had skipped his attention?
“We never went on one,” Eggsy pointed out.
“You were in rehab,” Merlin said without skipping a beat, even though his brain tripped.
“So this is perfect timing.” Eggsy beamed at him. “You’re due vacation time - don’t give me that look, I checked with Genevieve.”
Merlin was scowling.
“Even cleared it with Harry, too. Two weeks just to ourselves.” Eggsy smiled, heat underneath it.
Despite Merlin’s heart skipping a beat, he couldn’t help but smile back. Eggsy was radiant that way. Distracting. Then Merlin picked up his tablet, putting on a show of being exasperated and/or put out. “Next you’re going to make me pick the location, aren’t you?”
Eggsy laughed. “Don’t worry, I’ve got a few thoughts about that.”
When Eggsy came over to kiss him, Merlin lifted his chin willingly, and lost himself in the moment. So much had happened, but they had come out stronger on the other side.
“Okay, maybe I don’t have thoughts about it,” Eggsy murmured against his lips. “You pick.”
Merlin just shook his head and kissed Eggsy again.