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He Is Not Dead Yet

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          Lee Unwin was a ghost, not a psychic, no matter what Eggsy liked to pretend.


          So when Eggsy turned to him in the Kingsman jet, a short while from Valentine’s base, and lifted a brow he had no idea what he was asking. James came back from the cockpit, where he’d been watching Merlin as if he could help the man deal with everything that had happened in such a quick time, and looked just as confused when Eggsy did the same to him. Eggsy’s eyes darted about, likely looking for cameras, before seeming to give in.


          ‘How long did it take you to become a ghost?’ The question was directed at James, which Lee would have found offensive if he hadn’t been asked that question years before and been unable to give an adequate response. I don’t know doesn’t satisfy curiosity, unfortunately.


          ‘Maybe a day or two,’ James brushed some nonexistent lint from his trousers..’


          ‘An’ you don’t remember anythin’ from the in-between?’


          ‘No. Which I’m actually kind of glad about- feel like it’s right to still have some mystery at the end of all things.’ James shrugged, grinned, and sat himself down despite not really needing to do so. ‘Why?’


          ‘Tryin’ to figure out when Harry’s gonna pop up- I’ve got some apologisin’ to do.’  Lee looked away from his son, not wanting to see the heartbreak written across his features. He’d seen the break as it happened- he had no need to see the echoes.


          ‘I’m sure he’ll understand, kid. We say all sorts of things when we’re angry.’


          ‘That don’ make it right.’


          ‘Fair enough.’


          The rest of the plane ride was spent in silence, even Eggsy’s spectral companions didn’t  dare to speak. They would gesture, exchange the signals they’d developed while in training, out of Eggsy’s line of vision. He was psyching himself up to pretend to be a bastard of a man- they were simply the backup. Hopefully an unnecessary component of the plan, as Eggsy wouldn’t be able to communicate with them while Merlin was in his ear, but they would be there either way.


          They get through the base, Eggsy beats the baddie, and by the time they’re back on the plane Lee can see something’s wrong. Merlin was on comms with Roxanne, arranging her pickup, and wasn’t paying close attention to what Eggsy was doing. Which was sitting on one of the couches, staring into space, his suit jacket draped open.


          ‘Eggsy?’ Lee came and stood in front of him, before kneeling with his face at eye level, ‘Eggsy? Son?’


          ‘He ain’t dead,’ Eggsy barely breathed the statement, but the moment it crossed his lips a grin replaced the vacancy. ‘Fuck, Dad, he ain’t dead.’ 


          ‘... What makes you say that?’


          ‘He ain’t here,’ Eggsy said simply, as if that answered every possible question even though it obviously didn’t. ‘Can you think of any place a man like Harry bloody Hart would rather be after dyin’ mid-mission that seein’ it to the end?’


          Well, put like that, Lee could see where Eggsy was coming from.


          ‘Well, then the remaining issue is convincing Merlin to go back for him.’


          ‘The fuck needs Merlin? I can make my way where I gotta go, an’ I think if he’s in hospital or somethin’ they’d be glad to have someone take him- there’s only so many beds an’ shite.’


          ‘Eggsy,’ James interjected, ‘Harry was one of very few Knights that knew Merlin personally- by all accounts, in the wake of this, Merlin’s barely holding it together. I think,’ he said gently, ‘that you should talk with him.’


          ‘An’ say what? The ghosts of my dad and the previous Lancelot told me to get you to go to Kentucky?’ Eggsy spat, glaring daggers at the transparent men before him.


          ‘Well that’s a phrase I’m incredibly confused by, but the anger with which you said it means it wasn’t a joke. Care to explain?’ Eggsy’s face drained of colour as he turned toward Merlin, the man standing just a few feet away with a bucket of ice and a bottle of champagne. He set them down on a table, and looked at Eggsy with confusion clear on his features, but didn’t call him mad so there was some hope left there.


          Well, nothing for it, then. Eggsy steeled himself, looked to his dad and James, and turned back to Merlin.


          ‘Alrigh’ this is going to sound proper mental, but I promise if you lemme finish I’ll answer whatever the fuck you want.’ Eggsy waited for Merlin to nod, ‘I can see ghosts.’ Merlin looked sceptical, but Eggsy cut him off.


          ‘My dad died in Iran cos he pushed Harry out of the way when Falcon pulled a grenade from his chest. Harry,’ Eggsy continued when Merlin went to open his mouth, ‘had shot out the man’s kneecaps before that.’


          ‘I know Harry told you that your dad died while at trials with us, Eggsy, you could have found that information at HQ.’ It sounded weak to his own ears, but it was one of very few possible explanations for that information coming from Eggsy. And he didn’t want to contemplate the one Eggsy was trying to convince him of.


          ‘My dad’s dog was a collie, he named her Shimmer cos of the way the sun hit her coat the day he picked her. After he died, Shimmer stayed at the Kingsman kennels an’ was used as one of those demo dogs when people didn’ know how to train shit.’


          ‘How the fuck did you know that?’ So much for plausible possibilities.


          ‘I tol’ you, guv: I can see ghosts.’


          ‘Are you telling me that Lee-’


          ‘Is makin’ bunny ears behind your head right now, and James Spencer (in one piece, mind, he looks like he did before Gazelle caught him) is pretendin’ to be taking a picture of him doin’ it.’ Eggsy chuckled, and the mostly-unseen men relaxed a fraction- the boy was beginning to relax. ‘From what I c’n tell they don’t stick around forever- well, they could but they don’ want to. My dad wants to be around for me long as he can, but he’s startin’ to get the itch. Like my gran did once she’d seen me safe to the Marines.’


          Lee’s head snapped up, but Eggsy wasn’t looking at him. He hadn’t realised that Eggsy was able to tell, was able to sense that he was getting restless. Maybe he wouldn’t go On yet, maybe he’d see what the limits of his new station in life were, first; but he felt like his time with Eggsy was coming to a close. Like he’d be holding his son back if he stayed much longer, and that was the opposite of what ghosts were for.


          At least, that’s what his brain told him.


          Merlin seemed to be thinking things over. He had one hand curled beneath his chin and the other resting against the side of his head as he stared at a blank bit of the wall.


          ‘Why do the... ghosts… want you to convince me to go to Kentucky, Eggsy?’


          ‘Cos I’d be stealin’ a plane or some shite otherwise.’


          ‘I beg you pardon?’


          ‘Harry’s alive, Merlin.’ That seemed to break the stoic scotsman, who had thus far been nodding along or answering the way one does when they simply don’t want the person who is speaking to stop. The vague gestures that allow one to remain silent as opposed to having to find ways to respond when all they want to do is dismiss their notions and leave.


          ‘And how would ghosts be able to tell you that?’


          ‘They didn’t- the fact that he’s not here did.’ Merlin seemed to have decided to simply go with the flow of things, as he nodded and didn’t immediately spout anything about hopes and such. ‘Asked James, since dad don’t remember at this point, how long it took him to come back- he said it took a day or two. Well Valentine’s timer was set for the next day, we got here, the timer went off an’ then we saved the world and now we’re on our way back after all that and he still ain’t here. Like I told dad b’fore you walked in- can you think of any place a man like Harry fuckin’ Hart would rather be after dyin’ mid-mission that seein’ how it ended?’ Eggsy raised a brow.


          Merlin couldn’t fault him for that logic; as the man who had to cover for Harry Hart’s insatiable need to be the centre of attention he knew that he would have wanted to be in the thick of it- even if he wasn’t able to actually do anything about it.


          ‘Alright, lad, I see you have a point. And if- and it’s a big if- I take your word for it, you want me to take this place and just go straight to Kentucky?’


          ‘Well, not straight to Kentucky, got to grab Roxelot first don’ we?’ Merlin’s eye twitched at the name but let it go. As long as Eggsy didn’t do such things in front of the rest of the agents, who was he to change him? That would make him no better than the men that tried to force him into their ideas of perfection when he’d started at kingsman- and he’d hated them. But that was beside the point- at this moment, there were two possibilities that he could see. 


          First, Eggsy was using the most ridiculous excuse possible to get Merlin to go for Harry’s body. He knew that Eggsy’d been watching the feed from Harry glasses, that he’d seen the same thing Merlin had- the shot, the unmoving view of the sky, the muttering from Valentine as he walked away with Gazelle.


          Second, and so much more unlikely: he was telling the truth. For all of Eggsy’s skills, for all the things that his unfortunate past had forced him to master, he did not like to use them unless he had to. He wouldn’t use them here, in this moment, against one of the very few people who now knew all sides of him. Or, he hoped, but there was too much hope and heartbreak battling in his gaze for Merlin to really think anything otherwise.


          But could he convince himself to take that leap of faith? Arthur would never approve- but who was Arthur besides a traitorous corpse? Why bother keeping to the old way when it obviously wasn’t working anymore. If it ever had.


          ‘We can’t go straight there-’


          ‘You really gonna brush this shite-’ Eggsy was desperate, and didn’t care if he made a fool of himself for this; Harry was worth it. Even if they never spoke to one another again, Eggsy owed him to at least try is fucking brest to get him home.


          ‘We don’t have enough fuel.’ Merlin finished as if he had never been interrupted, and flicked Eggsy’s nose before wandering back to the cockpit.


          ‘Lancelot, are you there? There’s been a change of plans.’


          There was a cool sensation next to him, like being a little too close to an icebox, and Eggsy turned to see his dad smiling at him. The way he had when he’d joined the Marines- and when he’d quit to care for his sister. The smile Eggsy couldn’t remember seeing in life- but he was lucky enough to see regularly afterward. And James was smiling the way he did when Eggsy’d had to encourage Roxy off the plane. The one that said there was a lot left unspoken, and reasonings left unexplained, and that he regretted it being so.


          ‘Oi, James.’ Eggsy called, because at this point what purpose was there in pretending not to see them? In pretending he was alone when in reality he never had been? ‘The fuck do you want me to tell Rox’ when she gets in?’


          ‘You don’t need to tell her anything, she’s a grown woman who managed to join the family business and doesn’t need old ghosts holding her back.’


          ‘Bullshit- you think dad’s held me back? D’you think you’ve fucked me over, or had anythin’ to do with how my last test went?’ Merlin’s ear twitched in response to that last comment, now incurably curious. ‘No. I made my own fuckin’ choices and tha’s on me. I knew somethin’ was up but I went along an’ thought the best even though I had every reason to think otherwise. To know otherwise.


          ‘So don’ go tryin’ to claim that you don’t want me to tell her somethin’ out of some kind of altruistic intention. You’re scared. Own it, arsehole.’ Merlin outright laughed, not needing the second half of the conversation to know what was happening. There were few things James Spencer had done better than dramatics.


          James refused to respond, but Eggsy knew he would give in. He was surprised not to be more freaked out by revealing his weird quirk he’d hidden his entire life. Maybe he was in shock- that was a reasonable thing to be in at this point, considering all of the shite that had happened in the last couple days. He had gone from a pleb without a name or a thing to call his own to the kid who’d saved the fuckin’ world. And no one would ever know- well, no, these people knew, and that was enough. 


          He had somewhere, now, long as they let him stay.


          And, honestly, who was going to stop him from being a Kingsman, now? Arthur was a prick and had rigged the test- at that distance JB wouldn’t’ve died but he would have been hurt and no job was worth hurting someone who had no idea what they had done wrong. It wasn’t like Harry had known it was rigged, but he’d been spitting mad and Harry’d gotten between him and his coping mechanisms.


          Sure, getting hit wasn’t the best way to process shit, but when you can’t feel anything outside your head any sensation will do. The added bonus of decking Dean would have been glorious. And, yeah, Eggsy could be an immature shit when he was mad- but he didn’t get to be mad often, did he, with a man like Dean in power. He’d been pushing, he knew he had been, and then Harry hadn’t struck with his fist but with words and that had been a thousand times worse. 


          Because he’d wanted to make him proud, to show him his taking the risk on him (and his dad) was worth it. He’d wanted to show Harry that he took it seriously, that he wanted to be a Kingsman more than anything just because it had been something he’d chosen- never mind that he’d chosen while stuck between a rock and a hard place. He’d made the choice.


          Eggsy was so wrapped in himself that he didn’t notice their landing to pick up Roxy until she practically threw herself into his lap with a laugh.


          ‘We fucking did it, Eggsy!’ Her arms were wrapped tightly about his shoulder and he could hear her laughing even as he felt tears soak into his shoulder. He pulled her closer, tucked his head into her neck, and looked up to James who was sitting across the cabin. He’d claim not to be glaring, if anyone asked, but who would?


          ‘Tell her… Tell her I’m proud and that her nan’s secret ingredient was chili powder- not the real stuff, the mild American shite- she put it in everything. That’s why it all tastes wrong.’ Eggsy raised a brow but tilted his head in a way he hoped conveyed agreement. He waited for Roxy to calm down, to come down from the high of adrenaline, before pulling back to look her in the eye.


          ‘Alright, Roxelot,’ Roxy snorted at the name, ‘first I’ve got to thank you for warning my mum. I don’ even know how it’s all ended up, but without you they wouldn’t’ve had a chance in hell. So thank you.’


          ‘No need for thanks, Eggsy, you’d have done the same for me.’


          ‘Yeah, I would’ve. And I’m goin’ to- your uncle’s glarin’ daggers at me right now cos I’ve been guilting him into this, but if anyone’s gonna know my weird shit it’s going to be you.’


          ‘Uncle Al isn’t here, Eggsy.’


          ‘I was talkin’ about James- I’ll be handling your uncle Al later. And no,’ Eggsy raised a finger, ‘I’m not mad. I’m not makin’ shit up for attention- I’m just trying to use this fucked up talent I’ve had my whole life for something good. For once.’


          ‘I’m not sure I understand what you’re saying Eggsy- James is dead.’ Roxy swallowed heavily, and Eggsy hated that this was so hard, but she deserved to know and it would be worth it in the end.


          ‘Yep,’ Eggsy popped the “p” at the end carelessly, ‘but that don’t mean he ain’t here and wishing he could strangle me. I can see ghosts, Rox- always have done, dunno why- I knew dad was dead before Harry ever came to my house. Dad came home, but mum couldn’t see him- I learned to keep quiet quick, after Harry came by. Hurt my mum too much to hear me talkin’ about dad like he was still around. But it never went away.


          ‘So I want you to know that I’m not trying to fuck with you or pretend to be some kind of medium holdin’ a saeance when I tell you that James wants you to know that he's proud as fuck of you. An' that your nan’s secret ingredient was shitty american chili powder, the mild kind, and she put in everything. That’s why it all tastes wrong- don’ ask me what it means cos I don’t know I’m just passin’ along the-’


          ‘Even the cookies?’ Roxy whispered, as if speaking at a regular tone would break a spell Eggsy wasn’t aware he’d cast, and Eggsy looked to James in question.


          ‘Of course the cookies- especially the sugar cookies.’ James’s nose twitched, but his eyes were fond as he elaborated.


          ‘Who the fuck messes with sugar cookies?’ Roxy laughed, and somehow Eggsy knew that she believed him despite everything. And yet, somehow, she didn’t immediately beset him with questions or demand more than that. She seemed to be content in knowing that James was there, and the unspoken knowledge that he was proud of her.


          ‘Why’d you tell me now, Eggsy?’ It’s so long after they’ve settled, so close to sleep, that Eggsy almost asks what he’d told her before he remembered.


          ‘Well, turns out my talent or whatever you want to call it finally came in handy- Harry’s alive.’ For a moment Eggsy thinks they’ll get to fade into sleep (as unfair as it would be to Merlin, unless that arse is sleeping in the cockpit with autopilot on) before Roxy stiffened and snapped up to attention.


          ‘Harry’s alive?’


          ‘Well, goin’ by the fact that his ghost still ain’t here yeah, he’s alive. Prolly got one hell of a concussion an’ who knows what else, but he’s alive. An’ that’s enough- it’s why Merlin’s divertin’ our path. Well. Not diverting, really, cos we need to refuel- but plan is we’re gonna stop at HQ and grab your uncle before headin’ to Kentucky.’


          ‘You’re not going to go and see your mum? Your sister?’ Roxy 


          ‘Once I see them I ain’t going to be able to leave them, Rox. I’m not made of anythin’ strong as that. So this has got priority- the world’s got to come first.’


          ‘Harry isn’t the world, Eggsy-’


          ‘No I know that- I just meant that I ain’t gonna go see them in person til shit is a bit better sorted. Cos I know me, an’ I won’t be good for anythin’ once I see them, and I dunno if you noticed but the world went a bit to shit a little while ago. I may’ve stopped Valentine but I didn’ get there fast enough- I’m gonna do my part to clean it up, if I can. Just happens that Harry’s a part of that mess.’ Eggsy tried to shrug it off nonchalantly, but Roxy ran a hand through his hair before lying back down. They weren’t in the most comfortable position, but neither of them wanted to let go of the other or get up. They’d be doing enough of that in the coming days.


          Eggsy slept entirely through their stop for fuel and Percival, and missed whatever explanation Roxy gave for their adventure (for all he knew she told the truth, but he didn’t get any strange look from the man so he assumed not) having woken up just in time for their landing in Kentucky.


          ‘What’s the plan, then?’ Percival spoke up, though not very loudly, and Merlin emerged from the cockpit looking far more alive than he had when Eggsy’d seen him last.


          ‘With any luck, Harry had his wallet and such on his person during the Church fiasco ad we can simply ask at the nearest hospital if his alias is there. I’m also going to turn back on the glasses feed to see if we can get a hint as to his location via that avenue. We’re going to split up- Percival and Lancelot, you’re going to go to the largest hospital in the area. Galahad,’ Merlin turned to Eggsy, who had been paying attention but jumped when it became clear what Merlin was saying, flailed a bit in his seat as Roxy punched him in the shoulder.


          ‘Bruv, Harry’s alive, the fuck are you calling me Galahad for?’


          ‘We’re going to need an Arthur, Eggsy, and no matter what kind of condition Harry is in he will need time to recover and not be in the field. So as the interim head of Kingsman I’m making some executive decisions. But,’ Merlin spoke again to the room at large, or plane at large as it happened, ‘Galahad and I will go to the hospital nearest the church on the off chance his wounds weren’t severe enough to require specialised care. Or that he wasn’t moved in the chaos of V-Day.’ The group of them nodded and made to gather things to begin their quest just as Merlin’s screen began to flicker.


          The view was from what could only be a bedside table, sterile and lightly coloured, but the edge of a body was visible. It was mostly tubes and wires, the incessant beeping of machinery, but there was a hand with an indent where a signet ring should be and that was enough for Eggsy’s entire being to loosen. Yes, he was the one with the magic powers, but when something seemed too good to be true of course he was going to doubt even his own logic. Unfortunately there wasn’t any sort of signage to indicate which hospital it was- but it was enough to know that he was in one. 


          They were bringing him home.


          No one really spoke much after that, though Eggsy could see Roxy talking quietly to Percival in the corner with James hovering nearby in a way that would be incredibly creepy if he were solid. But he looked so incredibly lost and sad but somehow incredibly proud of the family he’d left behind. It was a difficult thing to put together from his face, and accept, but if no one else would witness such a thing then Eggsy would. It was the least he could do for the man who had inadvertently brought him into Kingsman proper.


          Merlin placed a hand on his shoulder and gestured his head toward the door, and Eggsy stood gratefully. He knew without looking that his dad was behind him, and lifted a brow at Merlin after several minutes of silence as they made their way toward South Glade Mission Church. Merlin lifted one in turn and Eggsy huffed a laugh before nudging the man with his shoulder.


          ‘Y’alright, guv?’


          ‘Never call me that again.’ Merlin didn’t even turn to look at him as they navigated their way through the streets.


          ‘I make no promises and you didn’ answer my question.’


          ‘How would you be, Eggsy, if you discovered that you discovered that you’d nearly left your best friend for dead and only even double checked with the multitudes of advanced technology at your fingertips because the son of a man you let die can claimed to be able to see the dead?’ Merlin sounded as if he were out of breath, as if he had had to fight each of those words as they escaped his mouth, and Eggsy’s hand shot out of his own accord to keep him from continuing on.


          ‘Has he really thought that, all these years?’ Lee whispered to himself, and Eggsy can see the heartbreak on his face, the same look he’d had as Dean had hit him for trying to protect Daisy. Helpless but wishing desperately that it were otherwise. ‘Tell him he’s an idiot.’


          ‘You’re an idiot,’ Eggsy started dutifully,  ‘if you think that you in any way just “let” my dad die. He made his choice, he knew what he was doin’, and he’s not blamed you once.’ Merlin refused to look his way, so Eggsy yanks the arm in his grip and forces him to turn around. ‘I ain’t saying this to be cute, or make you feel better, my dad’s literally telling me what to tell you.  He’s standing right fucking here, and he’s not gonna let you do this to yourself anymore.’ Still no response, his gaze firmly staring at the space over his shoulder.


          ‘He’s never been one to simply accept what someone tells him without evidence,’ Lee said softly, an unfortunate twist to his lips, ‘and we don’t have a lot of that- I didn’t know him very well, before.’


          ‘Well he’s gonna have to fuckin’ start to believe his ears an’ the people who care about him. We ain’t got time for his wrong ideas,’ Merlin finally met his gaze, eyes blazing, but Eggsy cut him off. ‘You didn’ want to say anything before so shut it, we got shite to do. There’s too much at stake for half your head to be in the game so listen to me when I tell you that you have got to let that go. It happened, and it weren’t no picnic on my end, but if it hadn’t happened then we wouldn’t be here. Valentine prolly woulda won, Arthur never woulda been revealed as a traitor, and the world woulda gone to shit when the rich folk forgot they don’t know how to do any of the important parts of life.’


          ‘...You’re right,’ Merlin whispered, half his mouth pulled down as he looked to the sky briefly, ‘hate to admit it, but you’re right, and there is far too much happening to go through all of this now.’


          ‘Flick his nose.’


          ‘I ain’t going to flick his nose, dad, that’s just rude;’ Eggsy glared at his father for a moment before turning back to Merlin, ‘I know it ain’t going to be an instant process, but you’ve got to get your head in the game and promise you’re gonna start to let this shit go. I’m sure you’re stronger for the weight you gave yourself with not so much as a by your leave. But it was stupid to do it. Stop.’


          Merlin wasn’t sure what to make of the young man with the almost-too-tight grip on his forearm. He had every reason to be jaded and unhappy, every reason to be destructive and unkind and instead he was here trying to assuage a guilt he had no reason to. Nothing to benefit from it. But that, above everything, was what told Merlin that it was the truth. With nothing to gain and everything to lose, Eggsy had stayed true to his story and Harry was alive and from there he was willing to make a leap of faith.


          So perhaps letting go of some unnecessary baggage was the first step.


          ‘We’ll see,’ Eggsy beamed at him like he’d said something remarkable, and allowed him to remove his arm from his grasp.


          They arrived to the hospital with little fanfare, looking like any of the dozens of other folks frantically asking questions of anyone who would listen- if not a little more put together, with the minimal amounts of blood and other signs of the tragedy adorning their persons. They weren’t in any rush, this was only the first stop in who knew how many, so Merlin put a name down on the clipboard and they chose a bit of all to lean on. The chairs were all taken by families holding it together, children with broken limbs and parents with hollow eyes, and it wasn’t as if they were much worse for wear.


          Eggsy knelt on the ground in front of a toddler who was tugging on his sleeping father’s pant leg, before lying down in front of him and smiling. Children were always fascinated with faces, with glasses and smiles and ties and nostrils, and Eggsy took advantage of that to buy some parents a bit of peace. He made eye contact with several wary parents and winked before lying back down, allowing the tiny inquisitive hands to mess with him as they pleased. With nothing to do but wait, why not try to help?


          Merlin could do nothing but watch as Eggsy easily won over a room of people who should have been far more wary in the wake of the tragedy, but couldn’t bring themselves to be. People who had seen the horrors that Kingsman tried so hard to keep from their view, somehow willing to trust a strange man with what was likely their most precious connection. He smiled, and knew that if Lee could see this he would be proud of what Eggsy’d chosen to do with the life he’d pulled together. The patchwork quilt he called his priorities was so often the safety and security of others, with himself as the afterthought.


          But Kingsman would fix that- by force, if they had to. Eggsy would be taught a shred of self-preservation. By Percival, because Harry was the LAST person Merlin would entrust that lesson to.


          ‘Unwin?’ Eggsy’s head snapped up, jostling a drowsy child who had chosen to lean against his side for a nap and Eggsy lays them down on the bit of warm floor he’s vacating before jogging up to the desk. Merlin was already there, and merely glanced at Eggsy from the corner of his eye before turning back to the man who had called them up.


          ‘We’re looking for a man, mid-forties to early fifties, brown hair and a suit. He’d have been picked up by South Glade?’ Merlin kept his voice even, but strained, giving the impression of a desperate relative which, while not far off from the truth, was strange for Eggsy to hear.


          ‘I’m not sure if we have anyone meeting that description- my shift started about twenty minutes ago- let me see what gossip I can rustle up about our John Does.’ The man smiled, the kind of practised expression that never felt fake even though you knew logically that they were paid to be pleasant. Either way, he came back within a few minutes with a shrug, and gestured for them to follow before going through a set of doors. ‘So we have a few men who were picked up by South Glade that fit the age range- most of them were not dressed well, but we have one who was and hasn’t woken up yet. Rather nasty head wound-’ Eggsy tuned out at that point, and let his body go on autopilot.


          Here it was, the kind of evidence he never thought he’d have that he wasn’t entirely bonkers. Here was precisely what Merlin needed to stop doubting the things Lee had told Eggsy to tell him. Here, in this unfamiliar hospital, they would all get to start healing proper. No pun intended.


          The nurse led them to a door, cracked but not ajar, and stood to one side before gesturing them inside. There was still a chance that this wasn’t Harry, that it was some other unfortunate chap with a head wound and a taste for finer clothing, but that didn’t make it any easier to actually open the door. Merlin stared at the handle as if it would move from the force of his gaze alone, and Eggsy couldn’t tear his eyes from the crack in the door, unwilling to make the move that would confirm or deny that this was where their search ended. The nurse cleared his throat before opening the door himself with a hapless smile, and Eggsy knew that he was politely trying to hurry them to a point that he could leave, so he could take care of someone else, so he nodded and stepped forward without daring to look at the bed.


          ‘Took you long enough,’ Lee spoke from the head of the bed, one hand in a pocket while the other was idly running itself up and down Harry’s arm. No gooseflesh, no twitch of skin, to show that it was felt at all, but Eggsy watched as his dad moved from his arm as if to push the hair from Harry’s face with no success. Without thinking Eggsy stepped forward, and slowly accomplished the task his dad couldn’t. Harry was warm, his hair was slick with oil and crusty with blood and he was warm and breathing


          Eggsy sat down, and vaguely registered Merlin speaking softly to the nurse before closing the door behind them. Merlin taking a clipboard from the very clearly labeled ‘staff only’ bin that was hung on the wall and going through the pages with a frown on his face. His dad resting a hand on his shoulder, nothing to show for it but a spot where it was slightly colder than the room, but it meant the world. He looked up at his dad, and saw him smiling sadly at Harry on the bed, whose head was wrapped in bandages and left eye was entirely covered from view.


          ‘Now what?’


          ‘We get him home, is what, and see how long the coma lasts this time.’ Merlin grumbled, but Eggsy could see how soft his eyes were, how gently he tucked the blanket closer to Harry’s form and pressed his fingers to his lips before brushing them across Harry’s brow. ‘We call the table and make some decisions and burn Chester King and all he stood for out from Kingsman.


          ‘We rebuild.’