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She's practicing (because practice makes perfect, and she's not perfect yet) for the summer dressage championships in Sussex when her godfather visits.

Roxy's quite fond of her godfather; he's far younger than her parents and lives mostly in London, but she spent the summer after her mother's death abroad with him in Paris and Ukraine. Uncle Howard spent all of his days and a few of his evenings tied up in meetings that gave him stress lines and grey hair before he hit forty, but if he found the added responsibility of caring for a bereaved fourteen-year-old girl a burden, he never let on to Roxy. Any time she needed him, he cleared off his schedule, and he made sure she wasn't given the opportunity to wallow in grief.

Today he saddles one of her father's horses and rides out to the pond on their estate with her.

“You've grown into an amazing young woman,” he tells her. “Your mother would be proud.”

Roxy dips her head in thanks, but Uncle Howard isn't done.

“I have,” he says, “A proposition which might be of interest to you. A job interview, of sorts. I'm afraid, Rox, I've not been entirely honest with you.”

 

She doesn't believe him at first, of course. Her father set him up for this, she's sure. Maybe there's some sort of surprise party at the end?

Then Uncle Howard swears her to secrecy and shows her five minutes of footage from the glasses he had on the time he stopped a secret cabal from taking over Bulgaria.

“You can sit on your estate and ride horses all day, or you can get out there and save hundreds of people a year for the rest of your life.”

 

He tells her, of course, because he says she needs to think it through, that it'll be hard. Tells her she'll be looked down on from the start, because she's a woman and there's never been a woman Kingsman in the history of the organization. Tells her that they'll see the outer shell of hair and curves and diminutive stature and pass on to the next bloke. Tells her the other candidates will dismiss her and the other members will bet against her, and even if she makes it to the end she'll have to prove herself all over again to every member of the old boy's club and still they might not ever accept her as a peer.

Tells her he believes she can do it with both hands tied behind her back. That her mother would say the same if she were still here.

They tell her father she's trying out for a job in marketing at his firm's Iceland branch.

 

She's surprised to see another woman in the bunker, but the rest goes more or less as she expected.

More, because, Uncle Howard aside, she hasn't spent twenty-three years surrounded by boys of her age and her class and her interests to be ignorant of what it means when Piers and Digby nudge each other when she walks in, or why Charlie's hand lingers just a few seconds too long when she shakes it.

Less, because five minutes later Eggsy Unwin walks in, and Piers and Digby and Charlie forget all about her in favor of him.

She's already made up her mind, though. Even if she didn't give a toss about the job or Uncle Howard, she'd beat them all just to see the looks on their faces.

 

Merlin doesn't give them a chance to dry off, after he floods their dorm, before he hands them socks and trainers, warms them up with some calisthenics, then sends them on a five-mile run outside. The track's lit well enough for him to pull a stool up next to a spotlight and do paperwork while they jog around the track.

He pretends he's not watching them with gimlet eyes, but Roxy isn't fooled. She sets a comfortable pace at the start and sticks to it. Hugo sprints ahead of the pack (Roxy noticed he was last one to the toilets, barring Eggsy and Amelia, and she wonders if it's himself or the others whom he's trying to impress), but Eggsy matches her stride for stride, and they end up finishing together behind two of the others.

“You didn't want to keep up with him?” She asks him, slightly winded, when Charlie looks back at them and smirks towards the end of the run.

Eggsy smiles. “Dawn's in three hours. Thought I'd save my strength.”

Roxy huffs a laugh with what spare breath she's got and refocuses on the guys at the front of the pack as Piers finally falls behind.

A minute later she turns to ask Eggsy how he knows what time it is without a watch and catches him turning away, feigning (and failing) disinterest. It takes her a second to realize he isn't ogling her, he's sizing her up the same way she's sizing up Charlie and Nathaniel up front.

By the time they make it back to their dorm, their mattresses have been replaced and their personal belongings are gone. Amelia's bed lies bare, and Roxy tries to push it out of her mind. She focuses, instead, on what she's learned about the other recruits: Piers has problems reigning in his emotions; Charlie's resourceful and can keep a cool head in a crisis, but is kind of a selfish dick; Eggsy, judging by the slight bruising on his neck and ribs, probably has some experience fighting, and he takes her as seriously as he does the other recruits.

She falls asleep strategizing.

 

She's had dogs before, of course; her father is fond of fox-hunting, and they kept hounds on the estate. The poodle is an excellent specimen. Roxy decides to name her Lulu, which means 'famous warrior' and is a perfectly reasonable name for a dog.

She's a wiggly little thing, though, shaking with nerves the first time even though she's huddled up against Roxy's stomach like a defective space heater.

“Christ,” she says when Eggsy asks after her bloodshot eyes the next morning. “Ms. Wriggles didn't let me catch a wink.”

And that is that.

 

Merlin's scheduled their days so they don't have a spare minute. Morning drills are followed by breakfast, followed by class time (politics, history, and diplomacy), followed by dinner, followed by weapons training, followed by class time (hacking and applied mathematics), followed by more drills, followed again by class time (miscellaneous), followed by supper. After supper they're allowed to use the computer lab, library, or gym to complete their assignments for the next day. Theoretically they're on their own: Merlin's nowhere to be seen, and nobody finds anything that looks like a camera or a microphone, but when Merlin makes Rufus run three extra laps the morning after Rufus throws a hissy fit after he loses an after-hours spar with Charlie, Roxy isn't too surprised.

She wonders how much of the training the other members are allowed to follow; wonders if Uncle Howard's watching.

Four days in, Piers annihilates everyone at archery before revealing he was an alternate on the last Olympic team. Roxy mentally kicks herself in the head and carves out twenty minutes a night the next week for some judicious googling.

The others are basically what she expected: archery, tae-kwon-do, cricket, debate team, a mention in the pamphlet for a hunting club. Roxy takes careful notes of everyone's skills and commits them to memory.

Eggsy's a little harder to find (especially since she doesn't realize his real name is Gary for the first full week), but eventually she digs up a few old articles: prize-winning science project at twelve, yearly gymnastics competitions from eleven to sixteen which suddenly cease, competitive-

“Oh,” Roxy says.

 

“Parkour.”

Eggsy looks up from his book on Czechoslovakia and quirks an eyebrow. “Mmm?”

J.B. takes that moment to pop her head out from under the blankets snuggled around Eggsy's lap and burrows into his side. Roxy's not sure that Eggsy's grabbing the pug and settling her into the crook of his arm, where it's warm, is even conscious.

“Teach me parkour,” Roxy tells him. Asks him. “You started the freerunning club at your secondary, right? Useful skill, for a Kingsman. Teach me, and I'll-I'm sure there's something I can show you.”

Eggsy looks down at the book in his hands and squints back up at her. For a second, Roxy doesn't think he's going to take her up, but then he grins. “You're a blackbelt, yeah?”

Roxy nods. “Karate. But-”

“Teach me to fight.” Eggsy sets his book aside and runs his fingers over J.B.'s head. “I know Merlin's got it programmed, but you've all got training, and I don't like being behind.”

“But-” Roxy thinks back to the first night they met, the bruises on his face and neck and ribs, then thinks about how Eggsy's held himself through the basic hand-to-hand they've done. She thought he was just holding back, playing his cards close to his chest, but maybe-maybe he really doesn't know what he's doing. “You don't know how to fight?”

He shrugs. Huffs. “Couple o' fistfights in sixth form, but, nah. Not like you lot.”

Huh.

“All right.” Roxy sticks her hand out, and they shake. “An hour after supper? We can alternate nights.”

Eggsy grins and agrees and turns back to J.B. and his book, and Roxy heads to her own bunk and reshuffles her thoughts.

 

The toilets in the dorm are communal, but there are stalls off the gym and the computer labs open for use except during lights out.

It is, frankly, disturbing how often you can walk into one and hear heavy breathing and the sound of a hand rubbing over skin issuing from a closed stall, but Roxy supposes it's inevitable.

One time someone leaves a picture of Kate Upton with the words 'Kingsman Morton, Honeypot' scribbled on it in sharpie taped to the inside of the stall door. Roxy wipes it thoroughly with disinfectant, takes it down, and tucks it under her mattress.

It is quite excellent, as a motivational tool.

 

Merlin wasn't kidding when he said the dogs went everywhere with them. So much as a trip to the loo without yours and he makes you drop wherever you are and give him thirty pushups.

Whenever Roxy spends time in the computer lab, Ms. Wriggles curls up next to the nearest tower and naps in the heat from the fans. Her tongue lolls out, and her paws wriggle, sometimes, when she dreams. Often the sound of her breathing is Roxy's only companion while she works.

 

Roxy's first karate lesson establishes that Eggsy knows how to take a fall. They practice anyway, because you can never be too safe, then she leads him through some basic stances and works on his form. Nathaniel kicks and punches at a heavy bag in the corner and pretends not to watch.

At the end of the lesson, Roxy demonstrates a couple of quick takedown moves which, while effective, her dojo master would make her do planks for ten straight minutes for using in a proper fight.

“Tha's great,” Eggsy says when she flips him, decks him, and lands on his chest with her arm over his throat and her left leg hooked over his so he can't move. He's got one hand on her arm and the other on her chest in a futile attempt at shoving her off that he gives up on pretty quickly, dropping his hand so it rests on his own stomach. “Show me again?”

 

Eggsy's first freerunning lesson ('S not parkour, it's running, yeah?) is spent establishing Roxy's ability to turn a fall into a forward roll and teaching her how to see obstacles as terrain. It's different from what Roxy expected.

“The bench ain't there to be in your way,” he tells her when she stumbles in a garden. “It's there for you to use. So use it.”

And that's something Roxy can understand.

 

Two weeks in she has her first nightmare, dreams of Amelia coughing and choking and making a last-ditch effort to reach the toilets. She wakes with a gasp and thanks her lucky stars she didn't wake anyone else.

 

She soon realizes she was partly mistaken her first night in the dorm. The fact that the other guys see her as a possible source of sex doesn't mean they dismiss her as an opponent. They're equally aggressive (and dickish and rude) to her as they are to each other, which honestly makes it all the more frustrating when they pull stupid shit like hiding her sports bras before a run or dunking her entire stash of tampons in the toilet.

She wants to tell them they're better than this, but obviously they're not, so she keeps her mouth shut instead and focuses on winning, always winning, always showing them through actions what they'd only mock through words.

 

They're not supposed to feed their dogs outside of the dog food provided, but Ms. Wriggles curls up at the feet of Roxy's chair every breakfast, dinner, and supper, and her big, brown eyes seem to stare straight into Roxy's soul. None of the estate dogs were ever allowed inside the Morton residence-which, judging by the amount of bacon Ms. Wriggles consumes (thanks in large part to Eggsy's lessons in sleight of hand), was probably a good thing for their health.

Roxy always makes their runs a little longer so Ms. Wriggles won't get fat, anyway, so she figures it won't make a difference.

 

One month in, Merlin dismisses them one Saturday afternoon and says they're free until lights out.

“There's a pub and a Tube station ten minutes that way, if you're so inclined,” he tells them, pointing down the drive. “I hardly need to warn you about discretion.”

Roxy's not under the impression that this is anything other than a test, and her mind's racing ahead. It may be a test to see who's committed enough to miss out on a pub night and stay to work, in which case she clearly needs to stay here. On the other hand, they may expect the recruits to recognize that this is a test and have set something up at the pub or Tube station, in which case she clearly can't stay here. Then again, she really needs to finish an analysis and critique of a sample mission, and her Eggsy's lunge punch could use some work. But then again, she'd just about kill for a beer and a quick fuck.

What the hell.

“I have some work to finish,” she tells Eggsy, “I'll meet you there in an hour?”

But Eggsy smiles and says “I'll wait.”

They all wind up at the same pub. The other boys are already mildly buzzed when Roxy and Eggsy walk in, but they pull two chairs up to the table anyway.

It's funny; five weeks earlier none of them would have had enough in common to hold five minutes' conversation, but now they spend three hours drinking beer and playing darts and taking the piss off each other.

Nicola, the pub owner's daughter, works the till that evening. She's quiet, curvy in ways a peasant blouse and ill-fitted jeans can't hide, head topped with a mass of dark brown curls with pink dye coloring the tips.

Roxy's mouth goes dry when she sets eyes on the girl.

She hides it well, though; holds in her blushes and doesn't so much as smile when their fingers brush over a mug, pretends she doesn't see the way the girl stammers and ogles Roxy's breasts. The boys aren't so kind to the girl, though, and their innuendo grows less and less subtle until Digby makes a particularly nasty joke about threesomes that Charlie actually smacks him on the shoulder for.

“Leave off her, yeah?” is all that Eggsy says-mutters over the brim of his mug as if he's not paying attention-and Digby does, somewhat surprisingly, though Roxy knows that's less because of any possible threat Eggsy poses and more because 'I hardly need to warn you about discretion' still rings in everybody's thoughts.

Roxy and Eggsy leave just a bit earlier with the others, at Eggsy's suggestion. They walk back to the manor side by side against the evening chill. Roxy knows she's shivering a bit, so she isn't surprised when Eggsy drops his arm down over her shoulders and leans on her a little.

“Next time, Rox,” he says, though, and that is a surprise, “We'll have a gameplan.”

“Hmm?” Roxy leans back into him. He smells like the aftershave that Uncle Howard uses.

“Nicola. I can-y'know. Distract the others.” He waggles his eyebrows. “I'll be your wingman, yeah?”

Her breath stops; her back stiffens; her heart flops up into her throat. Eggsy lets his arm drop away immediately-only to put both hands on her arms and lean down so he meets her, eye to eye.

“You know I won't tell no one.”

She does. If anyone else understands what it means to show weakness in front of the sort of petty, narrow men who run Kingsman, it's Eggsy.

“Yeah,” Roxy says. She breathes. Relaxes. Shrugs off his hands and walks on. “Thanks.”

Eggsy doesn't say anything else about it, but he puts his arm back over her shoulders and presses a short, soft kiss to the top of her head.

 

Eggsy, Roxy realizes six weeks in, never hugs her or touches her beyond bumping her shoulder or giving her a high-five when they're around any of the others. She's not sure if he doesn't want anyone to think she needs protecting or if he doesn't want anyone to exploit their friendship.

It's thoughtful of him, either way.

 

They start the serious hand-to-hand at the six week mark. Roxy doesn't expect traditional martial arts, exactly (beyond the fact that Kingsman is entirely too British, the scope of the lessons is broader than that), but the sheer brutality of the lessons surprises.

Merlin takes little of the physical aspect in hand himself, bringing in other trainers instead. There's one for each recruit. Roxy's paired up with an Olympian from Algeria who tells her to call him Lellouche. He's all smiles and friendliness and, five minutes after meeting her, puts her in a chokehold and actually knocks her out.

She gets up as soon as she can and asks him to show her how he did it.

The bruises blossom black and blue in bands around her neck that evening. It itches when she talks, aches when she breathes, and flat-out hurts when she clears her throat.

Hugo's got a puffy lip, Charlie's got a black eye, and Eggsy's sprawled out boneless on his stomach when she heads back to the dorm.

“Hrrmmmm,” is all he says when she pokes him. His face is mashed into his pillow so she barely hears it.

“Fine, suffocate,” she croaks as she flops out on her own bed. God, but it feels good to be off her feet. She didn't realize how much they hurt until she hit the mattress. Ms. Wriggles immediately hops up in between her legs, props her front paws up on Roxy's chest, and licks her nose with gusto. Roxy tries not to laugh (she imagines it'll hurt) and mostly succeeds. “See if I care.”

She shuts her eyes and closes her arms around Ms. Wriggles, who settles against her stomach happily. Roxy doesn't look, but she hears Eggsy turn his head, and next thing she knows something small and hard bonks her on the side of the head and lands next to her pillow.

“What-” A packet of cough drops.

Eggsy's on his back now, arms akimbo and a teeny-tiny smile on his face. “For y'r throat. 'S good. Night, Rox.”

She's pretty sure he falls asleep in the two seconds between that and her 'thanks'.

 

The week they study seduction during their 'Miscellaneous' class, Digby's file, a carefully-researched analysis of a honeypot mission from 1959, encounters a virus and gets corrupted just before he prints it out on Friday evening. Curiously, it's not a total loss: all the Rs, Ts, and Es simply vanish from his paper, and he's forced to miss Saturday pub night to retype all twelve pages of it.

Merlin, oddly, doesn't say a thing, even though Roxy's sure he saw the quirk of Eggsy's lips as well as hers when Digby moaned about it.

 

Eggsy's fourteenth lesson in freerunning involves doing something on top of a church tower. Roxy's not sure what, exactly, because she takes one look over the edge and vomits.

Eggsy, bless him, holds her hair back and sits her down with her head between her knees when she finishes.

“Sorry,” she mumbles a few minutes later. Her hands slip against the denim over her knees when she tries to rub the sweat off. “I'm not so-I don't-heights-”

“'S fine,” he says. “No worries, mate. Y'know it's going to come up again though, yeah?”

“I know,” Roxy answers miserably. She rubs her hands over her eyes. It's only a matter of time until they have to do something ridiculous, like-like climb a mountain or jump off a plane, and Roxy doesn't know how she'll manage it.

But she has to.

Eggsy doesn't say anything else just then, though, and they sit next to each other until her lightheadedness passes.

 

They don't always go to the same pub, but they find themselves there often enough on Saturdays, two months in, that Nicola fades in the boys' notice until she's just another part of the scenery.

Roxy flirts a little bit when there's no one near enough to hear, aside from Eggsy. Nicola's twenty-one, she learns, just two years younger than Roxy herself. She's studying archaeology at a uni in the city, and she's hoping to join a dig in Greece headed by one of her professors when she graduates, so she's trying to avoid getting involved with anyone before she graduates.

“Least, for anything serious,” she tells Roxy one Saturday with a smirk. “I get off in twenty minutes.”

Which is a line ripe for tacky wordplay if ever there was one, but Roxy only smiles and takes her order back to their table. Eggsy looks up from his seat next to her then, with the most careful carelessness she's ever seen, knocks her glass end over end into her lap so her ale splatters all over her trousers.

“Aww, fuck, I'm sorry, mate.”

He actually dabs at her trousers with a napkin before ushering her off to the ladies' room. She picks up the bag she stashed in there earlier, new pair of jeans with the tags still on them folded carefully inside, and waits five minutes. When she goes back out front, the table they'd sat at is empty except for a new glass of beer and a napkin with a winky face drawn on it in sharpie.

Roxy sits back down and sips at her beer until Nicola slides out from behind the till.

“I've a room over the bar,” Nicola says. She grins, leads Roxy upstairs to a two-room flat, and locks the door carefully behind them before she leans in for a kiss.

They don't actually make it to the bed until three hours later.

 

Four months in, they're learning how to defuse a bomb (under the careful supervision of a woman who doesn't tell them her name but carries herself like a soldier) when Merlin appears suddenly at their instructor's side, clipboard conspicuously absent.

“Eggsy,” he calls out. His tone is-different. Soft. His face is inscrutable as ever, though, and Eggsy trades a bemused look with Roxy before he heaves himself to his feet and follows Merlin twenty feet away.

Merlin sets his hand on Eggsy's shoulder and speaks for a minute. If Roxy didn't know Eggsy, she'd miss the tiny little step back, how his fingers clench into fists behind his back like they do when he really wants to punch someone in the face. When Merlin moves his hand, Eggsy actually flinches.

“Hey, focus?” Charlie hisses at her, and she turns back to the wires in front of her with a start.

When she glances back up, Merlin and Eggsy are gone.

 

He's in the dorm when they get back, hunched over on the edge of his bed with J.B. cuddled up in his lap.

“What's wrong?” She sits down next to him and, carefully, puts her arm around his back. He doesn't turn away from J.B., but he leans into the touch.

His breath, when he speaks, hitches.

“My,” he starts, and pauses. His fingers rub the scrunched-up folds of skin between J.B.'s eyes. “My spo-Ha-there. Uh, there was a-”

Ms. Wriggles tugs at the end of one of his boot laces. He doesn't notice.

“There was a, an accident,” he says. “My-”

Hugo bangs the door open and falls onto the bed nearest it with a loud groan.

“If you're going to shag, kindly fuck off somewhere else,” he tells them. “I'm fucked.”

Eggsy stiffens and straightens and shuts all expression off his his face, and Roxy knows he'll shake off her hand and shut her out if she doesn't ask again.

“Let's go for a run,” she says instead. She's grabbing both the dogs' leashes before he's grokked her standing up.

For a second he almost says no, she can tell, but he ends up shrugging and follows her out, J.B. scampering ahead of him.

 

They end up on the moonlit field behind the target range, sprawled out shoulder to shoulder with their J.B. and Ms. Wriggles curled up between the curves and hills of human limbs between them.

“It's my-Harry,” he says. “My sponsor. He was on a-he was injured, he was. He's in a coma. Merlin said he doesn't-he doesn't know-”

She gropes in the dark and presses his hand into hers. She's not sure when he starts crying quietly, less sure when he stops, but several minutes later she sees, in the starlight, wetness shining on his cheeks.

“My Dad was a Kingsman,” he says eventually. “Harry's the one who told us when he died. Gave us a medal, said if we needed a favor...Mum was-we was-shit. My-my stepdad, he's a bastard, never treated mum right. He used to-fuck it, doesn't matter, he's a wanker. I stole his mate's car. Harry got me out an' told me I could change, and when I went back an' Dean started in on me, he...fucking hell, Rox, he's the only one who ever car-”

He takes a deep and shuddering breath, and Roxy brings his hand up to rest on her stomach and rubs her fingers over the back of it.

His cheeks are dry, but his eyes are still red-rimmed when they walk back to the dorm. For once none of the others say a word.

 

Eggsy's different after that. More driven—which is saying something, considering. He sneaks off every day for ten or thirty minutes to sit with Harry, no matter how busy he is, and he starts skipping Saturdays to stay in and work ahead.

Roxy stays with him sometimes, to keep him company. Others, she spends an evening at Nicola's flat. They lay in bed after sex and watch movies or read together, Roxy's head cushioned on Nicola's soft stomach. It's pleasant. Tranquil. There's no need to be strong in front of her; no reason to keep a stiff upper lip and ignore, ignore, ignore every underhanded snipe that's tossed her way, even if there are less of them every day.

She thinks that she could fall in love with Nicola if she gave herself permission. She won't, of course.

But living in the quiet moment's pleasant all the same.

 

She still dreams of Amelia sometimes. Sometimes she dreams she is Amelia, diving into a pool and choking while the water rushes up around her. Sometimes she dreams she as Amelia stands in a plane, ready to jump, when suddenly she falls and the air around her turns to water and fills her lungs. She falls for hours, and it is excruciating each and every time to drown.

 

Hours turn into weeks turn into days turn into months.

“'S Daisy's birthday,” Eggsy says one day when he's spotting Roxy on the shooting range. “She's two.”

There's wistfulness in his voice, but it's light.

“There are only two months left,” she says. His grip tightens on her shoulder in a friendly squeeze, not hard enough to jar her aim. She breathes in and out carefully, sights down the gun. “I'm sure she misses you too.”

Eggsy grunts noncommittally.

“I'd like to meet her when we're done.” She says it before she can think it through. She hasn't spent much time about wondering what life will be like once she's Lancelot (because she refuses to entertain an alternate vision of the future), but she realizes she's just tacitly assumed she'll still have pub nights with Eggsy every Saturday. “If you want.”

“Yeah, that'd be good.”

She lets loose her breath and pulls the trigger. Bulls-eye.

“Mum'll love you.”

 

Most days she falls asleep as soon as she hits her bed, exhausted from the long, long days, but sometimes she wakes up an hour before morning call and can't fall back asleep.

Nights like that, she takes Ms. Wriggles outside and teaches her all the stupid tricks she never got to teach any of her other dogs. Four weeks before the end of training, Ms. Wriggles knows how to shake hands, high five, jump rope, jump through a hoop, jump over Roxy, beg, and act ashamed.

They're the happiest mornings Roxy's ever spent.

 

Eggsy turns twenty-two the Saturday before they're scheduled to go sky-diving.

“We should celebrate,” Roxy tells him. Eggsy shrugs, but he puts on one of his caps when they leave.

They get so, so drunk that they have to lean on each other all the way home, and they stop once or twice to bend over and vomit on the edge of the sidewalk.

The next morning, Merlin lectures them for fifteen solid minutes and makes them run thirty laps hungover. Eggsy throws up two more times and has to drag J.B. away from the pile of sick once.

“Remind me never to listen to you again,” he tells her when they finally hit the showers, but he's grinning all the same.

 

Nicola leaves that Sunday.

“If you're ever in Greece,” she says with a smile, “Look me up.”

Roxy says she will, and she thinks she even means it.

 

She steps off the ramp and falls through the sky.

“I've got you,” Eggsy says.

They fall. They tumble and spin and hurtle towards the ground, but Eggsy says he's got her, and then Roxy hits the parachute-

-and Roxy's got herself, too.

 

She leaves Eggsy with Merlin and walks away as quickly as she can so she won't puke in their instructor's sight. Her legs start to wobble when she rounds the corner, and she sinks to the ground and shakes.

She just jumped. Off. A. Fucking. Plane.

Eggsy finds her several minutes later. He's grinning, the bastard.

“Rox,” he says, “I've been an idiot.”

She manages to 'Hmmm' without being sick all over his shoes which she thinks shows a remarkable level of self-restraint.

“You were brilliant up there,” he tells her then, bending down so they're eye-to-eye. “You're amazing, Roxy Morton.”

Doesn't mean she can walk for five more minutes, but it's very nice to hear.

 

She dreams of Amelia and wakes up tied to a set of train tracks.

“Fuck you,” she says the first time the man asks. She hopes Eggsy got away. Hopes they didn't kill him already. Hopes Uncle Howard will help her dad through what's to come.

He asks her if it's worth dying for, and that doesn't even merit a reply. She spits at him instead (though, being all tied up, she can't get proper leverage, and the ball of saliva lands on her own stomach instead. Still, it's the thought that counts).

It's almost anti-climactic, really, when she doesn't die.

 

Uncle Howard greets her with a big, warm hug and takes her out to dinner.

“I couldn't be prouder,” he says. “No matter what happens. You should've seen their faces when the other recruits washed out. Knew you could do it, kiddo.”

He's different than the last time she saw him. Longer hair, curls dangling over the edge of his neck to hit the collar of his shirt. It must itch, because he scratches occasionally at the hair behind his ears all throughout supper.

“I've got a mission next week,” he tells her. “Have to keep it long until then. I'm sure you'll be a Kingsman by the time I get back.”

His smile's wide, but something's missing. Something's off. She won't realize what it is until she's on the plane headed to Valentine's fortress, and by then it will be too late.

 

She tells Ms. Wriggles to heel, and Ms. Wriggles heels and sits and looks up at her, pink tongue lolling out. She looks like she's smiling.

Merlin hands her the gun and looks her in the eyes.

“Shoot the dog,” he says.

 

A year ago, Roxy would have called Eggsy weak, and she would have been wrong. She's seen him since then-she's known him since then-and there's nothing weak about him any more than there is about her.

Eggsy is warmhearted, though, soft with the burdens of kindness and empathy. He gave up drugs when his mum found some in his room and cried, and he gave up smoking when his sister was born because he didn't want to hurt her with secondhand smoke (and also, Roxy gathers, because he didn't want Daisy to grow up thinking smoking was cool or that all guys were fuckheads-and the less said about Daisy's father, the better). At night, sometimes, Roxy's heard him petting J.B. and telling her she did a good job on the run today, as if the pug understands him. Eggsy visited Harry every day he spent in a coma even though he couldn't spare the time, tucking the notes from his lessons into his pockets so he could study them in stolen moments in between drills or in the toilets after lunch.

Eggsy, to put it simply, is the sort of man who'll take a year of grueling training, who'll undergo a week of sleep deprivation and psychological fuckery to prep him in case he's ever tortured, who'll let himself be picked at and humiliated time and time again for months by a bunch of yobs who can't let themselves see past irrelevancies and decoration-who'll take all that without complaint because what's at the end is something he'd fight tooth and claw and fist to find-and who will let it slip out of his grasp because he knows, more than most, that the world isn't fair, but he still believes with every fiber of his being that it should be, and he's just too fucking nice to behave counter to that.

That's not weakness at all. Refusing to leave behind the weakest even when it is in service of the greater good takes a very special kind of strength.

But Roxy is strong in a different sort of way, and the minute Merlin hands her the gun she knows the job is hers.

 

It doesn't mean, of course, that her hands don't shake and her stomach doesn't heave, that she doesn't drop the gun or cry when Ms. Wriggles only yips and barks at the shot. They do and it does and she holds Ms. Wriggles close and sniffs into the poodle's belly, and she whispers 'I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm so, so sorry' to the quivering little creature in her arms.

Doesn't mean she wouldn't stand right back up and do it with real bullets if Merlin told her she had to, either.

 

Everything happens pretty quickly after that.

She jumps out of the fucking atmosphere. Shoots down a satellite. Doesn't die in the descent. Collapses in the plane and breaks into hysterical tears because Jesus Christ, that was so high up-”I am never doing that again,” she says, and Merlin pats her on the back and hands her a tumbler of whiskey and tells her she just stopped several million people from killing each other.

“And I'm so proud of both of you,” he says.

And she's proud of both of them too.

 

Cleanup is, in Eggsy's words, a clusterfuck. Half the world's governments just had their heads explode in tandem, and most of the other half were killed in the meantime. Arthur's dead, Galahad's dead, and Merlin can't get hold of anyone except for Tristan, who got run over by a truck in a riot in Ireland and will never walk again.

Uncle Howard must be dead. The implant behind his ear must have been bothering him all through supper for him to have minded it so much. He must have had a bunker somewhere, because his body's not among any of those at Valentine's fortress, but even if he survived the violence he certainly died by Merlin's hand.

So it's three agents for the whole of the U.K., one of whom is in the habit of running missions from behind a desk and two who are greener than green, as far as fieldwork goes.

But they'll manage. Harry's left Eggsy a house, and she's helping him move himself and his mum and his sister in and buying one of her own just down the street, and there are both a dog park and a pub within easy walking distance. Merlin's got plans to scale down their operations until more recruits can be trained or borrowed from other agencies, and Nicola's got plans to visit home for Hannukah, which Roxy's invited to.

Yeah, they're going to manage just fine, no matter how long it takes for things to get back to normal. Because she? is Kingsman Agent Roxy Morton, who just saved the world with her best friend, and they can do anything they set their fucking minds to.