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Merlin told Harry it was because Eggsy was still green and could benefit from working with a more experienced agent. Merlin told Eggsy it was because Harry sustained some brain damage from the church incident, so while he wasn’t ready to retire, he needed someone with him in case things went south. With each new mission, Merlin told them both that the nature of the mission necessitated they present themselves as a couple.

In this way, Harry and Eggsy found themselves on several missions together, each time playing a couple of some sort, always thinking they were letting the other save face and secretly pleased they got to show off for their partner.

Roxy raised her eyebrow at Merlin meaningfully, but he sipped his tea and continued his steadfast mission surveillance. If she asked, which she didn’t, he would tell her that he was not meddling, because he wasn’t. It was true that Harry needed someone with Eggsy’s agility and that Eggsy needed someone (like Harry, for example) to temper his impulsiveness. If, along the way, Harry realized Eggsy was just as infatuated with him as he was with Eggsy (or vice versa), that was really none of Merlin’s business. And he definitely would not meddle.

******

The first time, the mission was like something straight out of James Bond, Eggsy thought. Each in a brand new tuxedo – Harry’s elegant and classic, Eggsy’s flashy and head turning of course – they made their way into a lavishly set charity ball. Harry was meant to play a rich and powerful businessman with a possessive streak, Eggsy a young and hungry lawyer who had met Harry as one of the associates working on his latest divorce. Their job was to get financial information from Damion Wyatt, also a key figure in the London business world, but with strong ties to (or possibly the head of) an international drug ring which was about to enter into human trafficking as well, according to intel. Plan A was for Eggsy to catch the mark’s eye, cozy up to him, and coax crucial info out of him so that Merlin could track the group’s finances and cut them off before anyone else could be harmed. If that didn’t work out, Plan B was for Harry to catch them at it, threaten Wyatt in a fit of jealousy, but broker a buy-in to the drug smuggling ring in exchange for letting the man go unharmed.

After a solid twenty minutes of Eggsy wrapped around Wyatt in a room off the main ballroom, he was losing patience with the man making a sloppy effort to snog him. When Wyatt dipped his head to lick incompetently at Eggsy’s earlobe (again, seriously what was with this guy?), Eggsy couldn’t help an eye roll at the ceiling and his answering “moan of pleasure” sounded even more fake then before. Eggsy had tried and failed several times to prompt conversation with the man, and knowing he couldn’t get anywhere himself, he was dying for Harry to step in and get things wrapped up.

When Harry finally did storm in, Eggsy’s relief quickly turned to interest and even a little confusion. If Harry was pretending to be jealous, he was a better actor than Eggsy ever could have imagined. The look of rage on his face was so genuine, Eggsy forgot for a second who Wyatt was and almost felt a little sorry for the guy. Almost.

Harry slammed Wyatt into a wall with such force that several of the paintings on the wall rattled and one even fell from its hooks. Although a hardened criminal, Wyatt turned into a sniveling mess and gave up the info they needed within a matter of minutes. Even so, Harry kept him pinned to the wall, as if wanting to harm the guy anyway. Eggsy appreciated Harry’s commitment to the role and wanting to make the de-escalation of the moment seem natural, but when Harry was still holding the guy a full minute later, Eggsy figured it was time to step in.

“Babe, come on. I’m tired. Let’s go home. Let me make it up to you, yeah?”

Harry wheeled on Eggsy then, as if really furious he had been snogging someone else, but Eggsy quirked his eyebrow at him – subtle enough to go unnoticed by the mark, but just enough to ask Harry silently, What’s going on guv? Shouldn’t we be getting out of here about now?

Harry took a shuttering breath and finally recovered. “Right,” he cleared his throat, finally resuming his pompous and collected persona, “Yes, you have a lot of making up to do. I knew you weren’t that fussy when I took you on, but you have a lot of begging to do if I’m going to keep you around after this. Let’s go.”

Finally, Harry let Wyatt down none too gently, spinning and grabbing Eggsy’s arm with the hand that had just been clenched in Wyatt’s pristine, white shirt. Harry’s grip on Eggsy’s arm was a bit too firm at first, but when Eggsy looked up in a moment of genuine surprise, his grip softened, as if realizing that this was in fact Eggsy and that the betrayal had been an act.

Once back in the car on the way back to the shop, Harry finally let go of Eggsy’s arm. There was a moment of total silence, which was not unusual for them, but what was usually companionable quiet now seemed loaded with so much unspoken anger. Eggsy didn’t know how to diffuse the situation or what the problem was exactly, but he took a shot anyway.

“Alright Harry?” Eggsy ventured.

Harry seemed to snap back from whatever he had been thinking about, clearing his throat as he turned his attention back to Eggsy. “Yes. Um… yes. Good. Fine. Well done, Eggsy. That was… you were very convincing.”

“Well thanks mate, but I think you take the trophy tonight. What was that? You seemed… I don’t know. I was worried you were going to take the guy out before we ever learned nothin from him.”

“Oh. Yes. Well. Couldn’t have him suspecting anything now could we? And besides, fear is a powerful motivator, especially for someone like him. Someone gets high up enough in an organization, everyone handles them so carefully. They become so much more susceptible to threats of harm, especially ones so tangible to them. You send a menacing letter, they think nothing of it, but you ruffle a hair and they start crying for their mum.”

Eggsy had to giggle at that. “I’ll keep that in mind for next time.” After a few more moments he sobered up and returned his focus to Harry, once again withdrawn and staring out the window at London passing by. “Really though, Harry, mate, is everything alright? You seemed real upset back there and I just… I mean, we’re good, yeah?”

“Of course Eggsy, don’t be silly, why wouldn’t we be?”

“I don’t know. I just, well, you just seemed real upset. But like… maybe with me too, yeah? Did I mess something up? Cuz I can do better next time I just need to know.”

“No, not at all Eggsy. You did a rather spectacular job yourself actually. No, if anyone messed up it was me, my boy. The truth is… well you see the thing is…” Harry took a breath to regroup, looking down at his hands. He believed in only speaking with full assurance but once again tonight, he couldn’t seem to get control of himself. He tried again, “To be perfectly honest with you Eggsy, a sense of possessiveness is a character flaw which I share with tonight’s alias. You can ask Merlin, it’s always been an issue with me, but I have never been good at sharing and I don’t like people touching my things.” The last bit came out all in a rush and he took a moment to breathe before hurrying on to explain, “Not that you are a ‘thing’ of course. Nor can I claim you as ‘mine’ really but, you see dear boy, I… well I care for you, of course I do. You are an excellent agent and my recruit and my partner on this mission which is all beside the point that you are a part of Kingsman which I have always considered to be my family and well… we are friends, as well as colleagues. So seeing you with that… with that cretin all over you it was… well it was unpleasant to say the least, and so I went off a bit, I suppose.”

In the moment of silence that followed his little rant, Harry couldn’t bring himself to look up, terrified that he’d muddled everything up now. However, he then heard the click of a seatbelt and stiffened momentarily as he felt Eggsy press up against his side, wrapping his arms around Harry’s mid-section in a comforting hug. Eggsy tucked his head somewhere around Harry’s chest, facing away so he could say what he wanted to without it being too mushy.

“Thanks for caring about me Harry. And for coming in after me. The bastard was a lousy kisser and a bloke can only fake interest for so long, yeah?” He chuckled as he tried to lighten the mood again, and when Harry finally joined in, squeezing his arm in return for a moment, Eggsy sat back up and looked Harry in the eye. Both felt like they should say something more but, what was left to say?

Actually, there were many things they both wanted to say, but neither was sure how they would be received. Instead Eggsy decided to let the moment stand, nodding at Harry once, and patting the other man’s leg as he turned back to face the front of the cab. They rode the rest of the way back like that – sitting closer than before, but not quite meeting in the middle.

*****
In the weeks following the ball, Eggsy and Harry found themselves on many missions together. Sometimes they were business partners turned life partners, sometimes they were a real estate mogul and a floozy trust fund kid. On one particularly memorable occasion, they found themselves in an exclusive gentlemen’s club, where the scotch flowed freely and there were stripper poles available should a guest decide to put on a little show. The club catered particularly to older gentlemen who “patronized” their younger, prettier partners. Harry and Eggsy were sent in to befriend a politician suspected of selling state secrets and his boy of the month. The plan was to divide and conquer, Eggsy chatting up his fellow boy toy in the bathroom for info, while at their table Harry hinted an interest at procuring certain information, baiting their mark to offer a deal.

They had to maintain the ruse over several nights of several weeks, which meant putting on the show of a couple as open and overt about their sexual relationship as the characters they were playing. It meant Harry had to grab freely and let his eyes wander over Eggsy again and again. It meant Eggsy hung on Harry now and again, giving him a lap dance on one occasion, a firm grope on another, and finally a full out poll dance number on one evening that neither was likely to forget anytime soon. If Eggsy was actually picturing Harry as he rubbed against the pole, that was his business and no one need know about it. If Harry adjusting himself in his trousers was not merely an act but was in fact necessary, well that just lent an air of authenticity, didn’t it?

All of this intimacy didn’t really seem to affect their relationship outside the missions at first, but slowly it caught up to them. They were as close as ever, perhaps more so since they had been spending all their time together, on the job as well as off. Around the manner they were often spotted bantering about football, catching up on the latest news about Daisy over tea, ribbing each other and squabbling while they worked out or went to the shooting range. Everything was very friendly and harmless.

The touching, however, neither was sure what to do about. With each new mission, they were in closer and closer physical contact. It was all part of their act, but eventually everything from brief touches to wrapping their arms around each other became second nature. All the gestures that made them convincing as a couple became necessary for work with increasing regularity, so what did that mean when they were off a mission? Neither had ever been overly shy about touching other people, let alone each other, but now Eggsy worried it meant something different.

Eggsy knew he how he really felt about Harry, and wanted to take advantage of any opportunity to be close to the man, but hesitated to initiate any kind of touch now. When they parted ways for the evening, could Eggsy hug Harry, or would it seem too intimate? In the morning when they met up for tea, Eggsy was always half asleep anyway and wanted to snuggle up to Harry as he often did Roxy, but worried that what would be friendly and endearing with her would seem too forward in this context, or even worse: desperate. Eggsy couldn’t trust his instincts concerning personal boundaries anymore, especially when all he wanted to do was strip down and give everything over to Harry.

What Eggsy didn’t know, of course, was that Harry felt caught in the same trap. Once, at HQ, Eggsy and Harry were chatting in the hallway when there was a sound of an explosion. Harry’s instinct was to shield Eggsy with his body but quickly realized how silly that had been. It turned out the sound had been a test of new grenades, taking place outside on the lawn. It had posed no real threat to them, but in any case, Eggsy was a full-fledged Kingsman agent, more than capable of taking care of himself.

Another time, Harry came into Eggsy’s office, finding the young agent working on writing up his mission report. When Eggsy really got into his description of the mission’s events, he seemed to write with his whole body: brow scrunched, shoulders hunched close to his ears, head down, and even the tiniest bit of tongue sticking out of the corner of his mouth. Harry quirked a small smile and knocked on the already open door as he approached the desk, trying to give the younger man fair warning of his presence. Even so, Eggsy jerked upright but was too distracted to notice the errant lock of hair hanging in his eyes. Harry’s urge to brush it back into place was so strong and immediate, his hand actually raised as if by its own will. Thinking better of it at the last possible moment, Harry hesitated and dropped the hand on Eggsy’s shoulder instead, adding a little squeeze and then a brief pat awkwardly before backing away.

“I didn’t mean to disturb you, I just wanted to, um, say ‘well done’. Bloody good job on the last mission. Got a bit rough there at the end though I suppose.”

“Oh yeah,” Eggsy replied excitedly, “I’m just typing it up now. That was quick thinking on your part though, taking the man’s cane and using it against him. Almost feel sorry him. Well, maybe not. He did try to take my eyes out and I have such lovely eyes. Would be a shame to lose one of them, wouldn’t it?”

“Yes Eggsy, having two eyes in your head certainly does suit you.” They both chuckled for a second at the awkwardness of the compliment before Harry gathered himself and remembered the other information he had needed to share with Eggsy before Eggsy’s hair had thrown him all off. The bit of hair that was still there, by the way, just sitting and taunting Harry. “I was also sent to inform you that we have another mission awaiting us.”

“Already? Wow, alright then, what’s this one look like?”

“I’m not properly sure at the moment; Merlin hasn’t filled me in entirely, but I believe it’s something to do with a smooth talking miscreant who is talking pensioners and married couples out of their well-earned savings.”

“Really? Couldn’t just hit up the posh families who’ve got millions to spare? This guy had to go after people who've only got so much anyhow?”

“So it would seem. The upside, however, is that he’s about to be taken out and the money returned to the rightful owners, and we get to be the ones to make it happen. So, interested?”

At Harry’s hopeful half smile, Eggsy broke out into a full on grin. “You know it, bruv. It’s on.”

*****
Thomas Albins, as it turned out, was making a tour of the English countryside, scouting all the tourist towns, bed and breakfasts, and vineyards for people on holiday who would be interested in giving to a charitable organization (one that really only benefitted him). Sometimes the organization was for children in South Africa, sometimes for refugees in the Middle East, sometimes for homeless youth within England. He changed his story with each town he hit, playing on the sympathies of whoever would listen to him. Harry and Eggsy were being sent in to offer themselves as his next targets and gather whatever intel they could, or if the opportunity presented itself, they were to take him aside, find a way to access his accounts so Merlin could return what Albins had taken, before escorting their captive to a local police establishment.

As Howard and Aaron Abbott respectively, Harry and Eggsy were playing a married couple taking a weekend holiday for their anniversary at a small bed and breakfast, out past Manchester. The drive up Friday evening passed pleasantly, sometimes in comfortable silence, sometimes chatting away. As Harry pulled up to the long driveway of their destination, however, Eggsy cut himself off midsentence before beginning to laugh.

Harry stopped the car and turned to his companion. “What’s so funny?”

Eggsy finally gathered himself a bit. “Nothing, it’s just so… so…” Eggsy fought to put his finger to what it was that had struck him about it. When he realized what it was, he came up with a lie quickly to cover. “It’s just so… absurdly English. Like something out of an Austen novel.” There was some truth in this; the blue shutters against the gray stone building, the pink and purple flowers out front, the entire left side of the building covered in ivy as if the ground was attempting to swallow the structure whole lent the distinct impression that it had been here for a few hundred years, and that a Bennett or a Dashwood might come out to greet them at any moment.

As Eggsy turned to look at Harry though, he stared in the face of what the building really made him think: comfortable, homey, and loads of old school charm. It was beautiful in a subtle, classic way that would never go out of style – not dissimilar from Harry, sitting there with his usual impeccable grooming but dressed down in slacks and a gray cardigan over his button down. Harry, for his own part, was struck by a similar thought. The understated loveliness of the place almost approached that of his companion in his jeans and deliciously cozy, purple, cashmere jumper.

Eventually they realized they’d been staring at each other just a little too long and Harry broke the moment with a small cough, “Yes, it’s lovely isn’t it? Absolutely perfect… for the mission. And we might as well enjoy a bit of a holiday, since we’re here.”

Eggsy grinned at him even as Harry was still looking away. Two days, away from London, with Harry? Was Eggsy planning to enjoy this mission? “Yes, Harry.”

After checking in and getting to their room, they had just a moment to settle in before going down to the inn’s restaurant for dinner – their first opportunity to be spotted by the target. While Harry “freshened up” (whatever that meant) in the bathroom, Eggsy flopped on the giant bed and enjoyed sinking in to the absurdly fluffy blankets. Harry came out to find his mission partner asleep, sprawled like a starfish across the king sized bed. Someone was certainly getting into the spirit of their holiday cover story. Which reminded him…

When Harry found the small box he’d tucked away in his bag, he perched on the edge of the bed and shook Eggsy’s arm gently. Eggsy blinked a few times and rolled his head towards the source of the motion, finding Harry smiling out of one corner of his mouth.

“Sorry guv, must’ve dropped off a bit.”

“It’s no problem, you must have been tired.”

“Apparently,” Eggsy replied as the rest of his brain came back online. He sat up when he finally registered the small, velvet box in Harry’s hand. “Um, Harry, what’s that?”

Harry chuckled, “Now darling, what kind of husband would I be if I didn’t get you a little something for our anniversary?”

Eggsy grinned in return. “Aw, love, you shouldn’t have. I didn’t think to get you anything.” As Eggsy finished speaking, his worry became half serious. Should he have gotten something for Harry? Was there some sort of undercover, holiday etiquette he wasn’t aware of?

Harry smiled a little more at the small crease forming between Eggsy’s eyebrows. “Not to worry, my dear. These are just a little something I had made up for us. I have a set too.” He handed the box over to Eggsy, who opened it to discover a pair of cufflinks. While the standard Kingsman cufflinks had the Kingsman insignia (of course), these were in the shape of gold plaques, similar to those on the jacket Eggsy wore the night before the dog test. It was a subtle nod to the memory of their night together, when they'd stayed up watching movies and drinking martinis. Eggsy was rather taken aback by the gesture.

As Eggsy examined his gift, Harry explained. “I know we have our glasses to communicate, but these provide us an additional option, one that connects us to each other directly, rather than through HQ. If you press the plaque into the base, it alerts me via a subtle vibration at my own wrist, as well as bringing up your location and opening comms from your glasses to mine. It creates a secure channel, so that you can hear me and vice versa if necessary, whether or not Merlin is online at the moment and able to connect us. Since Merlin’s attention will not be on us at all hours and as we are a good distance from back up, should a situation arise, you and I must be able to depend on each other. If you need anything, you need only call.”

Eggsy looked up, and noticed an unprecedented intensity in Harry’s expression. They both knew this was a relatively low risk mission, but even so it was reassuring to know they were in it together. When Eggsy first attempted to respond, he found his voice unexpectedly cut off with emotion. He cleared his throat and tried again. “Likewise,” he told Harry, unflinchingly looking him in the eye. Harry’s expression lightened a bit and Eggsy quirked a smile in return. Eggsy looked back down at his present before taking them out and fastening them to his shirt.

“These are sick, bruv. Thank you, really.”

“You’re very welcome, Eggsy. Or should I say Aaron? I believe it is time for us to be getting to dinner.”

Eggsy laughed and also tried to shift gears into character. He climbed down from the bed and found his shoes again. “Yes Howard, let’s be off. I am absolutely famished, and we’ll both be needing our stamina later if we’re to properly celebrate our anniversary.”

Harry had been holding the door open for Eggsy but found himself frozen in place as Eggsy’s parting joke sunk in. Surely it was meant for the benefit of the woman passing by in the hall who overheard, Eggsy no doubt trying to sell the story and ruffle her feathers in equal measure, but it put an image in Harry’s head he would be stuck with throughout the night.

*****
Dinner was uneventful, though not at all boring. At first they made attempts to cement their characters in the minds of the other guests, and they kept up alert observations throughout the meal, but as no one matching their target’s description showed up, they slipped into their usual banter. Neither noticed, of course, that their regular dynamic as Harry and Eggsy was just as convincing of their relationship status as their intentional moves to act as Howard and Aaron. Their conversation was so effortless, and the silences that fell as they chewed were easy and natural, never feeling strained. No one doubted for a moment that they were really married.

The wine, the food, and the company were all good – Eggsy couldn’t believe he was getting paid for this.

When they finally went back upstairs, they slipped back into a tranquil togetherness. Harry sat in one of the armchairs by the window and read, while Eggsy flopped on the bed and flipped through channels. Harry caught himself staring a bit at Eggsy, imagining many more evenings just like this. He imagined Eggsy stretched out on his couch at home, JB curled up in his lap, while Harry nursed a scotch and read a novel in his favorite chair by the fireplace. Eventually Eggsy might fall asleep; Harry would put his book aside and coax him into going upstairs for a proper night’s rest. Harry could see it so clearly, he swore he felt the warmth of his own fireplace residing somewhere below his sternum.

He shook his head, as if physically doing so would dislodge the mental image. Presumptuous old fool, he scolded himself. And yet…

When Eggsy started fighting to keep his eyes open, Harry finally set aside his book and suggested it was time for bed. They were going to have to put more work into catching their mark tomorrow, since their holiday was set to only be for the weekend and Albins would likely move on to a new town come Monday. Harry grabbed some things from his bag and went to get ready for bed in the bathroom, as Eggsy groaned and gracelessly rolled off the bed. He could be ungentlemanly for a moment, Harry would never know.

Eggsy began to strip down and went to pull a fresh pair of boxers to sleep in from his bag, when he realized that perhaps that posed a problem. He didn’t think to bring pajamas; he only ever slept in his pants (at the very most). He wasn’t particularly skittish or self-conscious, but what was the protocol for sharing a bed with you coworker (who you kind of- maybe- definitely had a thing for) (who was also kind of your boss) (and also very proper when he wasn’t swearing like a sailor)?

Eggsy wasn’t inclined to ignore the question, however; he figured it was best to just be direct. And being slightly awkward now would be far less awkward than making Harry uncomfortable all weekend.

He knocked on the bathroom door, “Hey Harry? I’m sorry, I didn’t think to pack pajamas and I normally just sleep in my boxers. Is that a problem? Or do you have an extra pair of pajama pants I can borrow?”

The door opened to reveal Harry brushing his teeth, wearing a pair of well-fitted black boxer briefs himself. “Not at all Eggsy, I usually do the same. Unless that’s a problem for you?” Harry hoped his tone came off as nonchalant as he planned, because Eggsy standing there shirtless was not helping him keep his cool.

When Eggsy was finally able to tear his gaze away from Harry’s well-toned chest, he met his gaze and nodded, “Yeah, no problem bruv.”

Harry broke the gaze quickly, before he could say anything embarrassing, and turned to spit in the sink so he had something else to do. Eggsy allowed himself only a moment to enjoy the view before he turned back to shuffle things around needlessly in his bag.

***
Eventually they settled in, and with such a large bed they each had plenty of space, which is why Harry was especially surprised to be awoken three hours later with a hard smack to the face. He startled a bit, and instinctively reached for his gun. After a moment though, he remembered where he was and found there was no one in the room but himself and Eggsy. He started to relax until he realized why his sleep had been so rudely interrupted.

Eggsy had rolled over onto his back, with his arm spread across the comforter towards where Harry’s head had been. He continued to rock and shift in his sleep, his forehead scrunched and his jaw clenched as though he were trying to work his way out of a particularly difficult or dangerous situation. Eggsy was clearly in the throes of an awful nightmare.

Harry rolled onto his other side, towards Eggsy, and tried to shake him awake. Instead of waking up, however, Eggsy murmured something unintelligible and latched onto Harry’s arm, cradling it to his chest like a child might do with a teddy bear or their favorite blanket. When Harry tried to reclaim his limb, Eggsy only clung tighter, making it clear that this was now his arm. When Harry saw that Eggsy’s expression had cleared and the tension in his shoulders had finally relaxed, Harry sighed and gave up. Who was he to deny Eggsy this if it helped him sleep through the night? He scooched the rest of his body in closer so as not to strain his shoulder, and went back to sleep.

***
Eggsy woke up to sunlight filtering through the sheer curtains, the kind of quiet you can never quite achieve in London, and the snuggly warmth of the giant, fluffy bed. Although actually, it was surprisingly warm. Like maybe too warm. After a minute basking in the beautiful day ahead, Eggsy finally registered why it was so warm. Partly it had to do with the excessively fluffy duvet, but mainly had to do with the handsome, well-toned, shirtless Kingsman agent who was wrapped around him. Eggsy froze, not wanting to wake Harry up, but desperately trying to remember what had led to this. They went to bed on opposite sides and he woke up as the little spoon in the middle of the mattress. Not that he was complaining, but it didn’t exactly hold to normal personal boundaries. Eggsy assessed the situation as subtly as possible, not wanting to wake Harry. Harry was the one who must have turned towards him, but Eggsy had been gripping onto Harry’s arm, so who had approached who exactly? And why?

Before Eggsy could properly sort out the last eight hours or so in his head, there was a small snuffle in his ear and Harry shifted. Eggsy let the arm go as Harry rolled away a few inches and Eggsy flopped over to face Harry. No use in ignoring it.

“Morning,” Harry murmured with his eyes still closed.

“Morning,” Eggsy returned tentatively. He was trying to figure out a way to ask Harry about their sleeping configuration when he was cut off.

“Sleep well?” Harry turned to look at him as he asked. He obviously wasn’t fully awake yet, but his expression was open and his eyes intent, clearly listening for a genuine answer.

Eggsy was about to give him a standard ‘yes, fine’, but hesitated when he stopped to really think about it. Yes, actually, he really had slept just fine. It was actually a bizarre if fortunate thing, as he rarely slept deeply and throughout the night. When he did, it was invariably at home, in his own bed, after a thoroughly exhausting day.

Since he was a little kid he had struggled with horrific nightmares, and then with the loss of his dad, the arrival of Dean, and eventually the stresses of his job, the poor guy never counted on more than an hour or two of rest at a time. When he was away from home he was particularly restless, never quite able to settle himself while on a mission. Now he wasn’t just confused, he was downright amazed. This really was the best holiday/ business trip ever.

“Yeah, really well actually.” He struggled to find a tactful way to ask what he wanted to. “I didn’t wake you up at all during the night did I? I sometimes… fidget a bit. Makes it hard to sleep next to, probably should have said.”

Harry hummed. “Not a problem. I did wake up once and you did seem a bit unsettled, but apparently having something to hold on to was enough to calm your unconscious.”

Eggsy cringed, “Really sorry about that bruv, didn’t mean to invade your space. You could have just shoved me off you know.”

Harry chuckled softly, “I’m not sure I could have actually, you have quite a strong grip. But I really don’t mind.” Harry paused for a moment, weighing how his next words might be received, “An ex of mine was a veteran of the army. He struggled with nightmares throughout our relationship. The therapy helped mostly, but it never quite cleared him of the nightmares. But he said he always did better when he was with me.” Realizing how that last part sounded, he backtracked, “Not that I think I have any particular wisdom or attributes to offer, but just to say… well, having someone at your back can be reassuring. And if it’s in my power to do so, I am happy to offer whatever comfort I can.”

Eggsy blinked his surprise but met Harry’s gaze and realized that he meant it; no judgement, no patronization, no expectations, Harry just wanted Eggsy to be ok. Eggsy nodded his appreciation and broke the gaze, needing desperately to lighten the mood. Things were getting far too serious. “Thank you for that Harry. You really are quite a catch; I remember now why I married you.”

Harry laughed, “Yes, what are husbands for after all? Besides catching criminals that is. Speaking of, we ought to get to it.”

Eggsy sighed, not really motivated to pop the bubble they seemed to be floating in. Finally though, they got up, took turns in the shower and were off to breakfast. There was a buffet set up in the dining room and most of the inn’s residents seemed to be milling about. Hopefully their target would finally show.

Harry settled in at the table while Eggsy went to get them drinks, but when Harry was still by himself several minutes later, he started looking for his partner, wondering what had happened. The room was quite crowded, but even so he should have returned by now. When he felt a buzzing at his wrist he began to panic. At least the cufflinks work he thought wryly. The readout in his glasses showed that Eggsy was still in the room, so why was he trying to signal Harry? He got up and did a lap of the space, eventually finding Eggsy backed into a corner. Harry relaxed marginally knowing that Eggsy was just fine, but it seemed he had attracted their target. A man of Albins’ description was talking to Eggsy, and from Eggsy’s hesitant though unassuming expression, it seemed Albins was attempting to flirt his way to his next payout.

“There you are darling!” Harry called out as he approached. Eggsy hoped the mark didn’t notice his sigh of relief as Harry came up to them and wrapped a possessive arm around his shoulders, forcing the mark to take a step back to include Harry.

“Here’s your tea, love,” Eggsy handed over one of the mugs he was holding, “I’m sorry I didn’t come back, but I was introduced to Mr. Connors here and we were discussing options for our outing this afternoon. Connors is a wine expert apparently, and he’s familiar with the best vineyards in the area. I thought we might invite him along for the afternoon.”

Harry raised his eyebrows at Eggsy. That was quite quick. Maybe too easy, though. “Well that would be a lovely addition. It’s a pleasure to meet you, Connors, was it? Howard Abbott.”

“No it’s Mark, please. A pleasure to meet you Howard, as well as your charming husband here. If it’s not too presumptuous, my wife and I would be delighted to join you both,” Albins smiled. He showed his full set of teeth when he said it, no doubt wanting it to dazzle and charm when really it just seemed slimy and fake to Eggsy. Not to mention he had bits of his breakfast still lodged in his teeth.

The mention of his wife was quite a surprise to both Kingsmen, as there had been no reports of any partners in their briefings, but neither let their surprise show. Eggsy smiled back at Albins, “It will be lovely to meet her too. Now if you’ll excuse us, we ought to find our table. Howard can be a bit of a grumpy bugger if his eggs go cold,” he teased good-naturedly.

Albins laughed politely with him and they parted ways, set to meet in the hotel lobby at noon. Eggsy and Harry carried on with their breakfast as if it were still a lovely, normal day for Howard and Aaron, although both their pulses thrummed with the anticipation of nearing their target.

***
Miranda Connors was not unlike her supposed husband – polished but unassuming, superficial but endearing in just the right way to lure in sympathetic fools who could be convinced to hand over their savings. Whether she was a new addition to Albins’ scheme or had just flown under the radar before, Harry and Eggsy didn’t know, but it was clear that the “Connors” were planning to divide and conquer, Mark no doubt planning to take Aaron aside and get him to donate what they thought was Howard’s hard earned money, while Miranda kept Howard busy at the bar.

Ever the gentlemen, Harry and Eggsy let themselves be played. It would be rude to alter someone else’s plans, after all.

Mark supposedly worked for one of the big banks in London, and therefore Miranda was necessarily the nouveau riche society wife who filled her days with gossip and charity functions. If it wasn’t such an obvious lead in for their scam, Harry recognized it would have been a great alias to lure in their less well-informed peers. Miranda created her own opportunity to talk about the great charities she supports, all the while hinting that she could introduce them to important and glamourous people if they were to make sizable donations through her. Harry played along, listening intently while sipping at the various tastings they were offered. Eggsy, meanwhile, pretended to be tipsier than he was. He talked louder than before, giggled at everyone’s jokes, and let his hands land casually where he pleased. Often it was on Harry (for the sake of the act, of course) and now and then playfully shoving at Albins, letting him think he was succeeding at seducing the younger man away from his husband.

Eventually there was a break in the conversation and Mark suggested they all take a walk through the vines. Miranda claimed a headache, and Harry suggested that Eggsy go while he stayed behind with the lady. As Eggsy got up to follow Albins outside, he bent to press a kiss to Harry’s cheek. Harry had the same idea, and turned his head at just that moment. The kiss landed on each other’s lips, soft and brief as though they really did that every day. Eggsy’s steps faltered a moment later as he realized how natural that really did seem to him, but quickly remembered his character and leaned into Albins’ offered arm.

Harry watched them go, processing the latest of many overfamiliar encounters with Eggsy this weekend, while Miranda turned back to watch Harry. He was distracted as she poured the next glass of wine, until she raised hers and proposed a toast, “To lovely weekends with new friends”. They drank and sat in silence for a peaceful moment. She resumed her chatting and pretended not to notice that he was still distracted.

After a minute he realized that the words she was saying no longer made any sense to him, and when he turned to look at her, his head swam. He tried to speak but his tongue didn’t seem to work, and his vision was starting to blur. He was losing feeling in his fingers and had just enough presence of mind left to press his wrist to the table before he completely blacked out.

***
When Harry woke up, he found himself flat on his back, staring at the ceiling of… somewhere. As he began to catalogue his surroundings, he noticed that he was actually quite comfortable despite a raging headache, and the movement he noticed to his left wasn’t an attacker but just Eggsy. He groaned as Eggsy came around the side of the bed.

“Morning sunshine. Nice nap?” Harry groaned in response and Eggsy laughed not unkindly. “Easy, Harry. Sit up for me will yeah? Good. Here, take these.” Eggsy helped Harry prop himself up on a few extra pillows before handing over pills and a glass of water. “Merlin said it should be just a headache but otherwise you’ll be fine. These should help.”

Harry swallowed the pills and the full glass of water. Eggsy went to get him a refill while Harry tried to catch up. “So, I take it Mrs. Connors was not merely a distraction?”

“No, apparently we miscalculated a bit. Her legal name is Cynthia Williams and it turns out she was our man, so to speak. She was using Albins as her front man. Although actually they were really engaged, if you can believe it. Anyway, she got impatient waiting for you to offer up your money so she decided to take it. When I got your call, I pretended to have a headache and turned back. When he tried to stop me I took him out and came back to find she had dragged you into the men’s room, where she was searching you for credit cards or any other information she could get. According to Merlin, she is actually a master hacker wanted by Interpol for crimes in several countries. So, at least you were taken down by the very best.”

“Yes, that is a great comfort,” Harry replied bitterly. He didn’t make it this far as an agent by being too attached to his ego, but it did hurt a bit that he was taken out so quickly and that he’d needed his protégé to save him (not that Eggsy wasn’t also a capable agent in his own right, but Harry didn’t like being dead weight). “Thank you for your help, although I’m sorry to have been a burden rather than an asset.”

“Ah, come off it bruv. You’d’ve done the same for me yeah? That’s why we make the best partners. You win some, you lose some, but it’s always good to have someone at your back, right?”

Harry had to concede the point, especially when Eggsy was paraphrasing his own words from this morning back at him. “I suppose so. Thank you, in any case.” He took a breath and another thought occurred to him, “So if I was drugged, why aren’t we in a hospital? Or if we’re done with our mission, why aren’t we headed home?”

“Well, we found the drug she used on you in her pocket before the police dragged her off with her lover boy. And no, our cover isn’t blown, they think still think we’re just innocent victims of an attempted robbery. The bartender called the cops. Anyway, Merlin says the drug’s harmless enough – no doubt she wanted you to wake up again and think you’d just had a few too many – so it shouldn’t have any lasting effects. You should be right as rain in the morning, and there’s no sense in driving all that way back if we don’t have to until then. Our directions are to rest up, get you drinking lots of water, and tomorrow we’ll head home.”

There was no point in arguing, Eggsy had clearly decided Harry was his charge now, and what was the sense in wasting such a comfortable hotel room anyway? They spent the evening sitting together on the bed, watching old musicals, singing along and heckling the more melodramatic moments. Despite the headache, Harry secretly enjoyed their evening very much. And while he didn’t like being fussed over in theory, having Eggsy’s full attention wasn’t so bad.

With the last chords of “The Music Man” dying out, they decided it was finally time to get some sleep (or more sleep, in Harry’s case). Eggsy turned out the light and Harry could feel him hesitate, as he didn't quite let himself sink down into the pillows.

“What is it Eggsy?” He turned back towards Eggsy, trying to read the situation from his conflicted expression.

“I… nothing, it’s silly, I just… well… nevermind. Night Harry.” Eggsy turned his back to him decidedly, trying to convince himself that just making it through today in one piece had been enough.

“Eggsy. Tell me. What is it?” Harry hoped being direct would encourage Eggsy to do the same.

Eggsy let out a long sigh, before making a request to the empty space next to his side of the bed. “It’s nothing really and I shouldn’t even ask because you’ve had a much harder day but the truth is last night was the first time I slept that well in months and I was wondering if maybe we could… well… resume…. that.” Eggsy lost steam as he went, not quite gaining the confidence to flat out ask Harry to cuddle with him.

Harry let him off the hook, smiling into the darkness, sliding forward while pulling Eggsy back against his chest. “Resume what, this?”

Eggsy let out an almost inaudible sigh and let his whole body relax. “Well, yeah.”

“Of course, dear boy. I don’t mind in the least. It’s actually been a rather long time since I’ve slept w- next to someone. It’s actually rather comforting to me too.” He caught himself just in time before saying “slept with someone”, not wanting to consider the implications. Although that would be true too…

Eggsy huffed in frustration with himself. “Is this weird though? I mean, this isn’t like what normal blokes really do with their mates is it?”

Harry shrugged, “I’ve never been much concerned with what others think is or isn’t normal. If it makes you happy and means you can sleep, then that’s what we’ll do. And if it makes you at all uncomfortable, then we won’t.” Harry prayed that he sounded truly indifferent, and not as though his heart was tied directly to Eggsy’s answer.

“Nah, it’s… it’s good. Helpful. I just – ” Now was the moment to go for it, Eggsy told himself. Now or never, tell him how you feel. But then he chickened out, compromising with a truth that was also a lie by omission. “I just don’t want to ruin anything. You’re too important,” he confessed.

Harry nodded at him solemnly, agreeing in more ways than he then realized. “Agreed. So then, sleep. One of us has to drive back in the morning and I believe it’s going to have to be you.”

Eggsy studied Harry for a moment longer before nodding and turning back over, gathering Harry’s arm closer to him and closing his eyes. This was already more than he hoped for, so he might as well just enjoy it while he could.

***
Several weeks later, Eggsy made it back to his apartment after a mission to Madrid. It hadn’t been too strenuous – get in, get a flash drive, get out – but for some reason he was both restless and exhausted, even more so than usual.

Since their weekend holiday mission, Harry and Eggsy had fallen back into their normal routine for the most part, but something had shifted. Merlin seemed to have run out of partner missions for them, so they were each coming and going from their regular solo missions. When they both happened to be at HQ, it was extra exciting because they saw each other less often and had longer to miss each other. They would get locked into a conversation when they saw each other, completely ignoring everyone and everything else, but then once they tuned back in to the outside world, they were almost shy, worried about saying too much, feeling too much, showing too much. Eggsy really did appreciate Harry’s friendship, but it was getting harder to argue with himself that was all he wanted.

Although this last mission had been fairly straightforward, it hadn’t allowed for Eggsy to get any sleep in the 24 hours he had been gone. All he should want to do right now was sleep, and yet Eggsy knew there was no point in even trying. He took a shower, but instead of getting into his pajamas he got into regular clothes, deciding to try taking a walk.

After almost an hour of aimless wandering, Eggsy realized that it hadn’t been that aimless at all. He had taken a meandering path to get there, but he was now only a few blocks away from Harry’s house.

 

It was one in the morning and Harry found himself still at his laptop in his study, telling himself he had work that had to be done. He was looking through the extensive contract Merlin had sent him for the Arthur position, trying once again to get Harry to take the job. He scrolled through the document without really reading the words, letting his mind wander and wondering if maybe he should just go to bed and make important career decisions when he was better rested. If he could rest, that is.

He felt a buzz come from somewhere under the many papers littering his desk. He assumed it was his mobile, but when he found it on his desk with no new alerts, he was even more puzzled. Finally, he found the pair of cufflinks on his desk that matched the ones he’d given Eggsy. He’d taken to wearing them regularly now, and had set them down when he rolled up his shirtsleeves to do paperwork tonight.

He put his glasses back on and heard the sounds of London at night. Eggsy wasn’t on a main road, as it was fairly quiet, but he was definitely outside. Was he hurt? Was he on a mission? Had he run into one of his ex-stepfather’s ex-coworkers? Harry began to panic when Eggsy didn’t start talking immediately. Stay calm Hart, what kind of spy are you anyway?

“Eggsy? Everything alright?”

“Hey Harry,” Eggsy hesitated, “Yeah, I’m… I’m alright I guess. Shit, I’m sorry I just realized what time it is. You weren’t asleep or nothin, were you?”

“Not at all, I was just puttering about, avoiding paper work. Are you sure everything’s alright?”

“Yeah, sorry, didn’t mean to worry you. I just… well it’s still ok I use these to call right? I just… I mean you said to call if I needed anything, but maybe that was just during the mission. Shit, I’m sorry this is totally inappropriate. I’ll talk to you in the morning. Night, Harry.”

Eggsy, of course it’s alright. Whatever’s got you out of sorts, I’m happy to help.” Harry softened his voice, now that he knew he had Eggsy’s attention. “Eggsy, just talk to me. What do you need? What can I do?”

Suddenly Eggsy found himself holding back unexpected tears. How was Harry so great? “Well, I guess I was wondering if I could stop by. Just for a bit, I don’t want to keep you up.”

“Nonsense. Please, you are welcome any time. Should I call HQ to send a car to you?”

“Nah, that’s alright. I uh… I’m sort of right outside your door.”

Harry’s world seemed to stop short for a minute. He resisted the urge to fix his hair, scolding himself for letting his shirt rumple over the course of the evening. Don’t be silly, it’s just Eggsy, it won’t matter one part of his brain said, while the other argued Exactly, it’s Eggsy. Of course it matters.

Fortunately, Harry had no time to dither about it. He certainly wouldn’t leave Eggsy standing out in the cold. When Harry opened the door, he was a bit taken aback by Eggsy’s appearance. He didn’t look injured or hurt, and yet his eyes seemed hollow, like he’d been fighting someone – something – for far too long.

He ushered the younger man in but when he tried to take his coat, Eggsy started to sway on his feet. Harry was going to offer him tea, but seemed to realize that what Eggsy needed more than anything was sleep. Without another word, Harry led him up the stairs with a hand to the small of his back. He tried to show him to the guest room, but Eggsy latched onto his arm with one hand, digging in and making his request clear. Harry shut the guest room door and led Eggsy instead into his own room.

Harry began taking off his own shirt, but when Eggsy seemed frozen in place, Harry helped him out of his instead. Harry settled Eggsy under the blanket and cradled him from behind. Eggsy finally let out a breath like it was the first time he had done so all day. Perhaps Harry should ask if something had happened, perhaps he should call Merlin and have him check surveillance on Eggsy’s friends and family, but laying here with this man in his arms, he couldn’t bring himself to do anything but hold him closer. He pressed a kiss to the back of Eggsy’s head, and settled into his own pillow. Everything else could wait.

***
The next morning, Harry woke up first, but found he had no desire to move. There were a million things he should be doing, but he couldn’t bring himself to care about any of them more than basking in the moment. Eggsy was here, Eggsy had wanted comfort, Eggsy had needed someone with him so he could sleep, Eggsy had chosen Harry, and for his part, Harry refused to betray that trust. Whatever else may be true, Harry would do whatever Eggsy needed, that much he could admit to himself.

A few minutes later, Eggsy let out a small sigh as if he was going to wake up, but then rolled further in towards Harry, burying his face in Harry’s chest. Harry held him and let himself nod off again. Eventually Eggsy woke up more fully, bringing his head up to meet Harry’s gaze.

“Thank you.”

“Anytime,” Harry said sincerely.

Eggsy huffed, “Oh really? Yeah, I’m sure you just love having your space invaded at all hours by wandering insomniacs.”

“I really do actually, in certain cases,” he paused meaningfully, letting Eggsy hear how much he really meant it. “I’m glad you felt you could come to me. Bad day?”

Eggsy sighed, rolling half onto his back but not willing to let go of Harry’s warmth. “Not especially. I just… I got back from a mission and I didn’t know what to do. I just wanted to sleep but I couldn’t and so I didn’t want to be alone. I didn’t mean to walk this way, I wasn’t planning on coming by or nothing but then I just sort of ended up here and… well…” Now or never Eggsy “I just wanted to see you I guess.”

Harry tightened his embrace for a moment, turning their cuddle into a reassuring hug. “Well I’m glad you ended up here. And that you feel comfortable here. With me.”

Eggsy got irrationally angry for a moment, mostly at himself. He sat upright all of a sudden, freeing himself from Harry’s hold. “Yeah but it’s not just that, is it? I… I meant what I said Harry, back on our last mission. I don’t want to ruin anything but I… It’s not just that I’m comfortable with you. It’s… god, Harry, there’s so much…more. It’s so much more,” he took a shuddering breath, not entirely sure what he was trying to say. Or how much he was willing to admit to.

Harry sat up more slowly, trying to make Eggsy meet his gaze so he could read him better. Almost in a whisper, he tried to encourage him to continue, “Eggsy? What do you mean by ‘more’?”

Eggsy resigned himself to his fate. He wasn’t going to get a better opening than that. However this played out, maybe it was best to just be straight forward about it. “I mean, I think there’s a reason why I can sleep when I’m with you better than I can anywhere else. And I think it’s the same reason you’re the person I want to tell about my bad days and my good days and my boring days. And why I used to need alone time to recharge at the end of the day, but now if I have an option of being alone or being with you, I would actually rather be with you. I mean, yeah, of course I love you anyway because you’re my partner and my friend and all that like you said but… but I think what I’m saying is I want to be with you.”

Finally Eggsy let himself take a breath, closing his eyes and trying to decide if this was really happening or if he was still just having a very surreal dream. He didn’t dare open his eyes to see Harry’s face, he wasn’t sure he could take that yet. “Yeah. You know what? Yeah, that’s what I want. I want you, I want to be with you, romantically. And in all the ways really. And if you don’t want that, ok, but you should still know. That’s what I want.”

Eggsy finally opened his eyes, setting his shoulders and all but glaring, as if defying Harry to pity him or kick him out of bed. But Eggsy need not have worried.

Instead, Eggsy was met with brown eyes that were practically swimming with emotion. “Oh Eggsy,” Harry exhaled. He reached one hand up to cradle the back of Eggsy’s head, the other to press between Eggsy’s shoulder blades, before going in for a decisive (and not at all accidental this time) kiss. Eggsy was surprised for only a moment before responding, twisting and pressing Harry back down into the mattress. Eggsy lay down almost directly on top of Harry, making as much contact as he could without crushing the man.

They lay like that for a few long minutes, just kissing, exploring, enjoying that they could finally indulge in all the caresses they’d long denied themselves. Finally Harry broke the kiss and pulled Eggsy back to look him in the eye.

“Wait I… that wasn’t a proper response.”

Eggsy raised an eyebrow at him, “Wasn’t it though?”

They both laughed. “Even so, I want to say… something. Just that – well, yes. To everything you said and more. I want that too. And I’m…” Harry found himself choked up for a second. “I’m sorry Eggsy, that I didn’t have the courage to say anything. But I… I suppose I didn’t want to presume, or force your hand in anyway. But the truth is that I love you and respect you and admire your courage. And every day you do something that makes me so very glad I get to know you. So yes, if you would have me, I would be honored to be your romantic partner, in addition to your work partner. And I would like to take you out for dinner Friday.”

Eggsy laughed at Harry following up such an overwhelming admission with such a sweet request. Eggsy looked up at Harry from his chest, which Eggsy had moved to use as a pillow. He said softly, “Yes Harry. I would love to go to dinner with you on Friday.”

They smiled at each other, before Eggsy lay his head down again on Harry’s sternum, his arms wrapped around Harry’s waist. Harry lay on his back with one hand holding onto Eggsy’s arm, stroking the smooth skin lightly with his thumb, the other hand stroking through Eggsy’s soft hair.

He looked down at the man in his arms, feeling luckier than he ever had. He gave one final thought to his running mental to do list before dismissing it entirely. The world could stop spinning for all he cared; he would be here for as long as Eggsy would have him.