Actions

Work Header

La Douleur Exquise

Chapter Text

She was eight years old, on a Sunday morning, when she first wrote on her skin.

 

Her mother had cautioned her against doing so; Mummy would go stern and tight lipped at the mention of soul mates, as if romance was an insult and a form of depravity. Soul mates were for people of the lower class, where it didn’t matter who you married or what your family was. Soul mates were not supposed to be for Roxanne Morton.

 

Except, she was eight years old and she had spilled tea all over her class schedule. The words were rapidly smudging and becoming difficult to read and she knew she would be in a great deal of trouble if she was late to anything. Her parents were out of town, her nanny was still asleep. What was one rule broken to protect herself, especially if no one was going to know?

 

Looking back, that train of thought was going to get her into a whole lot of trouble.

 

Ballet MWF, she wrote on her forearm in small neat letters, 6:30 to 10:30. French, Tues 17:00 to 19:00. Sundays, Horses 9 to 1300, Art 1500 to 1800.   It would do until she found her notebook to copy it down on.

 

She didn’t have the opportunity until hours later, changing out of her equestrian clothing, and as she took off her shirt she gasped. Her soulmate had left a message. Written beneath her schedule, where she had written in large broad letters was a tiny scrawl. “Schedule’s a bit too heavy, don’t you think?”  Well, that was rude. Her schedule was perfectly normal, Roxy thought. How else was she going to decide on her future if she didn’t try everything she could? It was her father’s reasoning, and Roxy had agreed readily.

 

She grabbed a pen and wrote back primly, “I don’t believe that is any of your business” and forgot about the matter entirely. She had work to do.

 

***

 

The next time she writes on her skin she is 9 years old, and her parents had died in a car crash.  The funeral had been solemn, quiet, and a sea of black. She’s hiding out in the garden behind the church because she is tired of people patting her on the shoulder, telling her to be brave or other platitudes that really don’t help right now. Her life is changing and all she knows is that she is going to live with her godfather, George, a man that she distinctly remembers her mother did not like and refused to allow him to come to the house, and that Roxy herself has only met on occasion when her father took her on trips to London. She’s a little surprised that she’s going with a virtual stranger and not a relative, but in the end it’s not like any of it really matters. Her parents are dead, and she was never close to her extended family anyway.

 

She always has a sketchbook and something to draw with these days; today is no exception. But in this moment of grief and sorrow, she wants to know that someone can hear her, that someone is out there who might some day be able to care for her. She scrawls on the back of her wrist,
Je me sens à l'appel du vide. It’s incredibly dramatic, but Roxy has always prided herself in going the extra mile and surprising all her tutors. She lays in the grass and stares at the sun until she hears the crunching of footsteps behind her. It is George.

 

He looks incredibly uncomfortable and though she has been surrounded by mourners and well wishers all week, she doesn’t think she has ever seen anyone else look as sad as she feels. Until this moment. She likes him immediately for that alone, regardless of any thought that her mother  would have had on that matter. Roxy is a big girl; she’ll form her own opinions.

 

George clears his throat and looks her in the eye. “I suppose you’ll be coming to live with me now.”

 

There’s nothing to it. Roxy stands up, brushes off her black dress and says “Yes, I suppose I shall.”

 

Later that night, as she is getting ready for her bath, she notices a “?” on her wrist. She ignores it.

 

***

 

Living with George changes her lifestyle but in most ways it stays the same.

 

George seems to live alone and he is gone on business more often than not. He hires a governess of sorts for Roxy, enrolls her in an excellent public school, and is as rigid with her schedule as her parents were. Roxy thinks that she should miss her parents more, and she does she really does, but she doesn’t have very many memories of them spending time together.

 

Under George’s guidance and encouragement, she gives up the ballet lessons that she was never in love with and takes up taekwondo and brazilian jiu jitsu. It fits her better, though she knows her mother would have never approved. George’s London house is smaller than her parents, but Roxy likes it for the comfort and coziness it seems to exude. It feels like her father, though she brushes that thought aside and doesn’t question it.

 

She sticks with her French lessons and George encourages her to add Italian with the promise of a trip to Florence to visit the Uffizi if it goes well. She keeps sketching but drops painting and picks up the violin and competitive swimming. She likes things that involve more of her hands and body, and intense focus and concentration.

 

When she is fourteen, she is absolutely smitten with her new violin instructor, David. He is 10 years older than her and she knows she is being ridiculous, but she cannot seem to stop herself. She finds herself wearing some of her nicest clothes when he is around, spending too much time on her hair (George refuses to let her wear makeup until she is 16 and while they have had several arguments on the matter, Roxy has yet to win) before he arrives and to be quite honest, while Roxy enjoys the rush of feelings and the excitement, she also would simply just like to get it over with and know .

 

While out in the garden, she is inspired by the flowers and draws a quick sketch of a bluebell on her wrist. It comes out very nicely and she is thrilled with the cleverness of her plan.

 

Until she goes to her lesson and sees that David’s arms are completely bare, and she spends the rest of the night in a bitter sulk and in a fair foul mood for days after.

 

George, uncharacteristically home for the weekend, takes note of her strange behavior and prods her into confessing. His smile is sympathetic but she privately feels that he is laughing at her when she admits to drawing the flower on her hand. She prepares herself for a repeat of her mother’s lecture on writing on your skin, but instead all George does is ask if she wants to learn how to shoot guns.

 

It’s a bit out of nowhere but it’s as good a distraction as any, so Roxy takes it.

 

That summer, George takes her on a trip to Florence as promised and then they spend a week after in Berlin. She doesn’t see much of him, except for at dinner, and she spends much of her time wandering around the city with the daughter of one of his business associates. Roxy only knows a handful of German words, and doesn’t want to speak English when she has a chance to put her language skills to the test; luckily Amelia is pretty decent in both French and Italian, so they get on pretty well enough and Amelia only laughs a little at Roxy’s attempts at German.

 

Roxy finds Amelia’s laugh to be endearing, and she likes the way Amelia’s eyes crinkle up when she smiles. It’s the first time she’s ever been attracted to another girl, but she likes it and it feels comfortable. It feels a little like coming home and she’s excited with this new knowledge of herself.

 

But it makes her wonder, just a little.

 

One night, before leaving Berlin, she writes “Are you a man or a woman” on her arm. It’s the first time she’s ever directly tried to write to her soul mate and wanting a response, so she’s a little anxious. After a while she worries that maybe her soul mate doesn’t even speak English, so she writes out the same question in French and Italian, just in case.

 

It takes over an hour, but eventually she looks down and sees the same tiny scrawl from when she was 8. It’s in English, and a tiny part of Roxy sees in relief. “ I am a man ,” it  - or he - has written. She’s about to write back when the next part appears. “I am not interested in soulmates. They are a liability in my line of work.”

 

Well. Honestly, she only has one response to that, one that Amelia had taught her earlier that day. “Fick dich feige hund” she writes down angrily.

 

She doesn’t look to see if there is a response and in the morning, she soaps down with her eyes closed just to be sure.

 

She leaves Germany behind a little sad and a lot bitter, but also not without kissing Amelia goodbye. Fuck soulmates , she thinks. I’m going to write my own destiny .

 

***

 

After that, she is extra careful not to forget and write on her skin, but she asks George to sign her up for a German tutor. She tries to keep in touch with Amelia, but life gets in the way and without a more in person connection, things just fade away. It’s just as well, she thinks; she’s not Amelia’s soulmate and has no right to keep her.

 

George turns out to have strange taste in birthday presents as she gets older. When she was eleven, he came home with adorable poodle she promptly named Tabitha. That was the last “normal” present she received. Age fourteen is the year she received her very own rifle, and although she gets lovely and ridiculously expensive computer when she is fifteen (on the condition that she learns a little bit of coding in her downtime; George, she has discovered, is a bit maniacal about her progress and improvement), he also buys several books on codes and ciphers. They spend the year communicating in encrypted messages, leaving notes around the house in strange places to find. It is, she reflects, some of the most fun she has ever had. It reminds her of being young and her father refusing to communicate with her in anything that wasn’t sign language. She shares this with George and he laughs with delight, and then promptly enrolls her in a British Sign Language course.

 

Her friends from school think her schedule is a bit overkill, and how many languages does she really need to learn? Part of her agrees but the larger and more vocal proud is ridiculously proud that George thinks she is capable of so much. She thinks her father would have pushed her like this. She likes that George has this faith in her. She wants to prove him right.

 

She tries dating and the results are mixed. She notices that she seems to scare away boys her own age. Apparently having the ability to kick their ass in hand to hand combat and firearms is a turn off.

 

Girls think its a turn on. Roxy thinks it’s a win-win.

 

George seems initially surprised when she starts bringing home girls, and then the slight shock seems to settle into ‘hugely amused.’ She braces herself for an awkward sex talk but he proves himself to be brilliant by buying her several books and putting her in touch with a female relative of his, Constance, who confesses to being bisexual as well. When Roxy asks why George delegated this task, Constance laughs and says “Well it’s not like he can give you any advice about women, dear.”

 

Well , Roxy thinks. That actually explains a lot.

 

***

 

When Roxy is sixteen, George takes her out to a very posh place to celebrate her birthday and turns the conversation towards a serious discussion of her future.

 

She admits that she was thinking of joining the military. He cocks an eyebrow, but doesn’t seem as surprised as she anticipated. She knows he has a military background; she was told her father and him met while they were both RAF. Growing up with George, she wondered sometimes if he was training her for the same thing or if he seriously did not know how to relate to young girls. A little bit of both, she now suspects.

 

At this point, Roxy is basically fluent in French, Italian, German, and British Sign Language. She can handle herself in a fight and she considers herself in a committed relationship with firearms. It may be weird to outsiders, but she finds comfort in her “abnormality” and the knowledge that she is a woman meant to be taken seriously.

 

It is over dessert that George comments that she might do well studying linguistics at university, before signing up for service. She clearly has a knack, after all. Has she considered Cambridge?

 

When she gets home, she opens up the Cambridge website on her computer. There are a lot of options, she reflects. There is no scrap paper nearby, and George had been gracious and let her drink a lot of wine at dinner, so it’s without thinking that she scribbles on the inside of her arm.

 

Russian, Portuguese or Spanish for starters? Then maybe Arabic or Hebrew? Can do Ukrainian, Catalan, Greek, or Polish later. Maybe Mandarin?

 

She goes to get a pitcher of water to hydrate herself before bed and as she is pouring herself a glass, she is surprised to see that her soulmate has some input regarding her future. Russian, Arabic, Ukrainian, and Mandarin have all been circled.

 

She bites down on the inside of her mouth, annoyed with his presumption but lets it go; after all she was foolish enough to write on her skin, even if she forgot that it would show up on his. She picks up her pen and writes back a simple “Thank you for your input,” and then against her better judgment asks “What’s your name?”

 

She’s expecting no response at all, after all he admitted wanting nothing to do with her, but she can’t help but stare down at her wrist, watching. It feels like ages but eventually the letters appear and form “Andrew.”

 

He doesn’t ask for her name, and she doesn’t offer. She just rolls over and goes to bed, and the words are gone when she wakes up, except for what he had circled.

 

***

 

She’s irritated and a bit upset in general at her soulmate on the best of days, but that doesn’t stop her from taking his advice.

 

After all, she’s a bright girl and while “ liability in my line of work” can have many meanings, she has considered them all and supposes that if they really ARE soulmates and have anything in common, it is likely that he is also interested in a lifestyle that is a bit more dangerous than the everyday citizen. She still thinks he is being an absolute berk, but perhaps he has his reasons.

 

They don’t concern her, though. She’s noticed that other people get flustered and excited about the idea of soulmates, and seem to go to ridiculous lengths trying to meet up with theirs. They arrange their lives in such a manner that they seem to be living more for the other person than themselves.

 

It’s not the type of life Roxy is interested in. Soulmate or no soulmate, she’s her own independent person. While she respects the input of others, especially, she will ultimately make her own decisions and conduct her life as if she doesn’t have a soulmate to think about at all.

 

This is what she informs George when she is eighteen and packing for university. He sits on her bed, watching and it is a little entertaining to watch George do the awkward verbal dance of trying to ask her if she’s ever been in contact with her soulmate.

 

“A few times,” she says as she comes out of her closet, holding several folded jumpers. “But he’s informed me that he has no interest in the matter at all.”

 

It doesn’t escape her notice that his lips form a hardline or that his eyes narrow unhappily. By now, she’s put together the pieces and realized that he was her father’s soulmate, met only after her father and mother were married. It explained a great deal of her mother’s unhappiness and her father’s absence growing up; she wonders if her mother ever got a chance to meet her soulmate but knows that it is a question that will never be answered. She doubts George would know, and she will never ask.

 

In some ways she is glad she resembles her mother more than her father. She imagines it would hurt George to look at her and see his dead soulmate in her face. Sometimes she wonders if he does that already.

 

Instead of asking that ridiculously personal and impertinent query, she informs him “I think I would simply rather continue living as if I do not have a soulmate to worry about.”

 

“You could do that,” he agrees. “Or …” he trails off and his mouth starts twitching in a little smile that she has learned to recognize as “George delights in messing with other people.”

 

“Or?” She prompts.

 

“Or you could take this as a beautiful opportunity to fuck with him.”

 

She arches an eyebrow at him, something she knows that she learned from him and does not get from her parents. Or , she supposes, I guess this does make him a third parent . She is more than okay with that, recognizing that while she is a combination of both her parents good and bad, at this point she probably has more George in her than anyone else, even though they are not related. It would be unsettling if she did not adore him so much.

 

“And how do you suggest I do that?” she asks him.

 

He knows her better than to question her readiness. Roxy is a lot of things posh and proper, but she is also quite endearingly “a little shit” who is ready to cause a little bit of chaos if she is bored enough. And the society functions of the upperclass which a young woman of Roxy’s beauty, caliber, and social standing must attend in order to “meet the right kinds of people” leave a lot to be desired and produce far too much boredom than Roxy or George can often handle with a straight face.

 

In the past year, George has spent a surprisingly amount of time in London instead of traveling for business. He cited the desire to be close at home, so they could have some quality bonding before she went off for university, yet a lot of the events they’ve attended haven’t produced much in the way of “bonding together” unless you count “George teaches Roxy how to spike the punch without getting caught” or “George teaches Roxy how to pick the lock of some Lord’s billiard room so they can have some fun and avoid the boring conversation going on in the ballroom downstairs” and her personal favorite “George and Roxy play spy and battle each other with nerf super soakers at home.”

 

Though, now that they spend more time together she has noticed small things like a small limp he claims he got from falling down a staircase with ridiculously tiny steps in France, and an increasing need to wear glasses. He’s not wearing them now, though, complaining that he got sick of her teasing and is trying out contacts. He claims that contacts are easier for the day time, but glasses are better at night when his eyes get tired. She spent a good while earlier teasing him on his “declining old age” even though she privately thinks he makes for a very fit 33 year old. The teasing is mostly for fun and for the expression his face makes, anyway. She thinks he just got sick of losing in the super soaker battles because his glasses got too wet to see when she kept catching him unawares and aiming for his head.

 

So yeah, Roxy is at times a delightful little shit, and she cannot deny that the prospect of “fucking with” her soulmate intrigues her a little.

 

George is looking more relaxed than she has seen him in awhile. He is normally dressed in amazingly perfect suits that would have Roxy drooling at his figure and debating inappropriately hitting on him if 1) he was not her godfather and also her father’s soulmate and 2) he was not so so so gay. Tonight, he is barefooted in just slacks and a pale blue button down shirt with the sleeves rolled up, and is leaning against her pillows with Tabitha curled on his side. It is the laziest she has ever seen him, and she thinks it is a good and happy look on him.

 

“It has been my experience and observation that, even those people who claim not to care about who their soulmate is or what they are up to, are also incredibly curious bastards just like the rest of humanity,” George drawls on. “Just because he claims he wants nothing to do with you doesn’t necessarily mean he might not be wondering what you are like, or be incessantly put out if he thinks you are taken up with someone else. Not wanting to be involved with someone due to some form of dangerous employment doesn’t necessarily mean you want your soulmate to be involved with anyone else.”

 

It is something to think about and when she tells him so, she believes that smirk on his face is one of victory.

 

***

 

George personally sees her to Cambridge, finds her a lovely little flat, and spares no expense in getting her situated. Her trust fund will kick in when she is 25, but in the meantime he has set up a generous allowance for her while she is in school. He claims he has no doubt that she will push herself in her studies, but he encourages her to go out and experience the freedom of being a student without any major life responsibilities.

 

She doesn’t particularly think he means that she should go out and get plastered during her first week, but on the other hand it is very important to make connections while at university, and what better way is there for her to bond with her classmates/potential future colleagues?

 

They play “Never Have I Ever” and Roxy wins/loses in a stupid way and realizes she has a lot of life to catch up on.

 

She proceeds to do so with the same level of determination she has approached everything else in her life thus far.

 

When she ends up having a threesome with two lovely lovely female German exchange students during her first month at uni, she thinks she is doing pretty spectacular. They are desperately in love with each and positively adorable, but have a thing for sharing. It continues on pretty regularly for about a month and they introduce her to what they call “relatively vanilla bondage.” She learns some pretty nifty rope knots, a little Yiddish, a lot more German, and decides her safe word is zweisamkeit . It’s the first  time she’s ever truly regretted not having a connection with soulmate and it comes out as she angrily writes the word on her arm, close to the wrist where Andrew can’t miss it. When he responds with “?”, as he did years ago the last time she wrote anything other than English on her skin, she responds with “my safe word.” Maybe it’s a little petty and a whole lot bitter, but she thinks he deserves it. Just because he doesn’t want to be with her doesn’t mean she cannot be with anyone else and a part of her wants him to be reminded of that.

 

To be honest, she isn’t sure what she expected. Complete silence wasn’t exactly it, though.

 

It throws her into a bit of a snit, like it is complete proof that he actually doesn’t care and won’t ever care. She goes out that night, drinks a little too heavily, and is put into a taxi by one of her friends, who texts her incessantly the next morning to make sure she is okay.

 

As she is about to reach over to grab her phone, she notices his neat little scrawl stretching across her arm in a thin line.

 

As long as you are being safe, though I would suggest a safeword in your native languag e.”

 

Maybe it’s the hangover, maybe she is still drunk but she writes back “So not tsutcheppenish then?” She has to look up and verify the spelling on her phone, but it’s totally worth it.

 

He must have been waiting for a reply, which is both surprising and ridiculous, because his answer is immediate. “How did you know my safeword?”

 

She snorts and writes back “You’re joking.” It’s the first time they’ve had a decent conversation, and one that is actually kind of nice. She has a sneaking suspicion that maybe he is a bit of a little shit as well.

 

Or maybe he was bored because she gets another response right away. “Actually, it’s really Oklahoma.”

 

She laughs, draws a smiley with its tongue sticking out, rolls over and goes back to bed. When she wakes up, everything is gone by the smiley, which has a little halo drawn over it.

 

A week later, when she is bored during one of her lectures, she writes down “Oklahoma, where the wind comes sweepin' down the plain, and the wavin' wheat can sure smell sweet when the wind comes right behind the rain.” She’s not sure if he was actually serious, and if he was referencing the musical or not, but it’s totally worth the time she took out of her schedule when she sees his response later that day. The lyrics are crossed out and there are angry capital letters that spell out “STUCK IN MY HEAD. YOU ARE EVIL.”

 

After that, Andrew seems to do a complete 180. It’s nothing she would have ever expected, but she cannot deny that she’s a little bit happy about it.

 

For the first time, he starts writing to her. Not a lot at first and she’s gone months without hearing from him at all, but after Christmas of her first year at Cambridge he becomes more talkative.  It’s little things, like asking her what her favorite type of tea is ( Keemun) , or what music she likes to listen to (she is a particular fan of Tchaikovsky).  He doesn’t offer much in the way of his own personal information and he keeps all questions very light and harmless, but she learns he is not a morning person, loves The Beatles, prefers coffee to tea, and doesn’t seem to have any sort of set schedule by the way his responses come at all different times. There are a few nights where she is up late studying and he seems to be awake at the same time; while she never comes outright and tells him that she’s studying at Cambridge or what for, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist for anyone to notice that Roxy has a particular interest in languages. Sometimes she will wake up to find random quotes or proverbs written on her arm and she doesn’t wash them off so that they stay with her throughout the day.

 

Any wise enemy is better than an ignorant friend shows up in Arabic on a Monday morning, after her morning run and shower.

 

Al piu potente ceda il più prudente accompanies her to bed on a Thursday night.

 

Sometimes she writes back her own, but most of the time she’s super busy. George calls her at least once a week, checking in and making note of her progress. He encourages her to still make time for practicing her shooting and she finds a judo near her flat where she can let off steam. She goes out with friends every weekend, goes to plays and concerts, participates fully in student life. While she appreciates that Andrew is acknowledging her existence, she hasn’t been waiting around for him and she isn’t about to let him think that she was. Stubborn pride it may be, but it’s her stubborn pride making the decision this time around.

 

She does excellent in her studies and her professors and tutors praise her performance. It’s the happiest she’s been thus far, though she misses Tabitha like a little girl and sometimes Skypes with George so that he can pull Tabitha to the screen and let Roxy coo at her good little girl.

 

Late February she meets a nice lad named William, who is year ahead of her, and it turns her life upside down for a short while.

 

He pulls her aside after the Linguistics Soc meeting and asks her out for a pint. He’s incredibly charming with a killer smile, and it’s been a long time since she found herself properly attracted to a man.

 

I could do a lot of things with him , she finds herself thinking when he’s gone off to get more drinks from the bartender. I’d like to do a lot of things TO him . She laughs to herself a little and is noticeably flushed when William returns.

 

He walks her back to her flat, kisses her on the cheek and promises to call her soon. It’s all very proper and gentlemanly and when he actually calls her the next day, she inwardly swoons. And then immediately bangs her head on the wall after, because really .

 

They meet up for coffee and spend the whole time speaking in Italian. He’s studying Greek and Hebrew as well, which she thinks is an odd combination, but interesting nonetheless. She thinks he is very sweet and incredibly handsome, but goes home thinking that there is something missing and she can’t put her finger on it.

 

But still, it can’t hurt to have a little fun.

 

It takes a few more meet ups for Will to gather his courage, but eventually he confesses that he’s already met his soulmate. He’s gotten a little drunk, and it all comes out in a weird Italian/English combination, but the truth of the matter is that he had heard from some American friends (the lovely ladies Roxy had met in the beginning of the year) that was Roxy was ...fairly open minded. And would she be opposed to meeting his girlfriend and maybe things could lead to something more?

 

Honestly, it’s the sweetest proposition she’s ever had.

 

She can tell he’s nervous; he keeps running his fingers through his hair and fidgets in his seat. If he had been more smooth about it, there’s a good chance she might find it insulting. But it’s William and he’s been delightful and has never made her feel like an object or a goal, and she readily agrees to meet his Rosina, who ends up being equally lovely and delightful and also the most beautiful woman Roxy has never met.

 

She’s entirely smitten with the both of them and thinks to herself “ mine .”

 

As it turns out, William and Rosina aren’t particularly interested in a one-off threesome. Unlike her American ladies, they insist on cooking her dinner and inviting her over to watch movies. They all meet up for coffee together, sometimes she and Rosina study on their own or go shopping while William works at a local bookstore. She finds out about how they met, how Rosina had written “Hello, who are you?” on herself in Italian when she was 7 and how William, also 7, had gone to his mom to translate it for him. She thinks about how sad it could have been, two soulmates separated by countries, and thinks it is delightfully romantic how they learned each other's’ languages so they could communicate, how William traveled to Italy when he was 16 with his parents and they met for the first time, and how Rosina came to England for school so they could be closed to each other.

 

She wonders to herself what her life would be like if she had an equally romantic soulmate, and refuses to respond to Andrew once for a whole week out of spite. When she finally writes back to him, she doesn’t answer his question but rather a phrase Rosina had told her, a carne di lupo, zanne di cane. She doesn’t care if he understands or not, but it makes her feel a tad better about the situation.

 

After a month of dating and flirtation, she joins William and Rosina in their bed. It is her first time with a man, and while most of her friends had told her later how much they regretted and didn’t enjoy their first time, Roxy found hers to be nothing short of amazing. William underneath as she rides him, Rosina behind her cupping Roxy’s breasts and pinching her nipples. She throws her head back as William’s fingers rub at her clit and full body shudders as Rosina kisses her. It’s so warm, and she watches William’s eyes roll back into his head as she adjusts her body just so, and hears Rosina’s gasps and Roxy reaches behind her to find Rosina’s clit. She pulls Rosina closer to her and bites at her neck, reveling in the gasps and moans from both of her partners. ‘T here is power in this ’ is her last thought before her own intense orgasm, and then she is lost in the feel of both bodies and cannot think anymore.

 

The rest of the term is spent divided between her studies and the bed they all have began to share; her flat sees less and less of her and William and Rosina’s flat becomes “Roxy, William, and Rosina.” She stops writing to Andrew and thinks of him even less; it has been over a month since he wrote to her at all.

 

George surprises her with a visit around Easter and it is the first time he has ever seen Roxy shy. She takes him to meet Rosina and William over dinner, hesitant because she recognizes the uniqueness of the relationship, but not at all ashamed or worried about his opinion. It turns out she need not have worried at all, as George finds the whole situation incredibly romantic and charming, and his eyes soften as he kisses her forehead goodbye. Not for the first time, she wonders what her childhood could have been like if her mother had been willing to share.

 

One night, close to the end of the school year, Rosina asks Roxy if she ever met her soulmate. She tells the two of them the whole story, including the part where Andrew had told her he wasn’t interested in soulmates. Given his communication change earlier in the year, she had thought maybe he had changed his mind, but now it had been over two months since he  had initiated any sort of conversation, and he ignored her last question of whether or not he had changed careers, since he seemed more open to talking with her now. The non answers he received was pretty much answer enough; Andrew had decided to turn back to his old way of ignoring her existence.

 

She avoids looking at William and Rosina as she tells the story and its current unhappy conclusion; she doesn’t want to see the pity on their faces. This little time she has had with them has been enough, even though she doesn’t think she can keep it. There’s too much in the world she wants to do and see, and she thinks the life she wants for herself will eventually clash with their cozy domesticity. But for now, she can pretend.

 

She is surprised when Rosina leans over and kisses, mouth forceful and wet. Lovely, soft Rosina who normally is more passive in bed and lets Roxy or William call the shots. Rosina pushes Roxy down and starts unbuttoning her shirt, ordering William to grab pens and markers from the desk in the corner. They strip Roxy bare and tease her mercilessly, with tongues and hands. It is William who starts writing first, words and small drawings covering whatever skin he can get his hands on. It is achingly sweet and tickles a lot; between the two of them Roxy can hardly breathe both for passion and for laughter.

 

In the morning she stares in the full length bathroom mirror and looks at the marks they left on her body.

 

She is beautiful , William had written on her side, above her hip in Greek. She is kind and lovely and full of heart Rosina had continued in English.

 

Under her left breast, Rosina had left il mio amante è forte, il mio amante è feroce and underneath her collarbone, ridiculous romantic beautiful William  had quoted his namesake “ h er passions are made of nothing but the finest part of pure love.”


There was a rose drawn above her belly, and stars going up and down her thighs. One of them had drawn an arrow pointing to her crotch, with the words “There be treasure here,” and she laughed a little brokenly at how much these amazing people made her feel, how they wanted her like no one else ever had. The room they had created for her in their small little dream life, and how incredibly lucky she felt to be apart of every moment they could spare for her.

 

And yet it was made all the worse for knowing that it would have to end.

 

At the beginning of Autumn, Rosina went back to Italy for her Master’s degree. William followed. They had offered an open invitation to Roxy to come whenever she wanted, and though she promised she would take them up on that, she knew it wouldn’t be in the way that they would desire. She would visit them over New Years; perhaps she would convince George that they should Christmas in Italy. But she knew that soon William and Rosina would want to settle down and have a family, and while it had been made clear to Roxy that she was welcome in whatever context she wanted, this was not the path Roxy wanted to take. Not yet, and maybe never.

 

She still had work to do.

 

She would finish up her last year at Cambridge and then, she had decided, she would join the Royal Navy.

 

There had been no messages or questions from Andrew that morning after Rosina and William had covered up her skin yet it had stayed on until Roxy had taken a bath later the next night. It felt like an apology of sorts, though it wasn’t enough. Roxy decided she would put this behind her; clearly some people were meant to have ‘happily ever afters’ with their soulmates, but not Roxy and not Andrew.

 

It was time to move on.

Chapter Text

Part 2

 

In theory, she would have preferred to have never contacted Andrew again.

 

In reality, she broke after the third week of basic training.

 

It has less to do with any romantic notion and more to do with the fact that she was incredibly exhausted, homesick, and lonely. She hadn’t befriended anyone in training; there were only a handful of other girls and the men kept looking at her like they were confused why she was there, when they weren’t trying to subtly flirt with her. Or at least they did until she demonstrated her expert marksmanship with firearms. Now she was basically left without anyone to talk to, for the first time in her life since her parents funeral.

 

She wasn’t willing to complain in any of her letters to the outside world because she had a sneaking suspicion that mail was being read, and she privately believed that her Commanding Officer hated her. So in a fit of frustration and pique, not really thinking of anyone answering but just needing to express herself somehow , she pulls back her sleep shorts and scribbles fierce letters, on her thigh above her knee, ‘basic training is the absolutely most fucking worst.’

 

When she wakes up and heads into the showers, she sees her scribbling replaced with “Ou t of every one hundred men, ten shouldn't even be there, eighty are just targets, nine are the real fighters, and we are lucky to have them, for they make the battle. Ah, but the one, one is a warrior, and he will bring the others back - Heraclitus. ” It is the most he has ever written her and though the words are not his own, she feels a surprising sense of warmth reading it and is sad when the shower washes the words away.

 

She takes up her pen before lights out and intends to write a thank you for his encouragement, and sees that he has actually written her again. “ What week are you in? What branch ?” as if he is revisiting his previous curiosity about her life. She hesitates before answering, remembering previous times he deviated between hot and cold and wondering what his angle was this time. She keeps it simple, answers only with the essential information and nothing else, and asks nothing of him in return.

 

He spends the next seven weeks writing words of encouragement that she finds each morning, still nothing in his own words but written nowhere that would get her in trouble. She doesn’t know how to respond, but is grateful for it nonetheless.

 

On the last night before basic ends, she pens a quick note thanking him for the messages. The quotation he sends the next morning is “a true warrior does not train tirelessly to fight, or to kill. A true warrior trains endlessly that he may return home alive. ” She fights down the part of her that wonders if there is any meaning behind it, and instead greets George happily as he attends her graduation.

 

It is tempting to write to Andrew again, to restart what once was an amusing form of comfort, but the constant feeling that road is a non-starter keeps her from picking up her pen. Seven weeks of quotations, as supporting as they were, does not change his past behavior nor does it encourage anything for the future. The fact that he hasn’t said anything since only seems to confirm her suspicions.

 

She lets it go and focuses on her career.

 

Unsurprisingly, she fits well into the Navy life. Once her initial loneliness has faded away, she finds it is an environment she thrives in and bonds quickly with her fellow officers. She’s stationed in Portsmouth as a logistics officer and gets a kick out of being around people who are as driven and committed as she is. It is certainly a change from university life and one she didn’t even know she needed.

 

Life passes on, mostly uneventful, for her first two years in the Navy. She gets promoted to Lieutenant, and signs up for the diving course at Horsea Island. There isn’t much time for socializing and dating, and it isn’t like it is shocking or unexpected, but the beginning threads of loneliness start to weave around her heart. She thinks often of William and Rosina, writes them letters and Skypes with them when she can, but being a witness to their happy domesticity often makes the feelings worse. Rosina gives birth at the end of Roxy’s second year in the Navy and while she is absolutely ecstatic for the couple and the birth of her new goddaughter Annalise, it just hammers home her own situation. Everyone around her is falling in love or finding their soulmate and starting a new life together. Even if it isn't what she particularly wants for her life, she can’t help but feel a little left behind. Throwing herself into her work, while still incredibly fulfilling, doesn’t ease the discomfort as it once had.

 

Every moment she thinks of picking up a pen and writing a message comes with more reasons  why she shouldn’t. Wanting isn’t enough. You can’t make someone interested in you, she thinks,   soulmate or no. She pushes her feelings down and takes it out during target practice and practicing her hand-to-hand with other officers.

 

She is focused, driven, and committed to her life in the Navy.

 

She also desperately needs to get laid.

 

Fellow officers are out for the complications that could arise depending on where each person gets moved or is stationed. Enlisted are forbidden. Her best bet is a civilian, and even that makes her pause since she doubts she will be able to find someone who will understand her busy schedule or her desire to keep any emotional connection at arms-length. University Roxy enjoyed falling in love. Navy Roxy thinks that is too great of a risk.

 

In the beginning of her third year in the navy she’s introduced to Charles Carnwath, a hedge fund manager at Zurich Financial Services. He’s twelve years her senior, 36 to her 24. They are set up through a mutual friend since they both live in Portsmouth and are ‘incredibly busy, driven, and insufferably brilliant’. He is worldly and charming, able to converse on a variety of topics that seem to eclipse the men of her age. He takes her out for dinner and a play, but she finds she doesn’t want to go home after and they stay out drinking and dancing, talking until the sunrise. When it’s time to part, they realize they haven’t exchanged numbers and both of their phones have died in the night.

 

She writes her number on his upper inner wrist, and he locks his fingers with hers and pulls her in for a heated goodnight kiss.  He kisses down her neck, causing her to laugh and sigh, before penning his name and number right under the collarbone of her left shoulder.

She goes home, writes the number down on paper, and smiles to herself as she goes to bed with sunrise.

 

When she wakes, her good mood is immediately abandoned at what she finds when she looks in the bathroom mirror. Andrew had taken a marker to Charlie’s number and crossed it out.

 

To say Roxy is furious would be, at this moment, an understatement. How dare he. This man, this   ordure, who had told her he had no interest in soul mates, who would run hot or cold at a moment’s notice, who had refused to ever even ask for her name he had no right.

 

In this instance, English was the best language for what she wanted to communicate. She dug through her desk drawers until she found a permanent marker and rolled up her sleeve. In large, bold letters she wrote “FUCK OFF!”

 

She would have to wear long sleeves until it wore off but that was an incredibly small price to pay for the feeling of satisfaction she currently had.

 

It’s a feeling of satisfaction that barely lasts more than a year and a half, however. Here she is, thinking that her life is finally settling into  a good routine with a great job, friends, a perfect minimal commitment relationship with really fucking great sex, and then George is in Portsmouth out of the blue and wants to have dinner at Restaurant 27. Roxy, while not a great cook herself, has never been gone to turn down either excellent food or excellent company.

 

Turns out, they aren’t dining alone.

 

George has brought a man with him. Funny, Roxy thought he would have mentioned that on the phone. Is ...is this a boyfriend? She wonders. She’s brought people home to meet George but George has never introduced her to someone in the same fashion.

 

It’s not out of the question; he wouldn’t be the first person to date someone other than his soulmate (Roxy is evidence enough of that), and while she could never quite tell if he was seeing anyone while she was still living at home, she supposes it would make sense for him to be more serious about once she left. It’s not good for anyone to be alone too long and it’s well within his right.

 

It doesn’t mean she necessarily has to like it, though. Still, she puts on her best ‘company’ face and goes to meet the man she presumes is George’s new boyfriend.

 

George has good taste, she reasons. Tall, slim but very fit, a solemn but handsome face. Judging by his lack of hair, she thinks he is older than George. Perhaps they met through work? George is quite the introvert; she cannot picture him going out to bars or clubs, and he is really not the type to set up an online dating profile. The thought alone is laughable.

 

“Roxy, darling, come and meet Edward,” George says, smiling as he beckons her over. He kisses her on the cheek as she takes her seat and looks her over fondly. The same cannot be said of Edward, who seems rather serious. Perhaps he is nervous about meeting her?

 

George orders a lovely Chablis vintage, knowing Roxy’s preference for white wine. The food at Restaurant 27 is divine, and George keeps the conversation light and easy, asking about Roxy’s work, friends, and how she enjoys living in Portsmouth.

 

If he means to introduce her to a boyfriend, he’s not doing a very good job of easing Edward into the conversation. In fact, Edward seems rather stilted and awkward, as if he would rather not be there and disapproves of the whole meeting. It’s rather unnerving.

 

Roxy is biting her tongue, dying to ask why Edward is there and what is going on and she’s about five seconds from completely snapping and blurting it out when George suddenly gets serious and levels his gaze at her. Finally.

 

But it’s not at all what she thought he was going to say.

 

“Roxy, we need to talk about Charles.”

 

“Charlie?” Okay now she’s definitely confused. She hadn’t even introduced Charlie to George; she’s not even sure that she’s mentioned him all that much. While Charlie is a delightful romantic ….entanglement, the awkward thing is that he pretty much exists In Roxy’s life for one purpose and one purpose only: her sexual pleasure. That’s not exactly something you tell your pseudo dad about.

 

She enjoys Charlie’s company in the bedroom and his presence at her side when they go out on dates, but she’s hardly in love with the man. That is half of Charlie’s appeal.

 

For the first time that night, Edward initiates talking with her, instead of his not-at-all-endearing hums of agreement and occasional nods. “We wouldn’t involve you at all in this but the matter has been sadly taken out of our hands.”

 

That does not help clear things up at all, thank you Edward.

 

She looks back to George, hoping for clarification. What she gets is more of a pained expression on his face, but she presses on. “I need you to explain. Why are we talking about Charlie?”

 

After a momentary hesitation, George begins. “While I have endeavored to keep you out of the loop as much as possible in this,for your protection and safety, it seems that your involvement with Mr. Carnwarth has rather ...escalated matters.”

 

Roxy leans back in her seat and gives him a hard look. “That is not an answer, or an explanation.”

 

She isn’t sure if she is imagining it, but out of the corner of her eye she swears she sees Edward’s mouth twitch into a slight smirk.

 

George continues to look awkward. “The thing is, Roxy dear, is that I haven’t been entirely above board with you regarding my chosen vocation.” Oh, George. You always manage to sound so constipated and uptight when you’re feeling uneasy. She is suddenly so grateful that he delegated her sex talk; she’d never ended up getting laid at all.

 

Roxy doesn’t say anything to him, but merely cocks an eyebrow. If he’s been lying to her, he deserves to sweat a little.

 

“There is a great deal I cannot tell you, both for your security and my own. What I can say is that I am involved with an organization that requires a high level of discretion and commitment.”

 

“You’re making it sound as if you are part of MI 6.”  Seriously if he’s been a spy her whole life she is going to be so fucking pissed even though it really really explains a lot .

 

“You’re not quite off the mark.” This is from Edward, who is eating his roasted lamb with calm and grace as if they are not having a conversation about whether or not the man who raised her is a fucking spy.

 

“I think this is the point where you should be completely honest with me and also tell me how it involves my boyfriend, unless you somehow want to be reeducated with how well equipped I am with firearms, most of which you taught me.”

 

Turns out, Roxy is not a fan of being lied to. Who would have thought?

 

“Right. Of course.” George clears his throat and rubs his forehead. “I will make this very simple, Roxanne. We’ve been watching Charlie, as you refer to him, for quite a while and have reason to suspect that he is involved in some rather nefarious doings.”

 

Edward just sighs and looks at him. “You are really quite shite at being direct, you know that? Just come out with it and tell her, or we’ll be here all night and we really don’t have that kind of window.”

 

“Roxy, we have pretty significant evidence that your boyfriend is involved in trafficking,” George finally admits, looking extremely unhappy.

 

“Drugs?” Roxy asks. Is it sad that she’s really not surprised? For a man who worked at an insurance company, Charlie’s flat has some ridiculously high tech security. She chalked it up to him being a paranoid motherfucker, but some of it seemed quite overkill.

 

Thank god she wasn’t in love with him. But...oh dear, it looks like George thinks she is. That’s going to be awkward conversation and hopefully it is one that is Future Roxy’s problem and not something she has to tackle in the next 5 minutes or even 5 hours.

 

“Drugs, yes. And maybe, we’re not quite sure yet, trafficking of a higher nature.”

 

Higher nature? He doesn’t mean …. “People?”

 

This time Edward answers. “We’re not sure. The drugs, we can definitely nail him on. It’s taken actually quite a few years to compile all the evidence against him but it’s there. We only have hints that he’s involved in something much more dangerous, more severe and this is why we need you. I’ve been able to gain access to most of his files but I cannot seem to access anything he keeps in his home and gaining access under false pretense is entirely out of the question.”

 

“Well, of course not. His home lock is biometric and he has several computers in his home office that he keeps offline. He said it was for writing; he didn’t want any distractions.”

 

“Yes,” George speaks up. “You can see how we might have some difficulty getting in.”

 

“But I wouldn’t.” Roxy states, suddenly getting a bit of insight as to what is going on.

 

“We wouldn’t ask but - “ Roxy cuts him off. “What do you need me to do?”

 

If George is surprised by how quickly she is willing to spy on her boyfriend, he doesn’t show it. Instead he is suddenly all business, cool and focused. This man, she can definitely see as a spy.

 

He explains what they need while Edward opens up a small briefcase; they’re bugs that will need to be placed in his apartment and flash drives to go into his computer. It’s nothing extremely difficult except …

 

“He has his own security feed watching,” she tells them. “There is a good chance that he’ll be able to see me planting the bugs, no matter how I go about it.”

 

Edward pushes one flash drive towards her. “If you can find his main security network, this will allow me the ability to gain access and take it over. Any evidence of what you have done will be deleted, and he’ll be none the wiser. We wouldn’t ask if we thought we could endanger you in anyway.”

 

Jesus Christ, was that supposed to sound sexy?

 

Before she stops herself, Roxy blurts out “So I’m guess that you two aren’t dating then?”

 

God she feels so embarrassed but it’s actually worth it for the expression on their faces and oh, look at that. George is spluttering. How delightful; she wishes she could catch this on video.

 

“Why would you think that?” George asks her.

 

“You invited me out to dinner and when I show up there is a very attractive man accompanying you, which you did not mention over the phone. I thought I was about to be introduced to your boyfriend.”

 

Edward laughs and smiles at her, warming up for the first time that night. “While I thank you for your compliment, I am afraid my preferences do not lean towards men. Even though George is a rather attractive specimen.” With that he actually pokes at George’s cheek, the little shit.

 

“Oh sod off,” George mutters, pushing him away. “Darling, I promise you that there is ever someone to introduce you to, it will definitely not be him  and I will definitely not spring it on you like this.”

 

“For that, I am thankful.” Roxy smiles, taking a rather large sip of wine.

 

“So, you think you can handle this?” Edward asks.

 

“I can have it done by midnight tonight.”

 

They look at her, surprised.

 

“Are you sure? We don’t need you to rush. Your safety is important here and we have plenty of time to walk you through it.” It is very endearing how George is quick to assure her, and he’s back to being the man she first met all those years ago, in the church yard.

 

“Don’t worry, gentleman. I know exactly what to do.”

 

***

 

What she has never, and hopefully will never have to, discussed with George is just exactly how she like her little bit of rough and tumble. There’s somethings that are just private and not up for any sort of family dinners.

Which is why she doesn’t tell George exactly how she’s going to make sure that Charlie doesn’t figure it out.

It’s not like she can sneak in; biometric lock and all, and even though Charlie seems to really adore her, that’s not the kind of relationship he’s offered and she never thought to push for it. In retrospect that would have made things easier now, but she’s still very certain she’s going to enjoy herself anyway.

The thing is, as much as she has enjoyed being tied up what really gets Roxy’s socks off is to turn the tables, tie her partners up, and ...well, do a  bit more than that. What she loves about Charlie is that he really really likes giving up his control. If you catch her drift. The latex fetish, she could give or take but it’s actually going to work in her favor tonight.

It’s really not hard to get him away from the office (or wherever he really was, she thinks bitterly) and meet her at his place, especially once he cottons on to what she has planned. If Roxy wanted it, Charlie would roll over like a good boy and do whatever she asked.

Sigh. Human dirt bag aside, there were some things she was really going to miss about him.

For the moment, she was going to have some fun and get the job done at the same time. Hmm. When this was over, she and George were going to have a very long heart to heart and he was going to tell her all about how he became a spy and whether or not it could be a potential career path for Roxy as well.

If he tried to stop her, she’s totally willing to shoot him godfather or no godfather.

Back to the present.

Planting the bugs had been easy enough. She took care of that while he was in the shower, washing up and preparing. At first she thought the amount of bugs was overkill, but considering there were five rooms plus the living room and kitchen, it evened out nicely.

They could always just hack into the cameras once she is able to grant them access to the security feed, but the downside of that is not every room has cameras and every camera has a blindspot. So it's best to cover all her bases and the dungeon doesn't have cameras at all.

To be truthful, she hesitated before planting bugs in the dungeon. It's not like she wanted any evidence of what happened in there to get out and she’s doubtful anything filmed there will help them at all, but she figured it was better to be thorough. She’d have to warn George about that and tried not to feel uncomfortable about the possibility of her godfather watching her have sex. It didn’t exactly work, but she had promised to do this and it’s not like she could hide the fact that there were five rooms in the house without some consequences later on. Still, some freaking out was definitely on the agenda.

Oh my god, her secret spy godfather was going to find out that her boyfriend who apparently is involved in illegal activity has a built-in dungeon. And then he might see some of the things that go in in that built-in dungeon and she is never going to be able to look him in the eye and Jesus Christ, there is a St Andrew's Cross  and rings installed on the ceiling for suspension play and is it too much to hope that he won’t know what any of it is for?

 

She was never going to be able to bring anyone home to meet him again.

Especially if he did get around to watching the footage. Fuck fuck fuck, she was so very fucked.

Roxy took a deep breath and centered herself. She could freak out about it later. Right now, she had a job to do and the problem wasn’t the bugs or getting to computers without Charlie noticing; it was her exit strategy. She needed to be able to remove all the evidence of what she did so he wouldn’t find out later.

 

When he had moved in he had knocked down most of the walls separating the upstairs rooms. This was both good and bad; the dungeon, bedroom, and his office were all connected albeit with some strategic furnishing sectioning the different areas off. This meant Roxy didn’t have to worry about picking any locks or sneaking into a room she wasn’t supposed to be in without having a good reason why. That was the good part. The downside was accessing the security feed without Charlie noticing; the computers and flash drives were along the far side of the back wall of the main upstairs room and it was easy enough to just plug in the flash drives and let them do their work. His home security? Housed in an on-site server located in a closet in his home gym, located further down the hall. She had found the server one day ages back while looking for a place to store some of workout gear.

 

Since she won’t be able to come up with any good excuse as to why she needs to use the home gym while they’re supposed to be having a romantic evening together, she's going to need one hell of a distraction if she means to access the server.

 

Luckily for her, Charlie already owns it. It’s not something that they use very often, much to Charlie’s displeasure. She knows Charlie gets off on it, but Roxy’s always been a little gunshy considering the risks. They’ve only used it twice before and if she didn’t need everything to go right tonight, it wouldn’t even cross her mind. Tonight, however, the stakes are high and she needs to pull out all the shots to make sure everything goes exactly right and he’ll most likely be too happy to question why.

 

Vacbed it is, then.

 

Please, let George never watch the footage from tonight.

 

True to her word, she’s calling George up at 11:43. Charlie’s been asleep for about 20 minutes, and she’s out on the deck enjoying the fresh air and drinking a nightcap after a vigorous but highly enjoyable night.

 

“Roxy, darling. How are you?”

 

“It’s done.”

 

“I know; excellent work. Edward’s done his bit and you’re in the clear.”

 

“Have you started watching already, then?”

 

“Edward’s on it, I have other things to do tonight.”

 

Oh thank god. With any luck, Edward would decide that there were some things George didn’t need to see.

 

“Should we meet up in the morning then?” Roxy took a sip from her drink and turned around to look at Charlie in bed, through the glass doors. He looked sweet, almost innocent. Not like the complete fucker he apparently was in secret. What a shame.

 

George confirmed with a time and a place. They hung up; Roxy finished her drink, and got in bed. Charlie instantly rolled over and curled himself around her, waking up a little. She cupped under his chin and kissed him, wet and a little messy with a good amount of force. He responded a bit like an eager puppy, wanting more play time. He rolled his body over, so she could maneuver her body on top of his.

 

What a shame , she thought as lowered her body, sinking into him. She was going to miss this.

 

It was too bad, yes, but she really didn’t feel guilty at all.



***

 

The next morning  she’s knocking on George’s hotel room door. He opens, she enters and hands him the envelope with the flash drive.

 

He knocks on one of the doors inside the room; Edward opens, looking disheveled like he’s been up all night. Dress shirt still on, no tie, sleeves rolled up. Fucking sexy as hell, and is it just Roxy’s imagination or is he trying to avoid looking at her? No matter. George hands him the envelope, he gives a quick nod and goes back into his room.

 

“That should keep him busy for hours. Let’s order room service for breakfast.” George says.

 

“Edward won’t be joining us?”

 

“He’ll be streamlining coffee until he finishes looking through all those files. Better to say away; he gets very intense when he’s got work to do.”

 

That’s when Roxy pauses to take a good look at his room and George himself. It’s a mess, which is unusual for George, even when traveling. Bed is messy, clothes scattered over chairs and the wardrobe is still open. Towel on the floor, cigarettes in an ashtray and she thought he had quit years ago. There’s a half empty bottle of scotch sitting on his nightstand, and a few empty glasses.

 

George looks like he hasn’t slept. He’s not really well put together man that Roxy is accustomed to.

 

“You look like hell,” she tells him.

 

“I thought I taught you better manners than that,” he says with exasperation, handing her a glass of water.

 

“My nannies taught me manners. You always said I should be honest with you.”  She settles herself into a chair and kicks the other out towards him.

 

“Clearly I was a fool,” he says as he takes his own seat. She notices that he’s not drinking water, but rather more scotch.

 

“It’s 8 in the morning.”

 

“Do you remember what day it is?”

 

She didn’t, she hadn’t even thought about until he mentioned it.

 

“October the 23rd, yes.”

 

“It’s the day your parents died.”

 

She’s very tempted to take the scotch of his hands and drink it herself. So she does.

 

“Oy, that was mine.”

 

“You shouldn’t have brought it up if you didn’t want to share.”

 

He walks up and pours himself another drink, sets the bottle down and thinks better of it. He comes back to chair with both the glass on the bottle.

 

“Let’s get drunk.” He pours more scotch into her glass.

 

“You’re a horrible influence.”

 

“I am the BEST influence. And I’m your only influence.” He stares into his glass, maudlin and lips drawn into a tight line.

 

She takes pity on him.

 

“Tell me about them.”

 

He looks up, surprised. She supposes it’s only natural. For all their conversations where her parents have been mentioned or referred to, she’s never directly come out and asked to hear him talk about them. She supposes she’s been keeping the subject at bay, not wanting to look too closely or think about it too much. It hurt , and it had never stopped hurting.

 

But she forgot that she wasn’t the only one hurting. Maybe it would hurt less for George if he had someone to share with. Maybe it was selfish of her to always avoid the subject.

 

“I loved them. I loved them both so very very much.”

 

This was news to her. She had always imagined, based on the evidence she had as a child, that George and her mother didn’t have much to do with each other.

 

“I thought you were my dad’s soulmate? And that mother was upset about it.”

 

He gives a little self-deprecating half smile. “Well you have part of it right, but she wasn’t upset at is. Rather … she was upset at the reminder. It’s a very long story.”

 

“I have all day.” She fills up both their scotch glasses. They’ll be too soused to go anywhere, but she figures maybe it’s just going to be that kind of day. They can order room service later, maybe.

 

So he tells her. He weaves for a story that she never would have even imagined. How all three of them grew up together and were as thick as thieves and the best of friends. How George and her father, Alec, found out when they were very young that they were soulmates but felt it was necessary to keep it a secret. Both of them would still need to provide heirs when the time came and soulmates or not, same sex relationships were still frowned on when they were younger.

 

“We hid it, you see. None of our parents were accepting people. Your mother was our darling beard; for years people suspected that there was a love triangle going on and we did what we could to help further the rumors. One of us would sneak away with your mother during parties, while the other would stay for longer looking upset. Then when the time was appropriate, either Alec or I would sneak away to join the other two.”

 

“What would happen then?”

 

“Well most of the time your mother would sit in the other room reading while Alec and I … I am not drunk enough yet to talk to you about that.”

 

“I’m not drunk enough to hear it.”

 

“Fair enough. Moving on. Yes, so either your mother would sit in the other room, or she would sneak out to her own soulmate.”

 

“Wait what?” Roxy spluttered and nearly spit out her drink.

 

“She never told you?”

 

“I was nine, she never told me anything about soulmates other than I was better off not having one.”

 

“Ah. Yes, I can certainly see why she would say that.”

 

“Well I don’t, so you have a lot of explaining to do and you better start now otherwise no more scotch than you.”

 

“Horrible woman.”

 

“Damn fucking straight.”

 

“Did you ever wonder why you came to live with me and not your grandparents?”

 

“Because my father’s parents are dead and I never met my mother’s, are you changing the subject?”

 

“No, darling. I am trying to find a way to explain a rather different story. One, admittedly, I should have told you years ago but I am afraid that in some situations I am very much a coward.”

 

“You mean you can mister-cool-suave-secret-spy and don’t think I’m letting that one one anytime soon, but you have a hard time discussing anything of a personal nature when it comes to yourself?”

 

“...Yes.”

 

“Yeah that’s not really news.”

 

He glared at her and she beamed back. This was really good scotch, quite excellent.

 

“There is no easy way to tell you this darling, and I’m am very very sorry that it has taken so long. But I am afraid that Alec was not your father.”

 

Looking back, she thought her reaction of total silence and a dumb stare was a perfectly reasonable one, really.

 

“Come again?” she said after what felt like several minutes.

 

He looked very uneasy, as if he was unsure this was the right path to take and that he rather wished he could scrape the whole thing away and go hide under the bed.

 

“Your mother met Sam when she was 16 or 17. I’ve never been quite sure why it took that long; I know that your grandmother was very adamant that she never write anything to her soulmate and was nearly obsessive in watching for it. Diana once complained that she was never even allowed anything but pencils until she was a teenager. I had thought at the time she was exaggerating, but looking back I don’t think so. I don’t know all the details; I only know what transpired after, you see.”

 

“I really really don’t.” She felt like her entire world was falling apart under her feet. Who was she, if not her father, Alec’s, daughter? Who was her real father? Was he alive? Did he want her? Did he even know she existed?

 

George looked at her sadly. “Diana was meeting him in secret, that’s all I really know. Alec and I thought something was going on, because she seemed very happy and would go missing for several hours or almost an entire day. But we didn’t press and we covered for her like she covered for us. Then one day, right after my 19th birthday party, she showed up at my door in tears.”

 

“Why was she crying?”

 

“Your grandparents had found out about her relationship with Sam. He was older than her, and was in the Navy just like you are now. He had been writing to her, small notes on his skin, and had entranced her. She wrote back in secret, in places that her mother wouldn’t think to check. They met up in secret and had been meeting for years, it turned out. He was trying to convince her to run away and get married but she was terrified of her parents. Your grandmother was a very intimidating lady and she had raised Diana with an iron fist. Your grandfather was even worse.”

 

“Did she even run away?”

 

“Not that I am aware of. From what she told me, your grandparents had got to Sam. She didn’t even know how they found out about him; I suspect that they had someone spying on her. I really wouldn’t have put it past them. All she knew for certain is that he had left, and had stopped responding to her. No more words written on her skin, no matter what she said. They were all just simply washed off without an explanation, as if they had never existed in the first place. He abandoned her.”

 

“But why? I don’t understand, they were soulmates. How do you just abandon your soulmate?”

 

She was very carefully trying not to think of Andrew in this moment.

 

“Alec suspected they might have paid him off, or threatened his career somehow. They were quite powerful people in some respects. They knew all the right people and traveled in very high circles. It would only have taken them a phone call to destroy him.”

 

“How did she end up marrying my dad, I mean, Alec then?”

 

George’s gave her a fond expression and reached over to kiss her brow.

 

“He was still your dad, my dear. He might not have been your biological father, but he loved you dearly. We all did.”

 

God, she was going to cry. This was all too much to take in; the only reasonable response that was to drink straight from the scotch bottle.

 

“Ugh, you have appalling manners.”

 

She thrust the bottle at him and said “Shut up and drink.” So he did. She crawled over to the bed and laid down; her head was spinning and the chair was no longer her friend. The chair was evil, she had a vendetta against the chair now. Enemies forever.

 

George took a good hearty drink and then continued on. “Diana was pregnant. You, obviously. She was 19 and unwed, and about to have a baby. Gossip would have been horrible, her parents would most likely have thrown her out, and she was terrified. It was either Alec or I, and Alec’s parents would have been the most accepting of the situation. Although, I must assure you, we both offered.”

 

“Get over here so I can hug you.”

 

George huffed and slumped over to the bed, nearly falling on top of her.

“Ooh.”

 

“Man, that scotch really gets to you.”

 

“Well, yes. It is good scotch. As if I would drink anything else.”

 

“Snob.”

 

“Child.”

 

“...Point. And shuttup. You need to keep telling.”

 

“There’s not much else, I’m afraid. Or at least, not much that I know. Your mother became very quiet about Sam from that point going forward. I don't know if she ever wrote to him again or if he ever wrote to her. I don't even know what happened to him, I'm afraid. Or even his last name. She sunk into a very heavy depression. I know you don’t remember a lot, but there were many days where your mother didn’t even want to leave her room, let alone the house. You were one the only things that would make her smile. And then Alec and I joined Kingsmen - “

 

“You joined the what a now?”

 

“Kingsmen. It’s the name of the organization I work for.”

 

“...That is a very stupid secret spy name.”

 

“I’ll be sure to pass that on to my superiors, thanks.”

 

“You do that,” she said, snuggling up to him. He put his arm around her, and it was like she was twelve years old again and they were cuddling up on his bed watching old classic movies.

 

“So you joined the Kingsmen ...why Kingsmen, are there no woman?”

 

“I’m afraid not. At least, none of the agents. A great deal of the support staff are female.”

 

“That is complete bollocks. You need women, hey! You should let me join, I’d totally be an ace secret spy.” Unfortunately, her argument was ruined by the fact that she was nearly slurring her speech, but she felt conviction behind her words.

 

“You’re a ridiculous drunk.”

 

“I will fight you. Or bite you. Or both. Don’t you mess with me.”

 

“Yes ma’am. I mean, no ma’am. Oh bollocks, whatever you want. I really shouldn’t have had so much scotch.”

 

“Ugh, me either. Later, I am going to yell at you so much for keeping secrets from me, but right now I am just going to lay here and hope that my stomach pain goes away.”

 

“Right. Yelling at later, can I sleep now?”

 

“Do whatever you want, just stop talking.”

 

Hours later, Edward would come barging into the room and find them starfishing next to each other, sleeping.

 

He could bitch all he wanted, and he certainly did, but George and Roxy both proved to have excellent aim when it came to pillow throwing. He could come back later.






Chapter Text

Part 3

 

There's a hangover to be dealt with when Roxy wakes up, for sure, but it's the newfound knowledge that's really giving her a headache.

 

She pulls herself up out of the bed, noticing that the room is empty and her head feels …weird.

 

Huh.

 

There's a post-it note on her forehead.  George, of course. What a little shit. She sighs and pulls it off to read it. Sorry to dash off, darling. Needed elsewhere. Will have to yell at me later.

 

She is so sending him a glitterbomb in the post.  Wanker.

 

The hotel is nicer than her Navy accommodations and she doesn't have to be anywhere the rest of the day. She luxuriates for a while on the bed before deciding that a glass of water and the loo are in definite need of a visit.

 

The sight of the majestic and completely ridiculous oversized bath cements her plans for the next hour or so. Heavenly bliss, she has missed this level of comfort. George won't mind, after all.

 

She'd half believe that he chose this type of room with her in mind, he loves to spoil her so…when he's not keeping secrets from her, at least. Or maybe, she reflects, the spoiling is part result of the secrets he's had to keep. It seems like a heavy burden.

 

Poor man.

 

She thinks she might have dozed off a little in the tub, because the water was cold and there were low voices on the other side of the door when she came to.

 

It sounded like an argument; heated and angry. And, if she wasn't mistaken there were definitely more than two people out there.

 

Without thinking, she got out of the tub and wrapped a towel around herself, and opened the door.

 

Three shocked faces turned around to face her. It was Edward, George, and a man that she did not recognize.

 

"Right. Awkward." She said. Great, she was standing dripping wet in a towel in front of her godfather and two of his colleagues and this is just not Roxy's day at all. She wants a do over.

 

George had the decency to look a little abashed. "Darling, we thought you had gone but you weren't answering your phone."

"I just meant to wash up a bit before I went. I fell asleep in the bath, I'm afraid. I just woke up and heard the arguing and there was a voice I didn't recognize. Sorry about that."

 

Edward cocked his head towards her and gave her a small smile, mostly with the edge of his mouth. "No need for apologies. Those are good instincts to have."

 

Sweet merciful heavens, was that a Scottish brogue? How had she missed that last night? Had she missed it?

 

"Yes, anyway… I'll get just dressed and be going then."

 

George put up a hand to stop her. "There is no rush. Harry and Edward were just leaving, weren't you gentleman?" He ended the last bit quite forcefully and with a glare that had the other men sighing and leaving the room.

 

Quickly, Roxy stepped back in the bathroom and got herself ready.

 

"I really am sorry," she said as she stepped out. "And very embarrassed."

 

"Don’t be. It's not often I have a young thing in my hotel room, waiting to ambush my colleagues. This will do wonders for my reputation."

 

"Ha ha. Join me for lunch?"

 

"It would be my pleasure."

 

Secret emotional breakdowns about family secrets and drama would have to wait, Roxy thought. At the moment, her stomach's demands were more important.

***

It's a week later when Charlie calls her, asking her to come over that night for dinner.

 

She really shouldn't, she thinks. Better to make a clean break, end things now over the phone, or ghost him until he forgets all about her.  Fade away.

 

Yet something strange and sentimental twists inside of her and she finds herself in front of his flat. It's for the best in the long run so he won't suspect, she rationalizes to herself; she should end things face to face.

 

The lights are dim when she arrives, there is music playing in the background.  Mendelssohn, if she's not mistaken. Charlie doesn't really like classical music, though. They've only gone to the Symphony because it's something that Roxy enjoys.

 

He greets her with a long kiss, and brings her inside. Candlesticks alit on the table, wine already poured, and fresh flowers everywhere. It's something out of a rom-com dream. It's not that Roxy and Charlie don't have romantic nights in or that this is treatment she is unused to; rather, it's the feeling that everything was done with particularly special care that puts her on edge. She feels caged and uneasy, like she's walked into a trap. Something is going on here, and she's not quite sure what it is.

 

She spends the dinner making light small talk, laughing at his jokes and pretending to be charmed by his smile and his stories. She'll act as if nothing has changed until she finds out exactly why he's acting the way he is. Did he find the bugs? Is this a ploy to catch her off her guard? She mentally kicks herself for coming over tonight; she's not a spy, she doesn't have an organization that she can call on for resources or information, and worse of all she does not have backup.  

 

It may seem harmless and romantic, but all her instincts are telling her that there is something definitely wrong and she needs to have an exit strategy put in place, but she's also afraid that any sudden change in her demeanor will spook Charlie and confirm his suspicions.

 

There may be cameras watching, but that doesn't mean they're being watched right now. Nor does it mean that she can communicate with them in any way … except. Morse code. Brilliant George and his brilliant obsession with all things coded when she was younger; it's a long shot and she may be overreacting to what is just an atypical situation, but it also doesn't hurt to be prepared.  She can apologize later, if it comes to that. Best case scenario, she just ends up looking ridiculous.  Worst case, she ignores her gut and ends up looking way worse.  While Roxy is perfectly capable of ignoring what she feels when it comes to her romantic life, she doesn't take that risk when it comes to her personal safety. It's pretty easy to come to a decision.

 

When Charlie goes in the other room to fetch dessert, Roxy arranges her fingers on the table where she knows that one of the small cameras will be able to see; she taps out a quick S.OS. If anyone is watching, maybe that will help. But there's no guarantee, so Roxy knows it's all on her.

There's a difference between being trained to fight and actually have to put those skills to use. Roxy's thrilled all her mentors growing up, and she knows she has what it takes to bring down any other soldier in the training gym. Yet there is a difference between going up against someone who has similar training to you and someone like Charlie. He's a civilian, as far as she's aware. That makes him a bit of a wildcard. No guessing what he'll throw at her.

 

He's taking far too long in the kitchen; she heads up to follow him.

 

"Darling, what's taking you so long – oh."  

 

There is Charlie standing on one side of kitchen island. There are two glasses of champagne and two ramekins of crème brulee on a tray, and there is a diamond ring sitting on top of one of the crème brulees.

 

Well, Roxy didn't see that one coming.

She bites her lip and looks at him. “Charlie, I don’t know what to say.”

 

“Say yes.”

 

And there goes her nerves again. The scene is set, but the voice she hears isn’t the tone of a man in love or in awe of the person he is with. She’s heard it plenty of times from William, directed at Rosina. Charlie’s tone is urging, but it’s flat without  desire or need. He doesn’t love her, so why else would he be proposing?

 

Then she realizes where he’s standing and it all fits into place. He wasn’t taking too long in the kitchen, he was waiting for her to get curious and follow him.

 

Roxy got very familiar with his kitchen while she was placing the bugs. She knows that the drawer where he is standing has a gun inside, and she can’t see one of his hands. She’s willing to bet, however, he doesn’t know that she is aware of this. Or that she would know that cabinet drawer behind her also has a gun. She thought it was ridiculous and overkill, not to mention extremely illegal, to have as many firearms in the house as he did. It only confirmed his guilt for her while she was placing the bugs. Yet she had never imagined her safety would be at risk; whatever façade Charlie wore when they were together, it was a good one. She never would have guessed he could be so dangerous.

 

When she first arrived, she was worried that Edward had screwed up and Charlie saw the feed or that he had found the bugs. But this ... It’s not about the bugs or the security tampering. This is about something else and Roxy really doesn’t care, as long as she can get out.

 

She moves back, closer to the drawer. It might be safer to say yes, but from the look on his face she doesn't think that would save her.

"I didn't think that's what you wanted. You haven't even given me a key to your house." More importantly, and not that Charlie would even ask, Roxy honestly has no plans to marry someone who isn’t her soulmate. Things with Andrew may seem FUBAR and stupid and really really fucking dumb but there’s that part of Roxy that is still secretly a romantic and also figures that if she can’t make it work in the long run with her soulmate, who else could she fit with?

 

“Why aren’t you saying yes? Isn’t this what you want?” The tone is angry, challenging.

 

“Charlie, I - “

 

“Tell me this is what you want. Tell me the truth. Tell me about the man I saw you with walking outside of the Crown Inn.”

 

George? This was about George … George, who she had never introduced Charlie to. She hadn’t even told Charlie that he was in town.

 

Charlie was about snap because he thought she was cheating on him with her godfather.

 

“Darling, it’s not what you think, that man I was with, he was my godfather. It really doesn’t mean anything.”

 

“Don’t fucking lie to me! You always fucking lie!”

 

“I have never lied to you.”

 

That was apparently the wrong thing to say because the next thing Roxy knew she was looking at the barrel of a gun, held in his angry shaking hands. Was this how she died? At the mercy of a madman, whose sanity has apparently left him because he thought she was cheating on him? Because she wouldn’t marry him?

 

How was this the same man Roxy had dated for the past year? How had she missed it? Was she really that bad a judge of character? Though it was really not the fucking time for him to pop in her head, she immediately thought of Andrew. All those months ago when he had crossed off Charlie’s number… “in my line of work,” indeed. Had he known and tried to warn her? Who would tell him now, if she were to die?

 

With that thought, something inside of her snapped. She looked Charlie straight in the eyes, took another step back and repeated in a calm voice that did not reflect her inner emotional state, “I have never lied to you.”

 

“Even now you are lying about lying. I should have known; women can’t be trusted, not even if they are supposed to be your soulmate.”

 

Whatever he was blabbing on about was not really her problem. Except in the way that it was since he seemed to be taking some personal issues out on her, but right now there’s a gun to deal with and that’s her first priority. She’s not here to provide psychoanalysis, even though he clearly is in need of it.

 

Everything next happens in a blur. She’s not sure, looking back, who moved first. But she’s turning around to get the gun and before she can twist back to aim at him properly, she’s hit. In the ass.

 

It’s better than the back but it sure hurts a hell of a lot, and she needs to fire back before he shoots again.

 

She gives him two rounds to the heart and then one in the dick for good measure.

 

The rest is acting on pure adrenaline; she grabbed to dial 999 and after that was done, she spotted a handful of pens in the open drawer.

 

With determination to stay focused and not knowing how much longer she would have before help arrived or she passed out, she scribbled out “Contact. Wait out” on her arm in large shaky and uneven letters.

 

She thinks she hears the sound of the front door being knocked down, of frantic movement and someone calling for her name. It’s feels like a dream, that sense of being half awake and not certain what is reality and what isn’t.

 

She gives up on holding on and everything fades to black.

 

***

 

There’s a bright fluorescent light blinding her when she opens her eyes and soft beeping sounds coming from Roxy’s left side and ridiculous amount of pain coming from her lower body.

 

Oh right, she got shot. In the bum.

 

On one hand, she’s alive and apparently well, and from the looks of it she’s in the hospital.

 

On the other hand, George is never going to fucking let her live this down.

 

Or at least that’s what she thinks until she pulls herself up a little and takes a good look around. There he is, slumped over in an uncomfortable hospital chair, with a miserable expression on his face and his eyes are closed.

Taking a glance at the window, it’s daylight with the sun bright in the sky. Has he been here all night? He’s wearing his customary suit, but the jacket and tie are off, and the sleeves are rolled up. There are several hospital coffee cups on the nightstand, enough for even an elephant to experience a caffeine high.

 

She isn’t sure if he is sleeping - it’s doubtful, unless he crashed - but she could really use some water and if her body is any indication, she’s unable to get it herself. So she clears her throat and that seems to startle him into almost falling off his chair.

 

“Jesus fucking Christ!”

 

“Nope, sorry. Just Roxy.”

 

He tries sending her a glare but it just comes out as a mixture of fond exasperation and relief, which melts away into complete relief as she shoots him a cheeky grin.

 

“Any chance the invalid can get a glass of water?”

 

“The invalid can get anything she bloody wants,” he smiles at her as he gets moves towards the bathroom where she assumes there are cups and a faucet.

 

He brings it back to her and she takes a sip, gratefully. “How long was I out and how bad is the damage”

 

George takes a seat. “In a moment I’ll go and get the doctor, and she’ll give you the full diagnosis, but you were lucky. The bullet was a clean shot through you and there’s no major damage to your muscle tissue. You’ll need some time to heal and perhaps a month or two of physical therapy, but from what I understand there’s no long term damage.”

 

“Thank god Charlie is a shitty shot.”

 

“Thank god you’re not.”

 

“What do you mean?”

 

“Roxanne, your boyfriend is dead. 2 shots to the heart, he bled out in minutes.”

 

“Oh...he had it coming. Worst proposal, ever.”

 

George lets out a shaky laugh. “This is all my fault. You never would have gotten shot if it wasn’t for me.”

 

“Why? Because Charlie was a delusional fool who chose to believe I was cheating on him with my godfather of all people, instead of taking the time to fucking ask me what was going on?”

 

“You would haven’t been seen at all if I hadn’t asked you to get involved.”

 

“You don’t know that. We could have met up somewhere else just to catch up. Or, at any rate, who knows how long he was planning on asking me to marry him. Took me completely by surprise.”

 

“I’m definitely not ready to attend your wedding.”

 

Roxy rolled her eyes. “Be a dear and get me some more water.”

 

While he was in the bathroom again she shouted out “So what happens next?”

 

“What do you mean?”

 

“Well the whole point of the bugs was to spy on him, but you can’t do much of that if he’s dead.”

 

“Ah. Actually … we kind of owe you for that.”

 

“Come again?”

 

“You’ve inadvertently created a perfect opening for our investigation to get a closer look at what Mr. Carnwarth was involved in.”

 

“Edward was right, you really are bad at getting to the point.”

 

“Brat.”

 

She was tempted to stick out her tongue at him, but she didn’t want to give him any more ammunition.

 

George leaned back in his chair. “With Charlie dead, there’s a potential power vacuum. There’s also the chance, and we feel very confident about this, that Charlie did most of his dirty work through other agents. From what our intel suggests, Charlie rarely met up with any of colleagues, for the lack of a better term. It allows for one of our agents to go undercover and pretend to be him.”

 

“Will that be you?”

 

“No, definitely not. I’m going to stay around in England while you’re recovering.”

 

“You really don’t have to,” she protests.

 

“Don’t fight me on this one. I feel awful enough as it is, and there’s no telling how long I’d have to be away if I took this assignment. There are plenty of other things for me to do. Edward will be going, and I’ll be taking over a little of his responsibilities. He’s the best match for Charlie anyway, as they’re close enough in height and facial features.”

 

“Huh. I guess I hadn’t noticed.”

 

She leans back in her bed and groans at the pain. “I have no idea how I’m going to explain this to my superiors.”

 

“About that …” he trails off.

 

She glares at him, narrowing her eyes. “What did you do?”

 

“You’re probably not going to like it, but I assure you I only have your best interests at heart.”

 

She groans again, this time in exasperation instead of pain. “You only say that when you know I am going to be very unhappy with you.”

 

“Yes, well. We’ve, and by we I mean Kingsman, have already contacted your superiors. Or rather your superiors’ superiors’ superiors. As of last night, you are officially assigned to a special mission that is entirely classified to anyone other than the highest ranking officer. You have several months of recovery to undergo; we have some of the finest doctors and physical therapists so Kingsman will arrange for your treatment.”

 

“What else?”

“Hmm?”

 

“There is definitely something else, or else you wouldn’t have said anything about my best interests.”

 

“Ah, yes. Unofficially, you’ve been honorably discharged from the Navy.”

 

“What the fuck bloody fuck have you done?” Roxy did not often raise her voice to anyone, let alone George, but this was definitely an occasion worthy of it.

 

“Now darling, let me explain - “

 

“Don’t ‘darling’ me, you fucker! I have at least six months to go and I was going to re-enlist and you just threw away my entire fucking career overnight? What the hell gives you that right?” She throws her water cup at him, seething in anger.

 

He had the decency to look abashed as he ducked out of the way, but he plodded on with his explanation.

 

“We need you at Kingsman. I need you at Kingsman, for several reasons.”

 

“I thought Kingsman didn’t have female agents, you patriarchial fucktarts.”

 

“You know, I’m learning a lot about your vocabulary today.”

 

“You’ll learn a helluva lot more when I can get up and walk. I’mma kick your ass.”

 

“I don’t doubt it for the slightest second, and you’re right. We don’t have any women agents, not yet. Hopefully some day that will change, but I don’t know when. We only start the new recruit process when a previous agent has died.”

 

“That’s just barmy.”

 

“I’ll explain more about the structure of Kingsman later, when you’re less angry at me and also on less pain medication.”

 

“I really hate you keeping secrets from me. And I hate that you’re making my own life decisions for me, while I was unconscious because I was having surgery because I got fucking shot.”

 

“I have a feeling that if you had a gun right now, I’d be the one shot.”

 

“You got that damn right.”

 

He stands up and brings her more water.  She’s still fuming, and she’ll be fuming for months to come, but she’s willing to listen to him.

 

“So what is your plan for me?”

 

“You need to recover and you also need to not get deployed on a boat where you might not come back for months or years. I need you here; your skills are too valuable. Especially with Edward gone, the rest of us can only do so much.”

 

“Why, what’s so special about him?”

 

“He’s not just any field agent, he essentially runs Kingsman, at least all the technology bits and the handlers. I guess you would say that when it comes to the operations of the organization, he’s second in command.”

 

“And the head of the organization - “

 

“We call him Arthur.”

 

“...You guys have completely ridiculous codenames, don’t you?”

 

George heaved a sigh. “If you must know, Kingsman was founded in the early 20th century, right after the First World War. Those founders thought it would be super awesome, as you kids say, to name the agents after King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table.”

 

Roxy snorted. “What’s your name?”

 

“Percival.”

 

Roxy is pretty sure they can hear her laughter from several rooms away, maybe even the next corridor.

 

“Does this make me the Holy Grail?”

 

He looks at her in confusion. “Come again?”

 

“In some of the stories, Percival’s sister is the bearer of the Holy Grail.”

 

“Darling, I adore you and you are the light of the heavens reborn, but you definitely not pure enough to be the Holy Grail.”

 

She sticks her tongue again, the pain meds kicking in again. It seems she got the good stuff.

 

“And so if you are Percival, what is Edward? Lancelot?”

 

“No, that is someone else. Edward happens to be our Merlin.”

 

“Aaaah. Technomage?”

“Sometimes I have absolutely no idea what language you speak.”

 

“I speak many, including geek.”

 

“Duly noted, but if we may move on?”

 

“Fine. Finish your explanation, and then let’s talk to the doctor.”

 

“With Edward going undercover, I’ll be picking up a lot of his slack. I’m normally based closer to home anyway, for a variety of reasons that you absolutely don’t need to know right now.”

 

“Okay so what’s the problem? Why do you need me?”

 

“In the long run, I think you’d make an excellent handler or even an agent, should there be an opening. While you recover, I’ll have some translation work for you; we’re a bit short staffed right now in that area and with Edward, I mean, Merlin out of the picture for a bit we’re even more crunched. He’s fluent in Italian and German, and we don’t have as much staff at those HQs as we did in previous decades. Nor do we have a lot of Russian speakers who can also speak English, German, and Italian which is what brings me to the long term picture. I’ve talked it over with the other agents and Arthur agrees, we need someone as a permanent liaison between the individual HQs. We haven’t had one in nearly a decade and it’s beginning to show in our efficiency. Normally, it’s Merlin but that’s completely impossible at the moment and it’s definitely not a good long term solution.”

 

“I don’t see how I can be a good liaison without knowing more about Kingsman.” She must be going mad, she can’t believe she’s even considering this. The Navy was going to be her life … but she could not deny that there wasn’t something incredibly enticing about working for a secret spy organization.

 

“You’ll be brought up to speed during your recovery; don’t worry. We’ll see to it. It’ll be months before you’ll get started. Merlin may come back from undercover by then, he may not. If he does, he’ll be the one to train you. Otherwise it’s me and some of the other team, flying by the seat of our pants.”

 

“You’ve got it all planned out, haven’t you?”

 

“Darling, I’ve been thinking about this for years.” He pauses, looks away for a moment, and then comes back to her with an obstinately determined look on his face. “Your father was Lancelot, before he died. I mean. Not your biological father, obviously, but ...”

 

“You were right, the other day. He was still my father. It’s okay.”

 

They share a wan smile, and then George goes up to find the doctor. Before he exits, he turns to her and says “So what do you think? I know I haven’t given you much choice but it really is your decision in the end.”

 

She takes a sip of her water, pauses, and looks at him.

 

“I think it’s time that I entered the family business.”

 

It’s only when he leaves that she notices there is writing on her forearm. That’s right; she had forgotten. That panicky, desperate message to Andrew informing her that she had made contact with an enemy. He probably wouldn’t even understand it himself, unless he came from a military background; she can only imagine that it was the shock of being shot and the blood loss that made her pen such a cryptic note.

 

Yet, it seems that her instincts about his background were right, he did understand. In firm, yet still small handwriting he had written her saying “Are you alright? Have you been hurt?”

 

She finds some pens in the nightstand drawer.

 

Shot, but recovering. I’m going to be okay. I’m sorry.”

 

As if he was waiting for a reply, the response is nearly immediate.

 

“I am very glad to hear it. I should be the one apologizing.”

 

“For what?”

 

“For being an arsehole, of course.”

 

Roxy pauses. She thinks about her mother’s separation from her soul mate, of George and her father separated by society and then a pretend marriage, of having to scrounge together what little time they could. Of Rosina and William, so dedicated to each other and committed to making it work even from a young age. She thinks of all her interactions with Andrew over the years, and her sadness at not having the perfectly happy ever after experience that she has seen in so many couples during her short life time.

 

She doesn’t have that, but who is to blame? Yes, Andrew has been an arsehole. She won’t deny that, not for one moment. She has felt the pain of it too deeply, as well as the despair.

 

That was the past; it doesn’t necessarily have to be the future.

She writes back, “maybe we could start over? Hello, my name is Roxy.”

 

It feels like forever, and at the very least it is a couple of minutes but a response does come.

 

“Hello, Roxy. I’m Andrew. It’s good to meet you.”

 

Beneath that is an email address, the first indication she’s ever had that her soulmate is willing to have her in his life, even in the smallest of ways.

 

She’ll email him when she leaves the hospital, she decides.

 

It may not be perfect but it’s a start.

 

***

 

In the week that follows, George barely lets her out of his sight, as further evidence of his guilty feelings for putting her in the crosshairs.

 

When she's released from the hospital, he takes her back to London.

 

It's roughly a two month recovery period, full of doctors' visits and physiotherapists coming to the house. George occasionally brings home documents for her to translate and files to look at which helps keep her occupied, as well reading all the Kingsman training manuals for incoming support staff, but Roxy finds herself in a constant battle with boredom and this feeling of restless she cannot seem to kick. It's a relief when she's given the all clear and George finally caves to bringing her into the Kingsman shop on Savile Row.

 

It's a bit shocking and completely awe-inspiring, this introduction to a secret world of intrigue and danger. She's quite fond of the bullet train as well.

 

George had asked her to pack a suitcase full of the necessities; she'll be staying a few weeks at HQ to meet the support staff and tech department, before taking on any full responsibilities. Privately, Roxy believes that George is easing her into the swing of things and if anyone else was in charge she'd be required to move a lot faster. She can't decide which approach she favors.

 

According to George the tech department, which hosts everything from the handlers to the inventions and research development, is commonly known as M3. She understands why when he introduces her to Mordred and Morgan, apparently the members of support staff who are Merlin's right hand man and woman.

 

Later, Roxy will learn that the head of medical department is fondly referred to as Viviane, while the man who is in charge of firearms and all of Kingsman's transportation needs is Agravaine.

 

"Does everyone get a code name? It seems a bit …" she trails off, not sure of the right word and also not wanting to offend.

 

"Head of departments, agents, and other key staff members get the Arthurian code names. Unfortunately there aren't enough to go around for everyone."

 

She looks at him askance. "But you'd like there to be?"

George, or Percival who she supposes he is at the moment, smirks. "Honestly, I find them to be highly entertaining."

 

It's not the first time she's wondered if her godfather ever dabbled in the special drugs.

She doesn't have reason to meet Agravaine or Viviane at the moment; she gets the feeling that most of Kingsman operates on a need-to-know basis, which suits her fine and explains a lot about why George is very bad at getting to the point.

 

Mordred and Morgan warm to her immediately, both being only about ten years older than her. And if she's reading the looks that Mordred is giving George accurately, Mordred warmed to him a long time ago. For a spy, George seems ridiculously obvious, which is something Roxy will definitely be giving him shit for, at a more appropriate time and place. Morgan clearly knows something is going on because she's keeps sending Mordred these little smirks the entire time George is in the room.

 

Morgan, it turns out, is chief handler and is George's particular favorite to work with. Mordred specializes on the research end, when he's not attempting to blow himself up with new inventions. They both answer directly to Merlin who seems to do a little bit of this and a little bit of that when he's not keeping Arthur happy or wrangling the Kingsman agents into doing what they are supposed to. Or, like right now when he's on a mission.

 

"It's not normal for him to go out in the field anymore," Morgan takes the time to assure Roxy. "He did a lot of field work when he was a younger agent, but he's been staying closer to home for the past decade, what with all the new projects he's been working on. This is a bit of a fluke, but he seems to be really enjoying it."

 

"Who's handling him right now?" George asks.

 

"Charlotte is providing assistance when needed, but for the most part he's been operating solo."

 

 "He would, that stubborn arse. He's just as bad as Galahad, if not worse."

 

Mordred beams at George in such a way that Roxy has no idea how he doesn't see Mordred's interest – seriously, does George have a brain injury she doesn't know about? "We'll keep you updated on any changes, sir. Please let us know if there is anything you need assistance with."

 

Like maybe taking off your clothes? Roxy has to fight back a snort. Sure, she wasn't a fan of the idea when she thought he might have been dating Edward but there is something about Mordred that is just so genuine and delightful that immediately eases away any discomfort she would have with his interest in her godfather. Also, it's just really fucking funny.

 

"Thank you, Mordred. That will be all for now; I will leave Roxy in your care. Please be gentle with her, it is only her first day."

 

"As you wish, sir." With that, George takes his leave and Roxy is left alone with 2/3s of M3.

 

They do ease her in gently that day, true to their promise, but everything that comes after is a trial by fire. She's only given code name clearance up to a certain level so there are some missions she cannot watch and many files she cannot access. However, her time spent at the British HQ involves her full commitment from morning until night, sometimes spreading into the late hours. Once Morgan learned that Roxy was good with deciphering codes, that becomes the bulk of her workload during the second week she is there.

 

Mordred tries to ask her for advice on George without giving himself completely away; it's all Roxy can do not to laugh at him.  In the end, she and Morgan take him out for drinks and ply with him ideas, none of which work because George is too swamped by both his and Merlin's workload to even notice. Roxy pats Mordred on the arm and assures him not to give up, while Morgan keeps laughing to herself. Morgan, it turns out is Mordred's soulmate but while they are the best of friends and work incredibly well together (something Merlin is intensely grateful for), there are some aspects of the "traditional soulmate" relationship they have no interest in, with each other. Over a glass of wine or five, Morgan confesses to Roxy that she leans mostly on the asexual scale, while Mordred "is as gay as a daffodil, as Freddie Mercury used to say. Maybe in another life, darling, but not this one and trust me, I'm more than content with our arrangement." An arrangement that largely seems to consist of Mordred pining after one of their agents while Morgan laughs at him, Roxy thinks to herself.

 

Which isn't to say that Roxy has forgotten about her own soulmate. She and Andrew have exchanged email addresses and even snapchat usernames, the latter being at Roxy's bidding, but at the moment both of them seem too busy for sharing any detailed information. During her recovery, he would check in with her nearly every day until he explained that he had to travel for work and he wasn't entirely sure how reliable his internet access would be. It's just as well, she wrote back; she explained that she was starting a new job with an intense schedule and didn't know how much free time she'd have for a while. He sends her pictures of different coffee shops that he has frequented, or flowers that he thinks she might find pretty. She takes pictures along her running route at HQ, where there is a very lovely stream and lots of deer nearby. Though neither comes out and says so, there seems to be a mutual agreement to keep away from anything more personal such as their faces or the exchange of last names; in some ways, Roxy thinks, it is the slowest courtship ever.

 

After about a month at the British UK, George sends her off to France. There isn't as much for her to learn or do; it's a much smaller extension of the overall organization and is divided up throughout different cities rather than having a central location. She watches several of the handlers as they walk agents through missions, such as Bors defusing a bomb in Paris,  Lamorak stealing a boat in Marseilles, and Gawaine rescuing a kidnapped dignitary in Lyon.

 

It's not that she doesn't like her particular role in Kingsman; she's delighted by the challenges that come her way and she privately thinks she would make an excellent handler … but as she's watching the Kingsman agents, there's a fierce pull that overtakes her and she's never felt a need as great as this. That's where she belongs; not behind a comm or at a desk. She doesn't exist to provide assistance to someone else, she thinks to herself. She wants to be the one to make it happen.

 

It's a thought that she carries with her on the way over to Italy. George encourages her to take a pitstop to visit William and Rosina, to spend some time playing with her goddaughter. It's a weekend of carefree bliss, but it only causes the restless ache inside of her to grow. As Morgan said, maybe in another life. In another life, Roxanne would have been content to sit on the sidelines and help others complete the mission. But not in this one and it seems like it's something she's signed herself up for.  Roxy isn't going to be the type of girl that gets married and settles down with a brood of children. She doesn't want the loving husband, the caring family, the weekends traveling to the seaside or some other droll vacation that she'll gab about with her friends over tea and scones. She doesn't want the 9 to 5 job with the steady hours; even her former Navy life seems dull to her, now that she knows what the possibilities are. She sees the threads of her life play out in front of her and she'll be damned if she doesn't go after what she wants.

 

What she has right now, it's not enough. It's never going to be enough.

 

Two weeks into her Italy trip, George calls her up and Roxy feels her entire life crashing into place.

 

"We need you in the field. Are you willing?"

  

"Where do you want me?"

 

She feels like she's about to step off a cliff and for the first time in her life she's not afraid of the fall. 

 

Chapter Text

“Your mission, should you choose to accept it.” There’s a delicate tinkle of a laugh as Morgan pushes the tablet towards Roxy.

Merlin merely rolls his eyes as he comes away from the window, where he was looking out on Piazza San Marco.

“Sorry to bring you in, Roxy,” he says as he pours out cups of tea for himself, Morgan, and Roxy. “But this particular mission requires a female touch.”

“All missions could require a female touch,” Morgan shoots back at him. From the looks the two of them exchange, it feels like an old argument.

“George made it sound like it was mostly recon?” Roxy questions as she opens up the files. Text loads up onto the screen, most of it written in boring administration speak with a few phrases thrown in that she distinctly recognizes as George’s verbal style.

“If everything goes smoothly, it should be. Even smoother, it could be more,” Morgan says, taking a sip of her tea. “It’s the target that requires your assistance.”

“Hmm? Some old Italian man that won’t fall prey to Merlin’s charms, of which, no doubt, I’m sure there are many.” At the very least, that brings a smile to Merlin’s face. Not that she’d ever admit it but Roxy is in a private competition with herself to see if she can get the older gentleman to smile. It seems like happens so rarely that every twitch of the lips sings like a triumph.

“If that were all was needed, we’d have called for Galahad. He is our undisputed King of the Honeypot missions.”

“Not George, then?” Roxy is fishing and she knows it, and from the responding gleam in Morgan’s eyes, she knows it too.

“Percival is too oblivious to know that Mordred wants in his pants, can you imagine him hitting on a mark?” Roxy and Morgan share a private laugh while Merlin looks at them, dumbfounded.

“Simon? And Percival? Our Mordred?”

Morgan makes a sound of confirmation as she hands him her cup, presumably for more tea. He pours, glaring at her. “How did I miss that?”

“Our dear Mordred is properly afraid of you, which normally allows him keep his affections for our most explosive agent at bay. Since you’ve been gone, however, and Percival has taken over your responsibilities and is thus spending more time in closer proximity to Mordred ...well. I was expecting Mordred’s work efficiency to plummet. ”

“Hmm. What is his status?” He hands her the teacup and she smiles, beaming at him in thanks and the delight of making fun of her partner.

“Funnily enough, the amount of his project proposals have tripled and he spends more time at HQ and in the lab than ever before. I think he is trying to impress Percival with his inventions, and the more time Percival spends at HQ, the less time Mordred spends away from it.”

“George always was a workaholic,” Roxy chimes in, finally taking a sip of her own tea having nearly forgotten it with the flow of the conversation.

Merlin looks as if he is debating the prospect of one of his minions dating an agent and the possible fraternization amongst coworkers consequences versus prospect of a minion dating a workaholic agent who likes explosions and shiny things that go boom and how that could work to Kingsman’s benefit. Eventually he seems to settle on, “Well. If they’re happy, I guess. Not really my business. But warn Mordred to be careful about Arthur; he tends to disapprove of any and all romantic relationships in general.” They share another look, one that speaks volumes of secret history and knowledge that Roxy feels she will never be privy to, or at the very least not until she has worked at Kingsman for over a decade.

She clears her throat, drawing their attention and the conversation back to the matter at hand. “So, the mission? Alessandra is the target? What do we know about her?”

Merlin looks at her, steady and serious with a small furrow to his brow. “Not much that is concrete, I’m afraid. Wisps of secrets, legends, all the typical blackmarket variety type of rumors. Working undercover as Mr. Carnwarth has opened a lot of doors to Kingsman, but this one remains firmly shut. We’d like a meeting now, with the possibility of assigning an agent to go further undercover at another point in time.”

“You again?” Morgan asks.

“God, no. I’m thinking this would be more Tristan’s speed. I’m getting a bit tetchy being away for this long. Let someone else have it.”

“Where do I come in?”

Morgan takes the lead this time. “There are rumors that Ms. Selvaggio has a certain predilection for women around your age and beauty.” A smirk formed around the corner of Morgan’s mouth, her voice conveying a sardonic edge. “Specifically, she likes to seduce young married women away from their husbands.”

Roxy pauses, not sure where to go with this information. “And it’s me because  …”

“You are the youngest female on staff who can speak Italian, is bisexual, and isn’t me. I don’t have the acting chops needed to pull off the cover and we don’t have to worry about whether or not you can handle yourself in a deadly situation should it be necessary; we could try working with another agency but that could be tricky if we don’t know where people’s true allegiances lie. George threw your name in as an option and the rest of us agreed.”

“Right. No problem. What’s the plan? How do we draw her in?”

It’s not that Roxy objects to the plan; it’s just that ...well. Ever since Morgan said the word “seduce” she would have sworn Merlin’s eyes went dark and smoky as he looked at her, and oh god . She feels warm and a slight tingling shivers through her, her stomach swooping in response. She drinks more of her tea, swallowing hurriedly and refusing to allow herself to look in his direction. Focus, Roxy . Focus. Now was not the time to develop an attraction the man that was essentially her boss.

“From what we have pieced together, while Charles and our target have had several business dealings over the years, it’s always been done through underlings. They’ve never met, as Selvaggio rarely leaves Italy. This works in our favor, twofold. One, Merlin’s cover won’t be blown and secondly, it’s the perfect reason for why Merlin, as Charles, would make a point to pay her a call while he’s in Venice on his honeymoon.”

There’s a heavy pause in the air, or at least it feels heavy to Roxy. “So, I’m the bride and I am assuming that with another business associate in the area, someone of Ms. Selvaggio’s ...caliber would not hesitate to do recon on Charles, making sure his reason for being in Venice is as he states. And that leads her to me.”

Merlin gives her a half smile in approval, nearly destroying her frantic composure. “Well done, Roxanne. That’s exactly where we are hoping this will lead. If she finds you appealing, and I have absolutely no doubts in that regard, she will make her move. Then Morgan and I will do our bit while you distract her.”

It’s a good plan, Roxy thinks. Simple, effective, not flashy in any way that would put a mark on guard. All she has to do is act the part and be ready when Alessandra decides to swoop in.

Better start acting now, then.

“So, darling,” she drawls out, flashing a large smile at Merlin. “Did I enjoy the wedding night? I’m afraid that part has gone missing.” When in doubt - or nervous about a sexy man sitting only a few feet in front of you - go for the sass. It’s what George would suggest, she was certain of it. Though, she reflects, he probably never would have considered this exact context.

Merlin narrows his eyes and leans forward, while Morgan bursts into cackling laughter.

“I have it on good authority you found it ...riveting.”  His mouth twitches and forms what she would almost call a fond smile, and god help her, she can’t help but return it.

Then he’s back to cool composure, all business, and she nearly gets whiplash from the sudden change. “Morgan will fill you in on the smaller details and arrange for any necessary items to help with your cover. Ladies, I’ll be in my office or least what counts for an office in this house.” A brisk nod to both of them and then he saunters away.

Roxy turns to look at Morgan with what she has no doubts is a very pathetic expression.

“Whiskey. Please.

There is no whiskey in the villa (for now, Roxy thinks bitterly) but Morgan is able to appease Roxy with a ridiculous amount of mimosas, and so all is forgiven even though she thinks Morgan’s drunken laughter is really just cackling at Roxy’s attraction to Merlin.

Holy shit, to her boss . How cliched can she get?

Maybe if she drank enough alcohol, it would go away? Really, there was only one way to know for certain.

“I’m an adult!” is the last thing that passes through Roxy’s head as she falls asleep mid afternoon from day drinking with Morgan. She really needs to stay off the Internet. Morgan crashes out besides her; they’ve formed a little cuddle party on the bed and it eases Roxy’s heart a little; she’s not anxious to date again any time soon after the disaster that was Charlie, but human touch has been something she has sorely missed these past few months. Clearly that’s the reason for her attraction to Merlin, and nothing else.

There is no hangover when they wake up in the early evening. Roxy privately suspects Morgan of either magical drink mixing abilities, or that maybe something was snuck into their drinks before they went to bed. Knowing Morgan, it’s a bit of a toss up. Roxy may or may not be planning to be more like Morgan when she “grows up,” although she would personally like a bit more ass-kicking in her job description.

Morgan throws a slinky dress at Roxy and tells her to get ready; they’re going out. Alessandra isn’t due in the city for several more days and Merlin has work to do that will keep his schedule inconsistent for a day or two so the girls have a little bit of freedom before the real work is needed. And there is shopping to be done.

George once confided to her that Arthur is actually terrified of Morgan (it’s why he won’t go down to the tech department unless absolutely necessary and even then he won’t go by himself if Merlin is not around);Merlin doesn’t come out to reprimand them for getting soused, she wonders if the same rings true for him.  

“How come you’re not an agent?” she asks, taking Morgan’s arm as they stroll down the street.

“Shh, darling. We don’t say that word in public. Try something else.”

“Fine. How come you’re not a tailor?”

“I’m rotten at sewing.”

“Morgan!”

“No, really I am. Completely rubbish, cannot keep the seams straight for the life of me and I’m always losing my spools of thread.”

“Is any of that supposed to be a metaphor?”

“Maybe? I’m not sure. But to answer your question, my dear, is that no one has ever proposed me. Has George told you how the whole thing works?”

“Not really? I mean, bits and pieces where he made it sound like Highlander but we never really finished that conversation.”

“Ah yes. To be a proper Kingsman tailor, one begins their apprenticeship when a previously tailor leaves the company, whether it be from retirement or death. Unless you’re our lovely housemate, who ...how should I put this? Stole some of the designs while working for a rival fashion house and then tweaked, modified, improved them and sent them back over where he was then offered his very own chance to be the head of a clothing line. Very promising chap, that one.”

“Rival fashion house? Any chance you can tell me which one?”

“McQueen,” Morgan said with a bit of a smirk and a whole lotta nudge.

“Have there been any openings lately?”

“Not in the last decade or so; rumor has it that a bunch of staff retired when Arthur became head of the shop, but I can neither confirm or deny that, at least not without pestering these former gents. And they take their retirement very seriously.”

“Any looking to retire soon?”

Morgan stops where they are walking and faces Roxy. “Are you implying what I think you are? Because I think it’s a brilliant idea, I really really do and you have my full support, but they are not going to make it easy on you.”

“I can’t think of anything I would want more, and I can’t shake the feeling that George has been training me for it since my father died.”

“Right, the former Lancelot. I won’t lie to you, Rox. It’s a huge bit of a ‘old boys club,’ with Arthur sitting at the very top. It’s not that they think women aren’t capable but rather they think women shouldn’t have to be capable. No one has ever proposed a woman before, though women have always worked at Kingsman. They like us behind the scenes, and honestly I’m fairly content with it because that’s my style, it but I can’t imagine that you will be for long.”

Roxy took Morgan’s arm and directed her to a local store that was selling masks. While trying on a purple and blue mask, she kept prodded on. “If a tailor dies, I think George would suggest me.”

Morgan was trying on a red mask with gold accents that popped out against her darker hued skin. “That seems to be a reasonable assumption, from what I know of him.”

“But it could take ages, how old are the agents now?”

“Most are in their 40s and 50s. I think some will retire in the next decade, but they tend to be an extremely stubborn breed that doesn’t like to admit weaknesses or when they are wrong.”

“Ah. So, men.”


“Indeed. Men!”

“Harry is the oldest, and he’s been at it the longest aside from Arthur. He’s also the only one besides George that seems to really want to shake things up. The last trial, I heard he proposed someone who wasn’t upperclass.”

“I’m sure that went over well.”

“It’s before my time, but we can snoop in the archives when I get back.”

“What’s Harry like? I haven’t seen him in action yet.”

“He doesn’t like being handled and for the most part, we leave him well enough alone. He knows what he's doing and Merlin and Arthur trust him, which is good enough for me. One less tailor to manage.” They go the front of the store to pay for their masks before they put them on. There’s a stand a little down the street selling vin brule and frittelle; they hand over their euros before proceeding happily down on a bench by the river.

“Harry is a delightful man, and I love having him around the shop. He and Merlin go way back, even before Merlin came to work for us.”

“What is his name, anyway? George called him Edward when we met up in Portsmouth but I haven’t heard that since or anyone else call him that.”

“Honestly, I have no idea. Simon and I tried to look it up once, but it’s heavily encrypted. He would, the bastard. There’s actually a pool on it; I’ve bet ten pounds his name is Angus because shit, if that was my name I’d hide it too Harry probably knows, but good luck getting that from him. I’ve never met a pair more secretive than them or even more paranoid about their secrets, and look where I work.”

Roxy laughs and throws her head back, basking in the Venice sunset.

“And your name?”

“Morgan.”

“No, really. I’m serious!”

“So am I! Changed it, all legal like, a few years after I got the job. It’s a great name! It’s perfect, I always wanted to be a witch.”

“You’re ridiculous.”

“Bitch, you love me.”

Morgan spots the La Perla store around the corner, squeals and drags Roxy over to it.

“Shopping to seduce a woman is the best thing. Men never truly appreciate good quality lingerie as much as a woman does.” Morgan hums with approval and she looks over a black and white lacy garterbelt.

Roxy does a double take. “I thought you weren’t interested in that?”

“It’s complicated. Mostly I’m not, but I do like pretty things and I like people to coo over my pretty things. Simon is useless in that regard. But Marisol on the other hand … sometimes we go out for drinks, and then I let her undress me and boss me around a little. After she coos appropriately and tells me what a good girl I am, of course.”

“I feel like I have known you forever and yet you still keep on surprising me.”

“Dear heart,” Morgan says as she directs Roxy over to a fitting room and thrusts and insane amount of clothing at her, “I don’t need to get off. I mean. I’m not really into getting off with people, or like it’s not the people that get me off. But getting others off? Now that’s just fun for everyone.” She looks around, checking for who might be listening and switches to Russian just in case. “Now, Marisol, for example, she makes these delightful little sounds when I pinch her nipples just so - “

“Morgan!” The rest of Morgan’s sentence is drowned out by Roxy’s laughter.

It’s more giggling and laughter that pulls Merlin out of his office, later that night. There are piles of clothing strewn all over the living room couches, indicating the girls had a successful shopping adventure. He runs his fingers over some of them, lace and silk bunching up softly under his fingertips. He notices the giggling is coming from the terrace, where Morgan and Roxy are sitting bathed in the low light of the heating lamps. They are drinking red wine and wearing silk robes, no doubt bought earlier that night.

He softly steps out through the terrace doors. “Do you mind if I join you, ladies?”

“Not at all, my darling wizard!” Morgan cries out and she gets to her feet, forming a low bow in his direction. Roxy laughs, “I should warn you, she has had quite a few. It’s very entertaining.”

He smiles softly at the two of them, a lovely picture of relaxation. “She always is, she’s the perfect witch.”

“See!?!” Morgan cries out, nearly falling on top of Roxy with her excitement. “I’m a witch, I am! I told you!”

Roxy pushes Morgan into one of the armless terrace chairs, which are ridiculously soft and comfortable enough to catch her gently. “If you go and get more wine, dear husband, I’m totally willing to share the frittelle with you.” On the way home, Morgan and Roxy had stopped for more; the smell was enticing and neither were able to resist. They had gotten three filling types: white wine, pastry cream, and nutella.

Merlin smiles down at her. “That is a deal, my darling wife.” He takes her hand and brushes a light kiss upon it, before taking his leave.

Inwardly, Roxy swoons. And probably outwardly too, judging by Morgan’s cackle.

“Oh my god, you have a thing. A thing! I thought you were just teasing earlier but you totally have a thing!” she dramatically whispers, pointing frantically at Roxy.

“He’s our boss, Morgan. Don’t be so ridiculous.” Normally, Roxy prided herself on a good poker face, having been taught by George and put to the test with her Naval comrades. It was quite possibly her only saving grace at the moment.

Morgan gave her a weathered, measured stare. “Hmmm. Well, then you won’t mind this at all.”

“What are you doing?” Morgan had got up, albeit a bit unsteady on her feet and proceed to push the two other outdoor chairs together, just as Merlin was coming back out with two more bottles of wine.

“Morgan, what the devil?” he asked as he placed the bottles down on the table.

“You two! Perfect, now sit.”

“I beg your pardon?” Maybe if Roxy put feeling into it, she could knock Morgan out with her eyes.

“You’re married now, after all. Time to start acting like it, before it really matters. You don’t want to have to pretend and then it’s all awkward and unnatural; trust me, she’ll know . Oh! Merlin, do you have the rings?”

“Yes, the box is in my room on the small table.”

“I’ll be right back then. Do the thing!” Morgan commanded them, before hurrying back inside.

Merlin shared an exasperated look with Roxy, but he sat down in the chairs Morgan had pushed together, opening up one of the bottles and pouring it into the wine glasses. “We might as well; she’s right and she knows it, so she won’t let it go either.”

Privately, Roxy was torn between condemning Morgan to hell but also thanking her. It was a rather complicated feeling, but there was also nothing to do be done but go ahead with it. “Yes, I suppose she is right,” she smiled at him softly before tucking herself in next to him; Merlin wrapped his arm around her as he handed her a glass with his other hand, and they quickly formed a perfect picture definition of the word ‘cozy.’

She was surprisingly comfortable and at ease at his side, though she had expected to feel nervous and anxious being so close to him. For a man that could twist her insides with a twitch of his lips, his presence was incredibly soothing. Roxy felt all the tension go out of her body as she pressed up against him. A breeze wafted through the air and she caught a hint of his cologne; it was a woodsy leather smell that reminded her of her equestrian days, with a hint of lemon and orange blossom underneath. He was also very warm, wearing a soft moss-colored cashmere sweater. Roxy found herself amused at the notion of Merlin pretending to be Charlie, as relaxing with Charlie had never felt as lovely as this.

It was if she felt something clicking into place and yet she cursed it; this was a nonstarter and absolutely not an option. Roxy knew what they called girls who slept with their bosses; if she was ever going to make a mark at Kingsman, it couldn’t be with that hanging over her head.

She yawned, cupping her hand over her mouth and doing a small body stretch that had her pressing further into Merlin’s side. “Sorry,” she mumbled, taking another sip of wine.

“It’s no bother,” he said, smiling down at her.

She wasn’t sure what to say to him, and he seemed content enough with the silence. Still …

“So, have you done this often?” Ergh, she cringed. It sounded like a godawful pick up line.

“Fake marriage? A few times, mostly before Kingsman. Once with Galahad, though I’d prefer to never repeat that again. He makes for a bloody awful husband.” He chuckled softly and it ran a tingle up her traitorous spine.

“How does it work? Do we just walk around town and holding hands and call each other pet names?”

“That is the general gist of it, normally. Most missions with fake marriages tend to be short, where the marriage is just part of a necessary cover and a later distraction rather than the bait for a mark.”

“So this will probably be different for you as well?”

“Yes, very much so.”

There was a small bit of comfort in that knowledge, where Merlin might be just as thrown as Roxy was.

“Are you actually married? I mean …” she trailed off, not wanting to imply anything about his age, but it was very typical of older gentleman.

He gave a small laugh, one that she could swear was self-deprecating. “The job doesn’t exactly allow for long-term entanglements, nor is it encouraged. Loved ones can be collateral damage or leverage against an agent. It’s not something I have ever wanted so no, I’ve never been married.”

“I’m sorry, that was very personal.”

“No, it was quite alright.” Even as he said that he shifted slightly as though uncomfortable, and Roxy took this as a sign to detangle herself; she sat up and poured herself more wine and passed him the dessert she had bribed him with earlier.

“Grazie, tesora mia,” he said, before smiling and popping one in his mouth.

“Should we talk about limits?” she asked, feeling uncomfortably warm. Rosina had been the last one to whisper those words to her, in a much different setting. It brought back a lot of beautiful memories, and heavily distracted her thinking in the present. She undid her robe a little, forgetting about the nightgown Morgan had picked out for her earlier. It was red silk with a mostly lace; it felt glorious against her skin and that had been her only thought when she had switched out her clothing for the night.

It seemed that Merlin had missed her question. When she turned to look at him, he seemed lost in thought, his eyes a little unfocused and his arm stopped halfway to grabbing another frittelle.

“Merlin?”

He shook himself back into immediate composure, leaning back against the chair as he looked at her. “I’m sorry, you were saying?”

“Limits. As in, what would you be uncomfortable with.”

“I can’t imagine there is anything you could do that would make me uncomfortable.”

She figures he meant it as a light hearted jab, a tease towards an underling, a much less experienced member of Kingsman who had never gone on a mission before. But it came out deep and husky and it made her want. She wanted to know in what other ways that voice would come out, and if she would have the pleasure of hearing it against her skin.

Down, girl. So very much down.

“I’m tempted to find out if that is really true.” She gave him a level stare as she took a sip of her wine.

What could she say? She was never good at backing down from a challenge.

Luckily - or unfortunately, depending on how one looked at it - she was saved by Morgan coming back outside, changed from her night gown into a smart black suit.

“My beautiful people! I have your rings! Time to get married, I am ready to officiate!” She paused, looking down at them with a frown.

“What did I miss?”

***

Morgan moves out of the villa in the morning; they’ve received intel on Alessandra’s movements and she is due to arrive in Venice within the next week. It’s been agreed upon that it’s best that Roxy and Merlin start their cover before she arrives, so Morgan finds a room at a hotel where Alessandra has been known to stay in when she comes to Venice.

The villa is much more quiet without Morgan around, but it is peaceful and relaxing. Merlin spends a great deal of his time in the office, but with his door opened. The office is between her room and the rest of the house; she steals glances at him as she walks through and he’s always at his desk, typing away and tapping at the screen. Sometimes Roxy interrupts to bring him tea or a snack, and he smiles gratefully at her but immediately turns back to his computer. Roxy was hoping that this time alone would tell her a little bit more about Merlin, and she’s been sorely disappointed. During the first two days they’ve been alone, she’s collected little bits of information, but knowing how a man takes his tea or that he is an early riser doesn’t exactly paint a larger picture.

Without Morgan around or anything active that requires her immediate tension, Roxy spends most of her downtime catching up on reading, doing yoga in the living room, and exchanging short emails with Andrew. She’s been feeling more than a bit restless and cabin fever since she came into the city, not able to leave the villa without Merlin at her side, as it would be a risk to their cover.

Ever since she has met Morgan and Mordred, Roxy has been rethinking her entire soulmate situation. Despite their agreement to start over, she’s had some misgivings regarding Andrew after she began her stint at Kingsman. Small stray, betraying, thoughts that come to her in odd moments, where she begins to wonder if the life she wants is compatible having a steady and regular romantic companion. And after the disaster that turned out to be Charlie ...well. It doesn’t matter in the long term, she thinks during one of her morning runs. Morgan and Mordred are one hundred percent supportive of each other’s differences and needs, but they’re also not field agents like Roxy would like to be some day. She cannot imagine a life where a romantic partner would be compatible with that goal. As much as she has enjoyed a more regular communication with Andrew, she realizes that she’s willing to sacrifice it all if it can get her what she wants.

It’s a disturbing, selfish thought that Roxy tries not to dwell on. After all, it might never become an issue. Still, she keeps her emails to him lighthearted and refrains from asking him any more questions about his personal life. It’s better this way. She keeps it simple and the conversations revolve around movies they have seen, books they have read, and art that they like. This time, if he remains a closed book, it’s by her choice.

Merlin is apparently a complete workaholic, but he is also understanding of Roxy’s current enforced solitude and the unease it is bringing her. He makes a point to clear out his schedule for lunch and dinner, and takes her out to lovely bistros and cafes that are some of his favorites in the city. In the evening hours they stroll around the city, playing at newlyweds. He buys her flowers, small trinkets from souvenir shops; she cozies up to him and looks at him with adoring round eyes so that everyone can assume she thinks she is the luckiest woman alive. This must be what being a kept woman is like, she thinks while they’re at jewelry shop and he is examining several necklaces and telling the assistant that he needs the absolute best for his beloved.

She absolutely hates it.

At first, Roxy had adored being physically closer to Merlin and they play the honeymooning couple perfectly, doing all sorts of ridiculously romantic and touristy things. But she figured out pretty quickly that it wasn’t really Merlin underneath all of it; it was Merlin pretending to be Charlie and acting in a manner that was reminiscent of Charlie. The mannerisms, the way he talked with his hands, even the way he threw his arm around Roxy while they walked, holding her close to him like she was a coveted possession. The way it would have been if Roxy had said yes to Charlie’s proposal, she realizes. She’s on a honeymoon with Charlie after all, except with a Merlin face.

It was extremely disconcerting and not at all attractive; the more time they spent in public the more Roxy found herself using her acting skills to be pretend that she was smitten with the man, when all she could do was think of the last night in Charlie’s house when she was afraid for her life.

Yet it was necessary for the cover and Roxy was determined to be professional and demonstrate that she could handle this. She laughed, she joked, she played up her coquettish behavior for all of Venice’s benefit and for Merlin’s/Charlie’s smile. On the inside, she counted down the seconds until they were back in the villa and Merlin was Merlin again; no more of the sleek modern suits that Charlie favored but rather the cozy cardigans and sweaters with elbow patches that Roxy was becoming ridiculously fond of. No trendy martini mixes or champagne, but scotch old enough to be Roxy’s grandfather poured straight from the bottle and drunk neat. No sly, seductive comments said loud enough just for others to overhear but instead a man who hummed when he cooked breakfast, kept his room neat and tidy, existed on several pots of a tea a day, and who kept a collection of Sherlock Holmes on his bedside table.

Merlin was an absolutely gorgeous man and Roxy definitely would not kick him out of her bedroom, if she had an inkling that he was interested in her ... but not when he was pretending to be Charlie. She couldn’t decide if it was a saving grace or an endless frustration. At least Morgan isn’t around to tease her. Though she checks in with Merlin on a near hourly basis, she’s kept her distance since leaving the villa and hasn’t made contact with Roxy since.

It’s the morning of the fourth day since she has left that flowers are delivered by courier. To an outsider’s perspective, it would appear as if “Charlie” has simply arrange for his lovely wife to receive a gorgeous bouquet of anemones. Roxy signs for the flowers and brings them in to show Merlin, who has been taking an unusual break from work and enjoying a cup of tea on the terrace.

“Darling, you shouldn’t have,” she says and she sets them down and kisses him softly on the cheek, lingering slightly to breathe in his cologne.

“Ah, but you’re worth it.” He replies back easily, with a smirk. He’s playing himself now, she thinks, and wishes he would stay that way for the entirety of the mission.

“So why these flowers?” In one of the training manuals, Roxy had read up on how agents and staff would often communicate messages to each other via flowers; she had brushed up on the language of flowers but often times flowers would have several meanings. She didn’t think Morgan was trying to suggest they prepare for a funeral or that one of them should fake their death.

“We send these, if possible, to indicate that a mark is on the move. One of their meanings is anticipation. Morgan has spotted Alessandra in the hotel; this is my cue.”

He stood up, pressed a kiss against her forehead and said “Be sure to look extra gorgeous tonight, darling. It’s time we show you off.”

 

Notes:

 

I am picturing Morgan as Thandie Newton and Mordred as Simon Woods.

 

The cologne Merlin wears is Tom Ford’s Grey Vetiver.

 

This is Roxy’s red slip

 

The villa, which I really wish I could be in right now








Chapter Text

Roxy was not normally one for getting dolled up, like a porcelain china doll meant to stay on a shelf. Years of military service, student life, and wearing practical clothing had taken its toll on her; given a choice, she’d much rather wear Ralph Lauren than Marchesa.

But the dresses Morgan had picked out for her made her feel quite like Cinderella, if Cinderella had a dark side and a thigh holster for a gun.

They were also way more colorful and bold than anything Roxy would have normally picked out for herself but … to catch a fly, after all. Roxy would have to be the honey. The one she picked out for tonight was deep emerald green, with a embroidered design of peacock feathers on the bodice and hip in blue, purple, and gold. She was wearing a simple but elegant gold mask to match, with her hair swept up in a chignon bun.

The problem with dresses, though, is that no matter how good quality they supposedly are the zipper is nearly always a problem. It gives her a little snag on her lower back and she’s spends about five minutes fussing with the dress before giving into the solution she already knew was there.

Which is why she’s currently knocking on Merlin’s door, feeling completely ridiculous.

“One moment!” he calls out from the other side of the door.

When he opens, he looks devastating. Elegant yet simple dark gray suit, clean lines, black mask.

“You ready?” His eyes rake over her and he gives her a small smile of approval.

She swallows, feeling a bit off kilter. “Almost...do you mind?” she turns around, conveying what she needs. “I can’t seem to get it.”

She feels him move closer, and place one hand on her lower back. It’s warm and feeling his touch in a more intimate place on her body sends a shiver running through her.

“Cold?” he asks, speaking softly and close to her ear, as he pulls the zipper up.

One thing she has learned about Merlin, he really really doesn’t like being cold. He wears sweaters constantly, is always drinking some form of hot liquid, and he’s had the temperature of the villa turned way the fuck up.

He knows she’s not cold.

Again, she’s never been good at backing down from a challenge.

She turns slowly to face him, but first she takes a good long look at the way his tux has been fit perfectly to his body, accentuating his lean muscle. What’s more, she lets him be fully aware of her doing so. When they make eye contact, she takes a few steps closer to him, takes another smell of that lovely cologne. She gives him a small smile as she reaches up to tighten his tie.


Roxy leans in, pressing her hands against his chest before dragging them slowly up to around his neck.

“Not at all,” she whispers, keeping eye contact with him as she reaches up to place a small kiss at the corner of his mouth.

She pulls back, and gives him a small smirk as she watches Merlin’s eyes narrow before going soft. The mask managed to hide a lot of the emotion on his face, but it only made it more noticeable in his eyes, Roxy thought.

He reaches up to cup her face, his hands soft and his thumb caressing her cheek, lightly grazing her lower lip. She feels her heartbeat speed up, her stomach swooping in surprise.

Merlin leans down, presses a kiss to her lower jaw and moving his way up towards her ear. She knows her breath has gotten heavier ...what was he planning to do next? He nuzzles his cheek against hers, the soft scratchy stubble feels exquisite against her skin and she starts daydreaming where else she’d like to feel that. His other hand presses against her waist, holding her in place.

“Darling,” he whispers in her ear, his voice is the deepest she’s ever heard it.

“Yes?”

“Grab your coat, it’s time to go.”

With that, he’s off and away leaving Roxy exasperated and maybe a little homicidal behind him.

If that’s how he wanted to play it, then fine. She could play just as well. Payback would be a bitch named Roxy.

She met him at the door, coat in hand and not an ounce of annoyance showing on her face.

“Ready, darling?” she said, enunciating the last word in particular.

He had the decency to look slightly sheepish, if only for a second.  He held out his arm, and she took it, giving him a cool stare as they walked off into the night.

The Hotel Danieli was crowded when they got there; Roxy looked up at Merlin in concern. “Will we be able to find her?”

Before he could answer, Morgan was speaking in her ear through the mic.

“Already spotted; Bar Dandola. Merlin, be a dear and show off our darling Roxanne for the guests.

Merlin looked down on her; his grin was all sharp edges and rakish intent, with his Charlie mask firmly on once more. Coats were handed to the hotel staff, Merlin walked Roxy over to the bar with his hand on the small of her back.

“I don’t see how we’ll be able to pull her in with all these people.”

“It would be impossible for anyone to miss you.” There he was again, with a deep and husky voice whispering into her ear. It would be romantic if she thought it was something Merlin would ever truly say, when he wasn’t on the job.

“Merlin, stop flirting and get in position.”

“Yes ma’am.”

They take a cozy loveseat in the corner, pressing in close together. It distracts Roxy enough that Merlin places their order without her paying much attention; she’s a bit overwhelmed by how close he is and the smell of his cologne is pulling her in once more.

Their server brings them a bottle of champagne; Merlin hands her a glass and toasts in her direction, “Target at your 9 o’clock.”

Roxy slowly casts her eyes in that direction and oh, mamma mia. There is Alessandra, surrounded by an entourage of menacing looking people, while she manages to look seductive and intimidating at the same time. Olive skin wrapped in threatening black lace with a very low cut bodice, dark hair piled expertly atop her head. From the looks of her, Roxy would estimate her age was late 40s; she had been into older men all her life, but an older woman was certainly unchartered territory. She felt a wave of intense curiosity and desire wafting over her.

Oh. The spider had noticed the fly. Roxy felt Alessandra’s eyes on her, the gaze heavy and full of promise. Even from across the room, Roxy swore she could feel Alessandra measuring her, calculating to see if Roxy held promise.

Challenge accepted.

Tilting her head to put on a more obvious show, Roxy caught and held Alessandra’s eye and then looked demurely away, as if to indicate shyness and hesitation. Merlin’s voice was soft in the background, mostly words of nonsense to make it seem to any onlooker that he was carrying on a conversation; Roxy was pretty sure he was in fact reciting a soliloquy from Hamlet. She turned back to him, nodded in his direction and leaned in close. He met her halfway, as she reached up slightly to place a kiss just under his jaw.

“Follow my lead, yeah?”

He looked down at her with a charming smile, his hand moving slowly up and down her arm.

She’ll take that as a yes, then.

She picks up the champagne glass with her left hand; if Alessandra is into seducing married women, there’s no harm in showing off the ridiculously expensive looking ring currently adorning Roxy’s finger.

She throws her head back, taking a long slow draw from it while seeking out Alessandra’s eyes and holding eye contact as she drinks. After she’s done, she lowers the glass - and her hand with the ring - so that it’s level with her bodice, hoping to draw Alessandra’s attention in that direction. Snaking an arm around Merlin’s neck, she takes a moment to sneak a look in Alessandra’s direction again, giving her a saucy wink before dragging Merlin into a kiss.

Roxy keeps her eyes open for starters; long enough to see Alessandra’s eyebrow raise and her mouth to open slightly, as by now she’s aware that Roxy is putting on this show just for her. Off to a good start, Roxy thinks before her brain function is completely overwhelmed by Merlin’s mouth.

He’s kept the kiss light and refined, but Roxy’s not having any of that. She’s willing to bet that most of the women Alessandra has seduced have been on the more submissive side; why not offer the woman the glimpse of a challenge and see how she reactions? Roxy angles her chin up slightly and presses in, giving the kiss a more aggressive edge. Dainty kisses are all well and fine,  but Roxy’s having none of it. They aren’t her style, and she’s willing to place money down that it’s not who Merlin is either.


She bites down and pulls on his lower lip and he moans in appreciation, placing his hand lightly at her waist, as if he’s hesitant to take it to another level. He’s still keeping the kiss gentle and almost reverent; he’s even kissing her like Charlie did and that’s just not going to work here. A small growl of frustration escapes her.

She pulls away, mouthing at his neck and moving her hand up Merlin’s thigh. Might as well give Alessandra a good show.

“Merlin,” she keeps her voice low and commanding in a way that has never failed to get her what she wants from her partners, “I need you to stop pretending you’re Charlie when I’m kissing you, or I can’t make this work.”

“Surveillance footage indicated that is what you liked.” He makes small nips at her mouth in between words, before pulling her in close by her waist. Roxy’s practically in his lap and if they weren’t in public setting, she thinks she would just go for it to see the look on his face.

Instead, she takes a hold of his face and brings him eye level with hers. “What I like is a challenge and I beg of you, challenge me .”

He narrows his eyes at her words, his hands encasing her waist with far more force than previously. It’s delicious and her body practically thrums in his hold.

For a brief moment, it’s just the two of them staring at each other, the rest of the world has been completely muted.

“For god’s sake, kiss already. Alessandra’s going to wet herself in anticipation.”

Morgan’s voice seems to be the encouragement Merlin needs. He murmurs “As you wish” before crushing his lips against Roxy’s, in a bruising kiss that nearly has her keening with want and arching up against him.

Now this is more like it.

There was still the refined technique that spoke of an experienced gentleman whose aim was to give rather than take but now with a far more dirtier twist that would, in another situation, hint at unparalleled pleasure between the sheets.

His hand moves to cup her ass, hard and possessing, and she really just wanted to take him home and find out exactly how much pleasure could be hers, but dammit there was a mission to focus on. She pulls away to get her bearings and mumbles “Is she still looking?”

“Honey, I don’t think she can bear to take her eyes away. Bloody well done.”

Merlin tucks his head into Roxy’s hair, hiding a small chuckle.

Roxy keeps her current position, but turns her face towards Alessandra once again. At first glance, one wouldn’t be able to tell anything out of the ordinary was going on, but closer observation would tell that Alessandra’s hand was clenching her wine glass, even though it was empty, and her attention was set wholly in Roxy and Merlin’s direction, even though she was surrounded by chatter and movement.

There was a small swallow when Roxy met her gaze once more, and her face morphed into a painting of desire and want.

This time, Roxy stares back at her unflinching, letting some of her own desire show.

Which was the spider and which was fly?

“Merlin,” she says out of the corner of her mouth. “Do me a favor. Pretend you’re going to the bathroom and send one of the servers over here.

She can practically feel his questioning look, but he doesn’t argue and takes his leave.

When the waitress comes, Roxy gives her a drink order and a napkin. She spends the time during Merlin’s absence drinking champagne, pretending to check her phone, and also sending more small shy looks in Alessandra’s direction. Alessandra seems to be eating the whole thing up.

Merlin comes back about five minutes later. He pours more champagne into their glasses and whispers into Roxy’s ear, “What was that about?”

Out of the corner of her eye, Roxy sees the server head in Alessandra’s direction. “Keep your eyes on me. Morgan, you watching?”

“Affirmative.”

“Alright. Keep an eye on her, Merlin and I are going to play lovebirds again.”

She doesn’t see Alessandra’s reaction when the waitress brings her over more wine and Roxy’s note. She’s too busy cuddling with Merlin, his left arm around her while his right hand cups her face as he gives her a slow, lingering kiss that completely melts away any unease she had previously. Seems like he’s completely discarded his Charlie mask, for which she is very grateful.

“Roxy, what did you write on that napkin? She looks positively victorious.”

Roxy breaks away from the kiss with a small laugh, and nuzzles her nose against Merlin’s. She takes a moment to appreciate the way his eyes have gone fond and soft before replying.

“I sent her an invitation to come and find me.”

“Oh, good girl Roxy! We’ve definitely got her now.”

She presses a small, nearly chaste kiss to Merlin’s lips, before taking another sip of her champagne. She keeps her eyes away from Alessandra this time, knowing that the allure now lie in the chase and the conquest.

Merlin leans over to pour himself another glass of champagne. He presses a small kiss into the curve of her shoulder, before whispering “minx” into her ear.

She shoots him a sly grin, as he leans back and lets out the relaxed, happy laugh that results when a challenge has been smoothly taken care of.

They stay at the bar for another half an hour, ordering dessert and playing up their cover. Lots of slow, soft kisses that occasionally teeter near dirty and playful. Merlin’s hands touching her neck, her shoulders, holding steady at her waist.

Roxy can feel Alessandra’s eyes on her the whole time.

She can’t wait until they meet.

***

Roxy’s in the kitchen pouring her first cup of tea at early o’clock the next morning, before the sun is even properly up; she had trouble sleeping as she had fitful dreams the night before of other places Merlin could have been kissing. It’s been a very long time since she had a good sex dream and though it’s disrupted her sleep pattern, she’s kind of reveling in it come morning.

Don’t lust after the boss , her mind yells at her, a litany of reprimands and warnings that she really should not ignore but her body has its own agenda in mind.

She’s replaying one of the most vivid scenes from her dream when Merlin comes out of his room, bleary eyed and wearing what looks like his suit pants and long sleeve shirt from the night before.

She pours and hands him a cup of tea and he looks at her gratefully. “Have you been working all night?” She looks at him with some concern.

“No rest for the wicked, or their pursuers.” His voice is rough and scratch, his eyes a bit bloodshot and there’s a delicious lining of scruff on his chin and jaw. She wants to lick it. “And Arthur won’t stop calling in about the bloody Russians.”

“Different case, I assume?”

“Aye, Can’t tell you much, lass. Classified, long term recon with multiple agents in the field and support all over Moscow. Arthur’s had a stick up his arse about it for so long, I’m surprised he doesn’t just reach around and bugger himself with it.”

He takes a sip of his tea and pauses.

“I did not say that. I absolutely did not just say that.”

Roxy laughs, delighted. Merlin is adorable in the morning, for all he looks like a complete wreck. If he had hair, she thinks she would tossle it. Instead, she tells him to get some sleep and places a small kiss to his cheek as she walks out, heading back to her room.

She sneaks a look back towards the kitchen before she opens her door; he’s looking down at his mug with a small smile and what seems like a pink hue to his cheeks.

Yeah, she’s so fucked .

Roxy doesn’t bother trying to fall back asleep right away; she gets herself off with fingers deep inside and her thumb rubbing on her clit, other arm pinching at her nipples. She thinks of Merlin the entire time, of his morning stubble, subtle but delicious accent, the way he smells and the warmth of his body. Those kisses the night before were only mere hints of his intensity, she’s sure of it.

She wants to go back into the kitchen, unbutton his shirt, steal his tea away, and wake him up properly.

When she finally comes - with thoughts of him fucking her while Alessandra is watching, of all things - it’s with a sharp, short moan that she feels throughout her entire body and is loud enough she can practically hear it bouncing off the walls in the silent villa.

Merlin’s room is close to hers. She’s certain he could have heard it.

She’d be embarrassed if she didn’t want so badly.

When Roxy wakes up it’s actually half past ten in the morning and the villa is completely empty. There’s a note from Merlin on counter, saying that he had business to take care of and wouldn’t be back until around dinner.

Fresh flowers on the counter, a delivery from Morgan perhaps? The bouquet itself was a little unusual, with orange and pink roses amidst bright yellow daffodils. Passion, appreciation and admiration, new beginnings. Hmm, unlikely to come from Morgan and there was no card. Roxy shrugged and proceeded to just enjoy the view.

Now that their cover has been established and she has hours of time to kill, Roxy doesn’t think there is any harm in exploring more of the city on her own. She checks in with Morgan just in case and gets the go-ahead; she wishes they could meet up for coffee together, but both Morgan and Merlin have been keeping her on a need-to-know-only basis for her “protection,” and she has a suspicion that if she and Morgan are seen together, it might spoil things.

Luckily, she’s always been the independent sort and loves traveling on her own, so she’s out the door before noon just in time to take in a short lunch on a local cafe in the square and spends some time watching some of the local shows and poking inside some of the shops. She buys masks for George and Mordred from Benor Masks, tours the Basilica, and walks through several art galleries where she spends the most of her time. Admittedly she was a bit disappointed by the Museo Archeologico Nazionale, but the Museo Correr more than made up for it.

It’s while touring the Imperial Rooms of the Correr that she realizes she’s being followed; it’s been building up for a while now, ever since she left the cafe but St Mark’s Square has been full of people and she wasn’t quite sure she wasn’t just being paranoid. The museum has less tourists and while Roxy finds the Imperial Rooms fascinating, it’s not exactly Carnivale touristy fare; less people wandering in and out means she’s more acquainted with the people around her.

They keep their distance and they don’t seem dangerous, so she’s not exactly on edge but instead of hyper alert. Dressed in casual clothing, don’t appear to be heavily armed. She manages to take a few pictures while pretending to be enthralled by Borsato’s decorations, texting them to Morgan before heading back to the villa. Stops at a few more shops, makes small talk with the owners as she browses. Pretends she isn’t aware of eyes on her back, of her movements being tracked and scrutinized.

Roxy’s 99% sure they must be working for Alessandra; she can’t imagine who else would try to put surveillance on her. She takes a winding way back to the villa. It’s not that she’s trying to lose them, since what would be the point, but rather she’s trying to make it seem like she has no idea they are there. She manages to find the flower shop that Merlin must have stopped in sometime that morning; she picks up a bouquet of begonias on a whim.

We are being watched, they say.

When she gets  back to the villa, Merlin is just arriving from wherever it is he has been all day.

“Darling!” she exclaims, rushing up to him. He’s startled a little; his mind must have been somewhere else. She leans up to give him a soft, chaste kiss on the mouth.

“I brought you flowers,” she says as she hands them to him. He takes one look and knows their meaning instantly.

“Did you now,” he murmurs softly, taking the flowers and tucking her hair behind one of her ears as he closes the space between them.

“And how could a husband propose to reward such a thoughtful wife?” He nips at her lower lip, sly and playful now that he’s aware he is putting on a show.

Roxy lets out a giggle, putting her arms around his neck and pulling him in towards her.

“Let me make a suggestion,” she lets out in a half-whisper and pulls him in for a hungry kiss.

Merlin takes as much as he gives, this time in the doorway of their little house. He backs her up the side of outer wall, her body pressed against the hard cold stone, a delicious contrast to the heat of his body. He’s wrapped up in a grey wool coat, with a light blue cashmere scarf tucked inside. She pulls at the scarf to angle his neck just the way she likes, he adjusts himself easily and without a fight, too busy pressing a leg between hers to give himself leverage as he props his free hand against the wall, holding himself steady.

There’s no room between their bodies, only the delicious press of body heat and the heavy thumping of Roxy’s heart. Merlin lets out a deep moan as she bites at his lower lip, easing the small hurt with her tongue. He opens his mouth under her ministrations, the kiss becomes wet and dirty; none of the finesse of the previous night is present, this kiss feels more raw and real than anything else Roxy has felt previously.

She feels like she’s about to explode if she can’t get him inside and pull his clothes off of his body, when he pulls away with a small gasp. His pupils are blown wide and he looks down at her with a small look of wonder. It’s good to know that she’s not the only one affected. There’s no way he is that good of an actor, she feels certain now that Merlin must want her as well.

It’s a heavy knowledge she’s not certain what to do with.

Merlin brings his hand back from the wall and caresses her cheek gently with it. He looks down at her with such a kind look that she’s not certain how to read, but feels soothed by it nonetheless.

He kisses her forehead and takes her hand, bringing her inside and closing the door.

“Now, let’s talk about what we have learned.”

 

***

Morgan confirms that the men following Roxy did indeed work for Ms. Selvaggio and in fact, that was where Merlin had been nearly all day.

“This morning, Charles Carnwarth received an invitation to accompany several of his Italian business associates for lunch, courtesy of Alessandra,” Merlin informed Roxy with a smirk, as he discarded his suit jacket and started to remove his tie. Roxy traced his movements with her eyes, something that was not by missed by Merlin as his smirk grew into a smile.

“So are we in?” Morgan’s voice comes in a bit staticy over the speaker, but it’s not enough to hide her excitement.

“We are halfway to being in, I think.” Merlin settles in next to Roxy on the couch; though there is decent amount of space between them, Roxy finds herself aligning her body so that she is facing Merlin and sees that he has done the same.

Confident in the knowledge that he wants her as much she wants him, office hierarchy be damned when it’s just the two of them on this mission and in this house , she can’t help but send him a coy little smile. She’s tickled to death when he sends one right back.

Shameless, the two of them, Roxy thinks. Flirting while discussing mission dynamics with Morgan. It’s awful but she’s having a very difficult time caring at the moment. And she’s certain it’s in her voice when she speaks up, saying “So what’s our next step?”

“Merlin, I think, has it covered getting another agent into Alessandra’s network. But, and this is where you come in, I think if we play our cards right there is a lot of information we could potentially gain from her hotel suite.”

“Agreed. I was invited out today to confirm Alessandra’s belief that Roxanne Carnwath is my wife, and was able to use this to Kingsman’s advantage. If we use the honeymoon as an excuse, I can beg off future meetings and elect to send in an associate instead. Where do we have Tristan at the moment?”

“Standing by, actually. Arthur and Percival had him fly in the moment we heard Selvaggio was in the city. I hear he’s enjoying playing tourist.”

“Hmm. Confirm this with Percival, but I’d like to have Tristan play Roxy’s bodyguard until a formal introduction can be made. Though I have no doubts Ms. Morton can handle herself if the situation calls for it, it wouldn’t be out of place for someone of Carnwath’s nature to assign a bodyguard to a wife if a pleasure trip suddenly became a business endeavor.”

“Roger that. I’ll send him over in the morning.”

“Not before 9 am. He’s impossible before then.”

“Alright then. We good for now? Merlin, take my girl out on the town, she definitely deserves a reward after last night’s excellent performance.”

“Agreed. Do me a favor, though, and check the villa while we’re out. I’m sure we’ll continue to be followed and while I have a great deal of confidence in our security here, I’m sure Alessandra’s men will try to infiltrate.”

“Aye aye captain. Have fun, kids!”

A laugh, a click, and Morgan was gone, leaving Roxy and Merlin alone once more.

“Dinner?” Roxy asks

“Indeed. I believe I am under orders to show you a good time.”  The softness of his voice and the fond look in his eyes contradicts his word choice, however.

“Well then, soldier. Hop to it.” Roxy takes her leave, and heads into her room to get ready, but not before she hears a happy and firm decisive “Yes ma’am” from the living room sofa.

***

Luna Sentada is different from all the other places they have dined at while in Venice so far. While it’s still very nice, it has a cozy and relaxed atmosphere that is low key compared to the opulence of the previous night. Merlin and Roxy are a little more relaxed as well, Merlin dressed in snug form fitting trousers and a dark green sweater over a white shirt and dark grey tie. Roxy wears a dainty black halter dress from La Perla, demure in the front but decorated with an exquisite lace flower pattern in the back. She leaves her hair up in a simple ponytail, portraying casual and simple elegance.

“Have you been here before?” Roxy asks Merlin as they are seated and order their wine.

“Years ago, though not on a business trip.”

“Pleasure?” Roxy cocks an eyebrow at him, curious.

“Of a sort, yes. I came here with a lover and we had a delightful time, though she would try to kill me later on.”

“And I’m totally sure you did nothing to aggravate her.”

“Naturally. All Kingsman are, of course, perfect gentlemen.”

Roxy snorts into her wine; Merlin puts on a face of mock offense. Roxy leans in, ready to call him on his bullshit.

“George is a gentleman, yes. From what I hear, Harry takes it to level that is borderline obsessive. But I’ve seen some of missions and watched a lot of the archived footage. Most of you are just polite arseholes in disguise. Wouldn’t know true gentlemanly behavior if it walked up behind you and stole your wallet.”

“Is that a challenge?”

“Go ahead, prove me wrong.”

Later, she’ll at least concede that Merlin definitely arises to the occasion. He’s polite and charming throughout all four courses as he keeps the conversation flowing and never revolving around himself, he arranges - don’t ask her how, she has no idea - for a violinist to appear out of nowhere and serenade her, he seems to know exactly what Roxy’s preferred wine is and keeps it coming.

As they leave, he buys her flowers from a street vendor - white dahlias that she fixes in her hair, and he engages her in a short waltz to the music played in the street.  She’s more than a little tipsy and flushed with happiness, laughing as she missteps but he guides her along perfectly and keeping her close.

Before she’s had time to come down from her laughter, she finds herself seated in a gondola with Merlin pressed against her side. A quick exchange with the driver and they have a scenic tour of Venice, just the two of them under the stars.

Roxy’s a very smart lass, so it doesn’t take her long to realize this has stopped becoming a challenge, and it’s not really about their cover anymore. Maybe it’s the wine, the night air, the warmth that exists between their bodies and is seen in their eyes ...Roxy is starting to wonder if she’s actually developing real feelings for the man. This feels way beyond casual flirting or teasing or the simple want of another body next to hers.

Perhaps there is magic in Carnivale after all.

When she turns to kiss him, it’s not for a mission or a challenge. She’s not hiding behind anything this time, there are no excuses or false pretenses. There is no one that could be possibly spying on them in this moment, in this dark heat that eclipses them from all prying eyes and interlopers. This kiss is genuine and true, and she knows that he knows it as well.

His eyes are closed and his lips are soft. They keep it sweet and barely touching, lips ghosting at each other and breath hovering between them. His hand finds hers in the dark, their fingers intertwined and hold steady together, their faces nuzzling and rubbing softly against each other not so much seeking lips but rather enjoying the sensation.

They have shared so many kisses by now, hot deep ones that have electrified her senses and put her close to the edge, but nothing else has come this close to overpowering her. There is no where else to go, no further place to take this; the gondola ride is far from over.

Neither of them speak for the duration; Roxy is afraid her voice will betray her or that she’ll ruin it by asking what this is - it’s not a questions she is ready to face or necessarily is even sure she wants the answer. She doesn’t know why Merlin keeps quiet, though it probably has more to do with the fact that they don’t really let up kissing for long. And true to his word, he remains a perfect gentleman throughout it all.

The romantic energy hangs the air as they walk back from the gondola, as he kisses her softly before the doorstep of the villa, and as they shed their coats. It’s as if neither of them is sure where to go from here, now that they have returned to their “headquarters.” Merlin pours himself a glass of wine, gives Roxy a small nod before heading out to the terrace.

Roxy heads into her room, discarding her dress and changing into her red silk slip. There’s a missed call from Morgan on her phone; how had she missed it before? Well. Of course she knows how. She was rather distracted, after all.

She rings her back, with a short “Hello” when Morgan picks up.

“Oh finally! Where have you been all night? Neither you or Merlin have answered your phones, I would be worried if you weren’t you.”

“Out with Merlin, just as you requested. What’s going on? Is everything okay?”

“Everything is absolutely peachy. Just wanted to give you a guys the heads up that one of Alessandra’s men seems to have rented the villa next to yours; you are being watched quite closely darling.”

“Good to know; I’ll pass it on. Any surveillance we need to worry about?”

“Nothing on the audio front; Merlin is too much of a paranoid bastard to let any tech of that sort work within 5 meters of him. From what Tristan and I can tell, it’s standard P.I. surveillance, probably just watching your movements and taking photographs.”

“Then maybe we should give them a show?”

“Roxy love, you are a natural at this. Seriously. I have so many plans for you ...but bedtime first, tell me how it goes in the morning. Ciao!”

Roxy goes back out to the kitchen, pours herself a glass of wine and takes a moment to collect herself. As much as she has wanted Merlin, she wasn’t thinking of taking it this far. The litany of the past few days has been a remind that he is her boss, after all. Looks like right now it wasn’t going to matter. Yet it’s not exactly how she wanted things to play out.

In the end, however, the mission is what matters.  Time to put on her big girl panties and see it through.

Alright. Any second now.

One deep breath and an even deeper gulp of wine later, she’s walking out the terrace doors. Merlin turns around from where he’s standing at the edge and looks at her, eyes roving up and down her body in the small red slip. He’s discarded the sweater over one of the chairs but has left the tie on.

Only one of the heat lamps is on and it hasn’t had time to warm up. They should both be freezing, out here in the cold February night. Roxy especially, as bare as she was. Yet there was a thrum of heat in the air, an intensity she felt keenly as Merlin’s eyes roved up her body to take in her face.

He moved to sit down in one of the chairs, attempting (she thinks) to project an air of calm and nonchalance, but she sees how his hand is white knuckled clenching the wineglass. She’s surprised it doesn’t break.

“Can I help you?” he asks, leaning back in the chair with his eyes close. His accent is heavy; she wants it on her tongue.

She takes another sip of her wine and, after a moment’s hesitation, she straddles his lap and holds his arms in place - just in time too, as he reacts with a bit of a start and would have thrown her off in a manner very unbecoming of a married man on his honeymoon.

“Shh, darling,” She leans forward to whisper in his ear. He looks at her with wary, guarded eyes. “Morgan called. We’re being watched.”

The look he gives her fades to understanding and his body goes lax; Merlin is ever the professional, ready to act a moment’s notice.

“I assume you have a plan?” He takes another sip of wine, as if he’s trying to avoid her eyes.

“I do, if you trust me well enough to follow my lead.”

“Aye, lass. That I do.” He swallows, his adam’s apple bobbing, and for a second she thinks that’s all there is to it before he speaks again, softer than before.

“It’s myself I don’t trust right now.”

Oh, Merlin. Now this, Roxy can understand.

She runs her hands up his arms, pressing against his shoulders and caressing his neck until she is holding his head eye level at her. His arms wrap around her instantly, one hand placed on her upper back, the other at her side, just below her waist.

“Merlin, you can trust that there isn’t anything you can do tonight that I would mind.”

“Tonight only.” His came out stern and resolute; she cocked her head in question.

“I’m your boss, love. We can’t - it doesn’t matter how much … I meant it when I said I would be a gentleman. And I mean it past tonight as well.”

So that was the game, then. They could have this night together, and this night only, where they could blame the mission and fulfill their desires and then move on. Where they could both pretend to look past the hierarchy and the power dynamics and just let themselves feel and get lost in each other ...for one night, at least.

It wasn’t much but it was more than she thought she could have.

She understood, as well.

“Tonight,” she whispered, before giving him a slow kiss that he quickly turns around, as he tightens his grip on her.

It’s like being hit over the head by a waterfall, like the crash of a dam being let open. The two of them collide against each other, hands and lips bruising, caressing, exploring.

He bites kisses into her neck and down to her breasts, his fingers finding her nipples and plucking them to hard nubs.

“Slow,” he murmurs, his face pressed against her breasts. “I should go slower.”

“Don’t you fucking dare, we’ve been nothing but slow,” she says harshly as she grinds against him, feeling him growing hard underneath her.

He bites at her nipples, she lets out a squeal that makes him huff in laughter and she can feel the press of his smile against her skin. It makes Roxy deliriously happy and desperate to press kisses into his skin.

Frantically, her hands find his shirt, pulling at the buttons and they fly off, scattering. He laughs more, she shuts him up by finding his mouth and pressing her tongue inside, alternating her kisses between the sensual slow roll of her tongue and the harsh nibble of her teeth.

His tie is still on and she uses that to her advantage, pulling it up to direct and control his head while continuing to grind against him. ‘ Teach him to laugh ,’ she thinks, leaving his mouth for a moment to graze her teeth against his neck. He lets out a fierce moan at that and she can’t help but think ‘gotcha.’

He’s clearly onto her, as his hands move from her back to her thighs, scraping at her skin lightly before his right arm quickly reaches under her slip and goes straight for her panties - Merlin, apparently, is a very focused gentleman.

He runs the rough edge of his fingernails up and down, causing her to squirm and gasp in his lap and increase the pace of her grinding.

“Darling, if you keep that up I am not going to last much longer.” He growls out, before he goes back to work on her nipples, using his mouth to pull the fabric down and give him more access to her skin.

In response, she brings her hand down to cup him through his trousers. Hard.

Challenge, meet Roxy.

He sneaks his fingers under her pants, knowing exactly where to go - something she is going to file away for later, information she will examine extensively - and the next few moments are intense frantic motion between the two of them, with Roxy grinding down on Merlin and his fingers deep inside her with a thumb rubbing at her clit in just the way she likes, just the way she did the night before.

Dear merciful heavens, I can’t last much longer. She’s been so wound up the past few days and clearly Merlin has as well because it’s only a minute later and they’re both crashing together, their joint moans mixing together in the night.

When she comes back to earth, Merlin has his hands running up and down her back and peppering soft, sweet kisses between her breasts.

“You are exquisite,” he says quietly looking up at her.

No one has ever looked at her like that before, not even William and Rosina. She can’t place it, she’s not sure she understands it, but she wants to keep it forever locked safely away.

Roxy presses a kiss to his forehead, looks back down at him and with a cheeky smile says “More?”

He laughs.

“Love, you need to give me a few minutes first,” he murmurs huskily, his voice laced with fondness.

“Mmm...but I don’t want to,” she takes his head and lifts it up to her mouth, pressing wet kisses to his fingers. She enjoys watching his eyes go hungry and wild again; this version of Merlin is definitely her favorite.

“I’ll tie you up if I have to,” he threatens, but she doesn’t hear any conviction behind it.

She laughs, “Oh honey, I’d rather have you tied up and completely at my mercy. The things I could do…”she trails off, leaving the rest to his imagination.

It apparently works, because next thing she knows they’re moving, she’s up in his arms and he’s walking towards his bedroom.

The night fills up with Roxy’s laughter, carefree and sly.

He carries her into the room, presses her down upon his bed and moves her slip up and over her body, leaving her only in her lace knickers.

Roxy grabs his tie again, pulling him forward as she arches her body up. Merlin presses soft kisses into her stomach, working his way down and grasping at her knickers and about to pull them down when …

Of all fucking disasters, his phone starts to ring.

“Fuck,” he growls out.

“Can we ignore it?” Roxy really wants to demand that they most certainly can, her body revving up again and starting to ache.

“No. Fuck. Bloody fuck, bloody fucking hell.” He gets off of her, body shaking slightly.


“It’s a direct connection, only Arthur has this number. I have to take it now, or else it will be routed to my computer and we really don’t want him on the video cam.” He looks at her apologetically and with more than a little bit of regret, and she knows then that the rest of the night is ruined.

“Damn. Okay. Yeah ….I’m just gonna,” she gestures futilely at the door. “Just give a moment.”

He kisses her quickly on the forehead, before grabbing the phone. “Take your time. The view is still quite nice…Arthur? Yes. I’m here.”

God help her, she’s tempted to just finish the job right here while he’s on the phone, watching her. But as she watches him react to whatever Arthur says and then go immediately to his computer, sex is definitely not on the cards tonight … and maybe not the rest of the trip. While Merlin is busy working, she quietly tiptoes to her room and begins to run a cold shower.

Fuck.

She’s going to kill Arthur for this someday.



Chapter Text

Merlin’s awkward like a newborn kitten in the morning, alternating between avoiding Roxy’s eyes and staring at her when he thinks she’s not looking.

 

It’s exasperating and adorable and has her highly tempted to say ‘fuck it’ and just throw him on the sofa, snogging him senseless except now they’ve got company.

 

Tristan showed up exactly at 9 am, looking cheerful with a bright smile and holding a large bouquet of pink peonies mixed with red roses.

 

“Merlin, my lovely flower! I have flowers for you.”

 

“You shouldn’t have,” Merlin says dryly and he takes the flowers and hands the card to Roxy.

 

They’re from Alessandra, congratulating the Carnwarths on their marriage and inviting them to an art gallery later that night.

 

Merlin and Tristan are immediately delighted at the dinner invitation, but she catches Merlin giving the flowers a disdainful glance.

 

“What’s wrong?” Roxy asks.

 

“They’re just so … common.”

 

Tristan lets out a loud snorting laugh and claps Merlin on the back. “You’re a fucking snob, you are.”

 

Roxy didn’t exactly have any preconceived expectations for how a Kingsman agent would behave or look, but if you had to ask her - based on previous experience, exposure to Merlin, and also George - she would have said ‘quiet, exacting, methodical, and well dressed.’

 

Tristan certainly had the well dressed part down, but there was absolutely nothing quiet about the man. He exuded both energy and charm; his entire presence demanded your attention. He was well over six feet tall, his dark skin rippled with muscle and yet still very trim. Even his clothes were loud, yet still managed to politely say ‘debonair.’.

It was almost 10 o’clock and Roxy could swear that she could see the vein in Merlin’s forehead throbbing in agony, even though he looked at the man with fond exasperation, as Tristan was just … himself.

 

It was incredibly entertaining but also concerning.

 

Merlin was supposed to be debriefing Tristan on playing Roxy’s bodyguard and the ultimate end goal of going in, undercover. And in a sense it was, except Tristan kept interrupting ever so often to throw out a wisecrack comment or make a joke about the mission.

 

Merlin doesn’t seem to be annoyed by it, and he cracks several small smiles, but it contrasted starkly with the straight-to-business attitude she had witnessed from other agents out in the field.

 

It’s not that she doubts any Kingsman agents but ...Roxy just doesn’t understand.

 

It’s not that she doesn’t have a sense of humor or can’t joke around a bit and still get the job done; it’s just been her experience that people who don’t seem to take things seriously tend not to see things through as efficiently as those who do.

 

But Tristan is a Kingsman, and Roxy knows better than to voice these thoughts out loud, at least not at the present moment.

 

Instead, she drinks her tea and observes and tries not to feel a little jealous by the comfortable ease the two men have together.

 

It’s been a long time since she was surrounded by friends.

 

Morgan counts, obviously. She’s a delight and Roxy is so happy to have met her and Mordred. But it’s not the same, is it? They’re older, more advanced in their careers, have steady love lives (well Mordred will once George gets his head out of his ass and starts paying attention), and in comparison Roxy just feels completely not put together.

 

It’s not a feeling she’s used to, honestly. In comparison with her peers, Roxy grew up feeling a little more ahead of the game and with a steady head on her shoulders. She went after what she wanted, she worked hard, and she got her results.

 

She’s starting to think that maybe she might have spent a little too much time on being a serious adult, honestly. She’s twenty-five years old and she’s not even sure if she has a best friend. It’s pathetically depressing.

 

Not that there is really anything she can do about it right now, which actually pretty much makes it worse but she guesses she’ll figure it out when she can.

 

The plan is that Roxy will tour the city again today, this time with Tristan playing as her bodyguard. Merlin will do all his Merlin-y things; he’ll play Charlie again for lunch before meeting up with Morgan to plan their side of things, and Roxy and Merlin will attend the gallery with Morgan and Tristan as back up.

 

Privately, Roxy thinks that if Alessandra doesn’t make a move tonight, she’s just not going to. There’s not much more Roxy could do to make herself more enticing with the limited resources she has, and she’s really not sure she or Merlin can handle another night like last night.

 

And if they have to and Arthur interrupts again, she’s shooting the bloody phone.

 

Tristan throws his gear in the room that Morgan slept in the first night; it’s on the upper level so it’s a bit of ways away from Merlin and Roxy’s rooms, but the sheer reminder of another person in the house should be enough to keep things from getting too hot and heavy with Merlin again.

 

Though it’s really not going to a problem with the way he still avoids looking her in the eye. There’s no way Tristan hasn’t picked up on that either, if his amused expression is anything to go by.

 

She excuses herself to her room, both to get ready for the day and to phone George. It’s been awhile since they’ve spoken and she could use his steady voice right now.

 

He picks up immediately.

 

“Darling, I am so bored. Whatever you have, please make it interesting. Have you blown anything up yet?”

 

“Not yet, no.”

 

“Could you? For me?”

 

“It’s really amazing how you kept me in the dark about your job for so long.”

“I gave you a book of codes for your birthday that one time and the only movies we watch are action flicks. I taught you how to shoot, pick locks, and kick arse. You weren’t paying attention .”

 

“Suddenly the reason for my current predicament is glaringly obvious.”

 

“Come again?”

 

“It’s a long story but ...George, do you actually have any friends?”

 

“Tristan. He’s my closest friend.”

 

Now that’s surprising. “Really? I wouldn’t have thought that. You two don’t seem very much alike.”

 

“We work very well together and have a lot in common. Galahad’s even teased us about our impending wedding date.”

“Is this something I should be kept up on?”

“Hardly.” There’s a sound of rustling paper and clicking of fine china; she’s probably interrupted his morning tea, time difference between London and Italy being only an hour.

 

George clears his throat and continues. “Tristan very much adores women, though I have declared you very off limits to him, and I haven’t really been interested since your father died, for the most part. It’s a non-issue.”

 

“Ah. So that’s why Mordred can’t seem to catch your eye.”

 

“Wait, what ?”

And the cat was out of the bag. Oops? She’d have to send Mordred a fruit basket or flowers or maybe go hide in a cave somewhere until he forgave her.

 

“George, he practically falls all over the place whenever you’re in the room, he brings you your afternoon tea, makes sure the kitchen has your favorite biscuits stocked, specifically arranges R&D’s schedule so that they save the explosion demonstrations for when you are available just to see your ridiculous and insane smile, and he tries to ask you out for dinner on a weekly basis. Have you really not been paying attention ?”

 

It’s actually the first time in her life she’s ever heard her godfather sound flustered and she actually wishes she had thought ahead and recorded this conversation. Blast.

 

“I didn’t think, that is to say ... really? Me?”

 

“Yes, you, you gigantic oblivious moron. Now what are you going to do about it?”

“...Call you back later. I have something to take care of.”

 

With that, he’s hung up the phone and all that’s left is silence.

 

“Take care of? More like you need to take care of Simon’s pert arse,” Roxy scoffs before heading into the shower.

 

When she comes out, about 20 minutes later, her phone is blowing up with texts from Simon.

 

You are brilliant, I owe you, QUEEN OF MY HEART FOREVER.

 

And then a Don’t tell Morgan I said that, but yeah I owe you a fruit basket OR ELEVENTY MILLION of them omg.

 

There’s a photo sent, of  Simon and George together. George is kissing Simon’s cheek, while the latter is beaming at the camera with an ecstatic smile.

 

George only sends one text, a photo of himself looking extremely smug and giving a thumbs up.

 

Roxy texts back to George, wanker.

 

He just replies back with twelve heart emojis and a snapchat of him kissing Simon.

 

George calls back 10 minutes later, after she’s finished getting dressed and is in the middle of doing her hair.

 

“Wow, I’m surprised you’re actually removing your lips from Simon’s face to give me a ring.”

 

“We are professionals, darling. Work still to be done, criminals to catch, goddaughters to annoy ...anyway, I’m stealing him away later for a very long lunch. We might not even come back.”

 

He sounds ridiculously pleased with himself. It’s delightful and a bit nauseating, making her want to roll her eyes in annoyance. Too fucking easy, normal people don’t get what they want that quickly. But that was George; once he got an idea into his head he completely went with it, full throttle and with twice as much precision. It’s why he was so dangerous around explosives and caused Merlin to swear so much; she had looked up some of Percival’s archived footage. He probably didn’t even give Simon time to get a word in, she reflected to herself. Mostly likely scenario is that George went straight down to R&D and pulled Simon in by the tie and gave him a proper snog.

 

And here he was now, fucking whistling to himself. Wanker.

 

“I am very happy for you, really I am , but tone it down. I really don’t want to think about your sex life.”

 

“Oh really? Yes, I suppose that’s so considering you have your own to deal with.”

 

“Come again?”

 

“Have fun last night, dear?”

 

Screw Arthur, she was going to kill Morgan.

 

“I have absolutely no idea what you are talking about.”

 

“I had to watch the footage!” His voice creeps up into higher decibels. “I mean, I fast forwarded through most of it but ...on the terrace, really? No idea exhibitionism was your thing.”

 

“It’s not! I mean. The mission!” She flails, both mentally and physically.

 

“And it’s not that you’re starting to have a thing for Merlin, hmm? HMMM?”

 

“I repeat, I have absolutely no idea what you are talking about.”

 

“HA! I knew it! Excellent.”

 

“I know that you are a very strange creature, but I am fairly certain that you are not actually supposed to encourage me to have an interest in my boss.” If there’s a bit of a frantic edge to her voice, she’ll never admit it.

 

“I do what I want. And, maybe so should you? Consequences be damned, that’s my motto.”

 

“That’s a horrible motto and seriously how have you not gotten yourself killed yet?”

 

“I am very good at my job,” he answered back primly. She should have known; it’s the one thing, besides her wellbeing, that George takes extremely seriously.

 

“Anyway, it’s a non-starter. He’s my boss, it’s unprofessional, impractical, and also a very stupid idea so I am going to just ignore you now.”

 

“Roxanne, you’re a gorgeous, intelligent, and extremely independent woman and Merlin is  very driven, annoyingly smart, and also one of the most dangerous men I have ever met in my entire life. You are both consenting adults and I fully support anything that might come between the two of you.”

 

“These are not normal conversations that family members have. I think. I’m fairly sure.”

 

“We’ve never been a normal family.”

 

“Thank you, Captain Obvious. I’m going to tell Simon that he should show up to lunch with a bouquet of grenades.”

 

“Be still my heart.”

 

“Oh my god, you would actually love that, wouldn’t you? There is something severely wrong with you.”

 

“You love me. And…. Not that I don’t terribly enjoy every conversation with you, but was there an actual reason you called this morning?”

 

“Besides my internal freak out about fancying my boss? I was going to ask you about Tristan, but I think you already gave me my answer.”

 

“Ah. Look, I know that Tristan does his best to seem irresponsible and like he doesn’t take anything seriously. That’s actually the point; keeps people guessing from what’s underneath. Some agents do their best blending into the crowd, others stand out. He screams ‘harmless’ but when it counts he’s all business, and he always gets the job done. Always. His methods are at times unconventional, but he has the highest success rate of any of our agents. You can trust him with your life.”

 

“Hoping it doesn’t come to that, but good to know.” She switches gears, wanting to keep things on point. “We have an invitation with the target tonight.”

 

“Excellent! Knew you could do it.”

 

“You mean you knew I could charm my way into a lady’s pants?”

 

“I remember your teenage years very well, unfortunately, “ George replied with a petulant tone.

 

That earns him a laugh, the ridiculous man.

 

They say their goodbyes and well wishes and Roxy heads back into the common area of the house. She’s dressed for a day out, practical shoes, warm grey pants fitted perfectly to her figure (thank you, Morgan) and a classic black turtleneck sweater. Her hair is done up in a braided bun and she stole a rose and peony to thread them in her hair.

 

“Darling, you look absolutely ravishing,” Tristan says from his place on the couch. He gives her a rakish grin, his face dimpling.

 

Merlin looks up from his tablet to give Tristan an intense glare, with Tristan simply responds back with a “who, me?” look. Merlin casts a glance at Roxy, his expression softening a great deal before he looked down again at his tablet.

 

“Where are you off to today?” He asked, not looking up from his tablet.

 

“I figured we’d do some sight-seeing outside of the plaza today.” She turns to Tristan, “I hope you like museums.”

 

“Adore them. But may I make a suggestion?”

“Please do.”

 

“There’s an afternoon wine tour that sounds divine.” He passes her his own tablet, and she looks it over. It does look promising, and like the typical thing a young woman might do when her husband decides to ignore her during their honeymoon.

 

“Great, that’s exactly what I need. The two of you soused on Italian wine.” Merlin sounds exasperated and exhausted; Roxy would feel sorry for him, since she knows he’s overloaded at the moment ... but something about him just really seems to bring out the brat in her.

 

“I’m sure we’ll manage to behavior ourselves appropriately, isn’t that right, Tristan?” she said coolly.

 

He gave her another cheeky smile and replied, “You said it, love. We’re the epitome of professionalism. You ready?”

“Just let me grab my coat and scarf.

 

“Excellent. Merlin, ol’ chum, stop working so hard and live a little. We’re in Venice! It’s Carnival season!”

 

“Yes, of course. How could I forget.” There was that dry sarcasm again, tearing itself at the soft spots of Roxy’s heart. She really shouldn’t find it as charming as she did, should she?

 

It was a good thing she had talked to George, Roxy thought. Now that her unease about Tristan was put to rest, she could step back and enjoy her day and put all these confusing thoughts about Merlin out of her head.

 

A wine tour in Venice? Sounded amazing.

 

***

 

This was the best day in her entire life and Tristan was definitely her new favorite person, oh my god.

 

The great thing about a wine tour and day out exploring Venice with your godfather’s best friend is that he apparently has a million ridiculous stories that George would probably never want Roxy to hear.

 

It was brilliant.

 

It had been a very small tour, just Roxy, Tristan, and a few couples. Wine had been pouring, delicious cheeses and pastries had been consumed. Now Roxy and Tristan were strolling in the Parco delle Rimembranze, arm in arm holding each other steady. It would be a bit of a walk back to the villa, but this area was mostly empty and it allowed them to easily identify anyone who might be following them, and plenty of privacy for Tristan’s raucous stories.

 

Tristan was finishing a tale about a botched honeypot in Russia that involved both George and Galahad, and Roxy was laughing so hard she had tears streaming down her face.

 

“And to this day, this is why Galahad freaks out whenever he sees vodka on the table.”

 

“I really can’t picture him freaking out.”

 

“Well, to be fair Galahad’s version of freaking out in public involves wide eyes and a very thin mouth. How he freaks out in private is something only Merlin can tell you.”

 

“Are they particularly close?”

 

“Well, to be honest neither Galahad or Merlin are the type to get close to, if you catch my drift. But yeah, I suppose you could say they’re close. By their standards, at least.”

 

It’s the wine that has her pushing, she swears.

 

“You make it sound like they don’t let anyone in.”

 

“As a rule? No, they don’t.”

 

“Not even their soulmates?”

 

Tristan gives her a look, one she can’t decipher but it doesn’t seem to be chiding or telling her to back down.

 

“I mean …” Roxy trails off, unsure entirely how she wants to put this.

 

Tristan takes pity on her.

 

“Kingsman don’t have soulmates.”

 

It sounds like such a repeat of what her mother taught her as a child, that soulmates were for other people, that Roxy has to bite her tongue from swearing at him.

 

“Everyone has a soulmate.”

 

Tristan shakes his head, sadly. “We don’t. Not if we want to keep them safe.”

 

There’s a story there , Roxy’s gut screams at her. Against her better judgment, she presses forward.

 

“What happened?”

 

“There was an agent and he was out for a mission. High stakes, child prostitutes. It was a big fucking deal; HQ had spent nearly a month prepping and going over every single detail.”

 

“So what went wrong?”

 

“We had a mole. The real identity of the agent was leaked; he was already underground and they couldn’t find him. But they found his wife, his soulmate. They interrogated her, but she didn’t give in.”

 

“They killed her?”

“Yes.”

 

“She saved him. She didn’t give in.”

 

“Aye. They wrote threats on her skin so he knew what was happening. Documented the entire process to drive him mad. But the job, the children, came first.”

 

He looked Roxy dead in the face, eyes blazing and intense.

 

“The job always comes first.”

 

She swallowed, hard. Suddenly she had no doubts which agent this story was about.

 

Forcing herself to look away, she cleared her throat.

 

“What happened to the mole?”

Tristan gave a dark chuckle.

 

“He was dealt with.”

 

By which, I am 100% positive you mean killed and body nowhere to be found. Gotcha.

 

“Right.”

 

Silence covered the two of them for several moments before Roxy spoke up again.

 

“So is it a rule then, for agents? Not to interact with their soulmates?”

 

“It’s not in the bylaws, no. But other than Bedivere,  the former Kay, and of course Percival and the former Lancelot, I don’t know of any agent that is involved with their soulmate. At least … if they are, they’re keeping it very close to the chest. That’s what I would do.”

 

Thoughts raced in Roxy’s head, swirling around and making it hard to catch her breath. There was a coldness rushing over her that had nothing to do with the brisk February air.

 

“So if ...a person were interested in becoming a Kingsman agent, and had not yet met their soulmate, what would you advise?”

He stopped walking and looked down at her. “Are you serious? This is what you want?”

She looked back at him, unflinching.

 

“Yes. Absolutely.”

 

Tristan gave her a slow smile; the tension in the air unfurled and went back to the edges.

 

“Go after it. Whatever it takes, being an agent is worth it.” He leaned in closer, eyes set on hers, imploring and personal. “But you keep them away. Better to think you’re dead than to put an innocent life at risk, to cause a greater hurt later on.”

 

“Is it lonely?”

 

“Sometimes. But we make do. Friends, where you can take them. Lovers, if you can have them. The excitement and adrenaline rush makes up for a lot, honestly. That’s Kingsman for you - we protect and we serve, and if we’re lucky we get to blow shit up.”

 

She narrowed her eyes at him. “I knew there was a reason George liked you.”

 

His smile was a mixture of cocky and sweetness, a dangerous combination.

 

“Bloke’s my best mate. We’re the reason Merlin lost his hair.”

 

“You’re joking.”

 

“I could be, but you’d never know, would you?”

“I know I could use another drink.”

“Follow me, mi bella amiga. I know just the place.”

 

***

 

Merlin’s in a much better mood when they return, even as tipsy and annoying as they must be. Or at the very least, Roxy is feeling tipsy. She suspects Tristan is just playing it up for Merlin’s sake.

 

They have a decent amount of time before they have to leave for Alessandra’s party; Roxy luxuriates in the bath for a good while before coming out and gawking at the dress laid out on her bed.

 

“Merlin, what the fuck is this?”

 

He peeks his head in the door. “Do you not like it? Morgan sent it over earlier.”

 

“Are we going to a costume party?”

 

“Ah.” He comes in the room. Roxy is overly conscious of the fact that she is dressed in nothing by a light silk robe, no matter than he saw her in less just last night.

 

“The event is “Carnival Through the Ages.”

 

“And I’m supposed to dress up like a 15th century Venetian noble lady?”

 

“Well, I think it’s more accurate that your dress is 16th century Venetian courtesan.”

 

“Merlin.”

 

“A noblewoman would never dare wear a neckline that low.”

 

“Merlin.”

 

God he was such a cheeky little shit.

 

“You can take it up with Morgan if you’re unhappy but I would trust in her judgment when it comes to clothes.”

 

“I know, I just…” Roxy trailed off, deflating some. “It’s just very much not me. I am going to spend the entire night feeling like a ridiculous peacock.” She slumped on the bed. Merlin sat down next to her and took her hand in his. She wasn’t sure why she was so bothered; she had gotten dolled up no problem the other night and was able to play the seductress. Maybe the difference this time was that it wouldn’t be with Merlin at her side ...

 

“Successful missions often require agents pretending to be something they very much are not. Don’t think of it as peacocking about. You’re giving the mark what they want. If you’re doing it right, they’ll be so enthralled by the illusion that they won’t be able to see reality. It’s just you, doing your job...so do it well.”

 

“So ...distract them with the toss of my hair and they won’t notice I’ve stolen their wallet?”

 

“...Something like that. What exactly has George been teaching you?”

She gives him a winsome smile. While George’s methods for child rearing may not have been conventional, they had ended up being very entertaining. There had been an entire ‘seminar’ when she was thirteen on how to pickpocket someone; it had been a very long winter and both George and Roxy had been home sick with a terrible cold. Intense boredom had kicked in on the second day of illness; too tired to read any books and too bored of the telly, George had been desperate to entertain Roxy somehow. By the time they could breathe normally again, Roxy was able to steal anything from George’s pockets without him noticing ...not that she had ever needed to put this skill to the test, much.

 

George was right, she really hadn’t been paying enough attention.

Roxy shoos Merlin out of her room and slips into her costume, fretting over the difficult buttons and the tightness of the waist. The red suits her, at least.

 

Roxy is sitting at the vanity, in the middle of putting the finishing touches on her hair when there’s a knock on her door. “Come in,” she calls out.

 

It’s Merlin again, dressed up in a tuxedo and carrying a small metal case.

 

She stares. “How come I have to get dressed up in a period outfit and you get a free pass?”

 

His mouth twitches as he twirls around, showing off his tux. “Are you saying I don’t look good?”

 

She snaps at him with exasperation, rolling her eyes. “You know perfectly well you are very handsome, now answer my question.”

 

“Morgan didn’t send anything suitable for me to wear.” He says it blandly, as if he is discussing the weather and her first impulse is not to believe him.

 

“Suitable?” She arches a brow at him.

 

“I don’t wear ruffles,” he replied as he opened up the case. Inside shone beautiful pieces of jewelry. “Now, let’s see what Morgan’s been up to while you and Tristan got drunk.”

 

Roxy bristles at the insinuation but she doesn’t have much to defend herself with, honestly, so she lets it go. The jewelry is gorgeous; for all her annoyance with Morgan right now, she cannot fault her taste. A necklace, bracelet, and earrings; rubies and diamonds set in gold, arranged delicately in a flower motif.

 

“I am sensing a ‘lady in red’ theme,” she joked as she fiddled with one of the earrings, sticking it in her ear.

 

Merlin gives a short deep laugh and the temperature in the room increases ten-fold. Gone is the awkward and ill-tempered man of this morning, replaced with the suave and enchanting man she got to know too closely the previous night.

 

He takes out a tiara from the case, simple except for the large ruby in the center, and places it on her head. His hands smoothed her hair back into place, before trailing down and caressing the back of her neck. They settled on her open shoulders, one thumb rubbing at her skin underneath the fabric of her neckline.

 

“The jewelry is not merely ornamental. Small cams in the necklace, your earrings will capture audio, and your bracelet,” he picks it up and demonstrates, showing her the nearly invisible button and clasp “carries three amnesia darts. Hopefully you shouldn’t have cause to use them, but better not to risk it.” He then hands her the earpiece that will allow for communication on the sly.

 

“And the tiara?” she asks as she inserts the earbud in place.

 

“RFID reader. If all goes well, you’ll make it back to her suite; this will be able to pick up information from any devices inside.”

 

Excellent.

 

He laughs at both her excitement and awe of the technology. “Hopefully you’ll be an improvement over other agents and bring these back to us in one piece?”

 

“Why, it’s not like you’re going to adorn any of them in these ...actually, can you? I think Tristan would look divine wearing these earrings and George definitely should get the tiara.”

 

This earns her a smirk and an amused twinkle in his eyes. “I’ll be sure to pass that on to him. Any other questions?”

 

“Do I get any explosives?”

 

His gaze hardens and she bites down on the inside of her cheek to keep her expression neutral. “Absolutely not.”

 

She smiles and looks up at him. “I’m kidding, honestly.”

 

He ducks his head away, reaching for the necklace. “Of course. I knew that.” He ropes it around her, doing up the clasp in the back. “You look exquisite.”

 

There goes that room temperature again, this time coupled with a flutter in her stomach. Roxy forces herself to laugh, getting up from her stool. She twirls around, showing off the dress so Merlin can get the full effect. “Just exquisite? I was aiming for ‘ravishing’,” she jokes.

 

He crosses over to her, cups a hand to her cheek and gazes into her eyes. “You are that and more.”

 

Oh. That wasn’t bloody fair.

 

Instinctively, Roxy leaned into his touch, inching her body closer to hers. Not her fault , her mind whispered. The pull was magnetic. Where else could she go?

 

She looked up to him with wide, doe-eyes, her mouth parting slightly. The air between them was electric, a current flowing between his touch to her skin. “Merlin,” she croaked out before he leaned down and pressed his lips to hers.

 

It was achingly soft, unlike the tempestuous and rushed kisses on the terrace. Gentle and soothing, barely touching and yet every fabric of her being was aflame. She couldn’t move; her legs were wooden and and heavy. All she could do was lean into his body, feeling safe as his arm encircled her waist.

 

He pulled back abruptly after a moment, visibly startled and an apology immediately coming out of his mouth.

 

“Forgive me, that was highly inappropriate. I should not have done that.” His voice was harsh and for all the softness of the kiss, his breathing was ragged.

 

He hadn’t let go of her waist.

 

“Merlin, shut the fuck up and kiss me,” she commanded before reaching her arm around his neck and pulling him back down. She kept the softness, but this time there was no hesitation from either of them. Roxy lost track of time; she wasn’t sure how long they stood there, mouths forming fire and bodies pressing close. The air around them grew warm and cloaking as they became lost in each other.

 

When they finally pulled apart, they just stared at each other as they managed to catch their breath.

 

Merlin opened his mouth to speak but was roughly interrupted by the pounding of Tristan’s fist on the bedroom door.

 

“Oi! You two ready or what? It’s game time!”

 

Roxy stepped back, trying to collect herself. “We’ll be right out,” she shouted towards the door.  She went to the closet to get her coat, inwardly begging her face not to turn red and make things awkward.

 

When she turned back, Merlin was seemingly composed as he straightened his tie and and the jacket of his suit. He gave her a small smile, his eyes holding a bit of a twinkle. “Right. Game time?” she threw a smile his way as her hand reached for the door.

 

Only Merlin’s hand, placed on top of hers, stopped her.

 

Roxy looked back at him, quizzingly.

 

“Roxanne…” He seemed to be at odds with himself, struggling for words. “When we get back to London, I was wondering if you might join me for dinner?”

 

His face was guarded and closed, but Roxy felt by now she could read his eyes. Something in them soothed her, made her feel that everything would be alright. Consequences be damned , after all.

 

She leaned up to kiss his cheek. “Yes, I think that would be lovely.”

 

Merlin gave her a brief, small smile and let go of her hand. “Lovely...Yes, I believe it will be.” He held out his arm after Roxy opened the door, the two of them walking side by side to meet Tristan.

 

***

 

The lights were low and the champagne was flowing. An ‘intimate occasion’ for some, but in reality there at least a hundred people there, Morgan informed Roxy through the comm.

 

And she really knows how to pick them too; I’ve got facial recognition showing at least thirty people here are wanted by Interpol. Excellent job getting an invite, Rox. Between the three of you, we’ll be able to clean up considerably.

 

“And it won’t get tied back to us?,”  Roxy mutters down into her glass in Russian, having wandered away from the boys to take in Alessandra’s art collection that was put on display. It was quite the eclectic arrangement, clearly selected to demonstrate wealth and power rather than any particular theme or message. Still, they were beautiful pieces of art and she was enjoying herself immensely, for all that she was having to entertain herself. Merlin was mingling with some of Alessandra’s associates and Tristan was doing his best to charm several of their wives. Roxy had spent some time with them earlier, but found herself getting bored of pretending and excused herself away to look at the art. Better for Alessandra if she were alone and more approachable, she reasoned.

 

Hardly. This group has so many enemies, they would just all point fingers at each other first. I’m surprised they’re all in a room together actually. Whatever the real reason for this event, it’s got to be a big hit.

 

Tristan’s voice came over the comm, chiming in with his thoughts. I’m guessing blackmarket place; one of the moving ones. They’re all just dressed up to show wealth, not taste or class. Looking to purchase, I’d say.

 

Affirmative, Merlin said. Everyone’s dress to show they could drop a couple million without it being an issue. How tacky.

 

Morgan gives a little indelicate snort and it echoes throughout the comms. Roxy takes a sip of her champagne to hide her smile.

 

“But where’s Alessandra? We’ve been here nearly an hour and there’s no sign of her.” And I’m going to get drunk at this rate, she thought privately.

 

Girls love to make a dramatic entrance. Doesn’t change when they get older and turn into hot Italian mamas.

 

Merlin, please pinch him for me.

 

Ow! Hey now that’s not fair, come on Morgan, you know you love me.

 

Secret spies my arse, Roxy thought. More like ‘overgrown children with fancy equipment.’ She rolled her eyes to the ceiling before standing in front of a painting of Mary Magdalene, by Artemisia Gentileschi, delighting in the bold brushwork of a phenomenal woman painter. It was quite the contrast from listening to Morgan and Tristan argue over the comms.

 

“At least the art is worth coming here for,” Roxy said.

 

Agreed ...and speaking of art, anyone else get a million snapchats from Simon and George today? Morgan’s voice took on a gleeful note; Roxy was willing to bet that she had taken screenshots of all the snaps.

 

Perfectly nauseating , came Merlin’s droll tone on the comms.

 

More like fucking finally , Tristan chimed in with. George has been into Simon for ages, can’t believe he finally figured out it went both ways.

 

“Wait, what?” George’s interest was news to Roxy, and from similar noises on Morgan’s end, it was new to her as well.

 

Long story, I’ll tell you later. He only admits it when he’s drunk.

 

Ah, yes. The repressed emotional state of the modern English gentleman spy. Roxy knew that one well.

 

Oh hey girl, you’ve got a pretty bird incoming on your left. Good luck, poppet.  Well. At least working with Tristan was entertaining, even if his vocabulary at times was a strange mix between a teenage girl and an older woman. Some people were just inexplicable.

 

And now Alessandra was on her way. Steady now, Rox. You’ve got this.

 

“I see you are enjoying my collection, this pleases me greatly” her voice purred in Roxy’s ear.

 

“I am an admirer of beautiful things,” Roxy demurely replied. She didn’t move, she stood still like a statue even though her body was responding to Alessandra’s voice and presence at her back. Senses were heightened and the adrenaline rush was starting.

 

“Ah, but you are more exquisite than anything else in this room. If I could, I would have you for myself and add you to my works of art.”

 

“I’m sure we could come to an agreement.” Now, Roxy turned just in time to see delight unfurling in Alessandra’s eyes.

 

Alessandra’s voice took on a teasing, questioning tone. “But what of your devoted husband? Would he let his darling bride disappear into the night?”

 

Roxy laughed and gave Alessandra a small smirk, leaning in. “He does as I say.”

 

And everything, every single part of this entire Venice experience, was worth it for the aggrieved sound she heard from Merlin in her comm, accompanied by Tristan and Morgan’s laughter.

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

It’s in the very late/very early hours when a tired but happy Alessandra puts an equally tired and satisfied Roxy into a private car, heading back to the villa. As far as a ‘one night stand’ goes, it was definitely Roxy’s favorite. Great sex, espionage, and all done in style? Yes, she could definitely get used to this.

 

She isn’t expecting anyone to be awake when she arrives back at the villa; aside from random voices in her ear during the night confirming that the objective had been accomplished, it’s been quiet. Which was a blessing, considering. Yet Tristan is awake and sitting up on the couch, clad in comfy looking pajamas, and thumbing at his tablet.

 

“Good night, then?” he asked, throwing a cheeky grin her way.

 

“Positively divine,” she purrs in response. “What are you doing, still awake?”

 

“Catching myself up on the case. If I’m going to be replacing Merlin as the undercover op, I need to get a good feel for the players. See if there’s an angle I can approach that Merlin can’t.”

 

“Anything I can help with?”

 

“Nah, but if you fancy staying awake a bit longer, I could use a break and some company.” He gives her a small smile and it’s not for the first time that she’s reflected on the fact that being an agent must get fairly lonesome.

 

“Deal,” she agrees. “Just give me a moment to get out of this dress.”

 

“I would think you’ve been plenty out of it all night long,” he shoots back to her as she heads towards her room. She acknowledges his comment with a two fingered salute, much to his delighted laughter.

 

“No but for real,” he says when she comes out, dressed in comfy sweats and a luxurious robe. “Gimme the deets.”

“Who are you? Seriously, who even talks like that?”

 

“I spend a lot of time on the internet. Spill your gob, woman.”

 

And she does, leaning comfortably against him on the couch, going into all the gory salacious details of the night. Roxy’s normally not one to kiss and tell; she’s a fairly private person for all that she occasionally delights in revving George up. And yeah, at first she goes into more detail than necessary just to see how much Tristan can handle - which, it turns out, is actually quite a lot more than she thought and she’s suitably impressed - but also, here she had this amazing sexual experience that honestly was riveting and mind blowing, and who else is she going to tell?  Morgan’s a dear but she can’t really relate, most of the men in Roxy’s life are either far away, gay, or … Merlin. Yeah, she’s not even going to touch that one.

 

Tristan is at least becoming somewhat of a friend, and that’s really quite nice. She thinks she’ll keep him. Maybe she and George can share him.

 

They end up falling asleep on the sofa, being too tired to go anywhere after a long night/early morning of stories of daring and raunchy sexcapades. Roxy wakes up with her side pressed into Tristan, the man giving her a half a cuddle in his sleep, as he snores gently away.


Merlin is standing over them, drinking from a mug and wearing a thunderous expression.

 

Roxy’s first instinct is to shove Tristan awake. If she’s facing a grumpy Merlin, she’s not fucking doing it alone.

 

“Huh? Wassgoingon?” he mumbles, bleary eyed and confused. He tooks a look at Merlin’s face and his eyes widen.

 

“Shit, man. Did Arthur wake you up again?”

 

Merlin merely nods, his whole body tense.  Tristan pulls himself up to a seated position, gently displacing Roxy. Rubbing his eyes, he says “He’s really gotta stop that shit. Someday you’re actually going to snap and kill him using one of the methods from Galahad’s list.”

 

“Galahad has a killing list?” Roxy asks.

 

Merlin takes a sip of his coffee as Tristan yawns.

 

“Galahad keeps a running list of creative ways he would kill someone. It’s really quite inventive.” Merlin says, speaking for the first time since waking them up.

 

“Rusty hedgeclippers to the aorta is still my favorite. It’s a classic.”

 

“But not very feasible, considering it only works in an unkempt garden,” Merlin points out.

 

“And do they really need to be rusty? It’s not like someone is going to get tetanus when they’re already bleeding out from a stabbing,” Roxy chimes in, sleepily.

 

Tristan scoffs  at both of them. “It’s poetic. Stop ruining things, I’m going to tell Galahad the two of you are criticizing his list.”

 

“Oh the horror,” Merlin says dryly.

 

“So what’s got Arthur’s knickers in a twist this time? I swear to bloody God, if it’s about Russia again he can just fucking go there himself and look into the matter.” Tristan stands up, stretching as Roxy takes over the entire couch. Definitely not feeling like she got enough sleep.

 

“He found out about Percival and Mordred.” Roxy’s eyes go wide, Tristan swears. “Someone needs to tell your department to stop gossiping.”

 

“My minions do not gossip. They know better.”

 

“Well then for fuck sakes, tell them to stop sharing interdepartmental information or whatever the fuck you call it. Nothing good ever comes of Chester King caring about people's’ personal lives.”

 

“Are they in trouble?,” Roxy asks. Merlin takes a seat on the chair, sighing and rubbing a hand over his head, but he’s at least starting to look less pissed off. “Morgan is headed back to London to do damage control. Mordred’s been placed on a leave of absence ‘pending investigation’ which really just means that Arthur is trying to scare him. It won’t stick; as the Kingsman quartermaster, I’m the direct supervisor for all R&D staff. Ultimately he answers to me, not Arthur. And Arthur certainly knows better than to try and punish me .”

 

“What about Percival?” There’s no way she can see her godfather taking this well.

 

“That’s where the trouble comes in. I’ve no sway when it comes to the agents and their handlers when it comes down to it; if Arthur is angry at one of them, he could send them to Siberia for half a year if he wanted.”

 

“It would a dreadful waste of resources with me going undercover here and Lancelot been away for over a year. Even if he lets his emotions get the better of him, Arthur’s never petty enough to risk the success of the agency. Sending Perce away would mean only seven free agents to cover everything. And there’s no fucking way he’s ever going to ask help from the Americans in the next decade, not after last time.” Tristan heads out into the kitchen, coming back after a bit holding mugs of coffee for himself and Roxy.

 

“What do you think he’ll do?” asked Roxy, turning back to Merlin.

 

“It’s anyone’s guess. He hasn’t done anything to Percival yet, just Mordred. But God knows Percival isn’t going to take this well; he may just as well aggravate the situation before Morgan arrives and who knows what could happen.” He slouches in his seat, looking more like a sulky schoolboy than a debonair spy. “I just really didn’t want to deal with this.”

 

“Easy. Find the mole in your department and have at them them.” Merlin sends a glare towards Tristan. “Someone talking to Arthur is hardly a mole and even if it did come from my team, it’s hardly reason to fire anyone.  We don’t fire people for gossip when it’s in house. The paperwork nightmare it would take to let someone go for a petty reason, after years of confidential service, is not happening on my watch.”

 

“Then I’ll take care of it.”

 

“You’re not even coming 50 feet of HQ without being supervised. Fucking no, Tristan. I know you’re loyal to Percival but for God sake’s, man. Sit down and shut up.”

 

That leaves two grown men, fucking badass spies, sitting in the living room glowering into their mugs. Roxy wishes she could take a photo, but the thought of their potential retribution isn’t even worth it.

 

Well. Roxy’s never been one for standing around, feeling useless. She bids them adieu for the moment, neither of them really paying much attention to her, lost in their own private thoughts. The first thing she does when she gets to her room is call George, naturally.

 

He doesn’t pick up. Fuck, it must be bad. She can count on her fingers the times he didn’t pick up when she called, and she’s fairly certain those were all because of missions.

 

Opening up her laptop, she quickly confirms. He’s not assigned to any current mission; his status shows that he’s still temporary quartermaster at the UK HQ.

 

For now, at least. The other agents didn’t make it seem like he could get fired, so she’s not worried there. But she really hopes Siberia isn’t on the table; she rather likes getting to see George on a regular basis.

 

Checking her clock, it’s still early in the morning. They only got a couple hours of sleep. Fuck this shit. She can deal with later after she’s gotten more sleep. Roxy takes a quick shower, washing off the grime and sweat of the night out before collapsing face first into her pillow.

 

It’s a shame, considering his position in Kingsman, but man. Arthur’s really getting no love from Roxy during this trip. ‘Stupid lil fucker’ is her last thought before she passes out, clearly indicating that Tristan really gets under your skin, even when you’ve only known him for a day.

 

She sleeps for several hours but is rudely woken up by Merlin’s shouting from his quarters. It’s not very clear; his Scottish brogue really kicks it up ten notches when he’s angry, and from his tone of voice he is seriously ticked off. Snippets come through the walls in bits and pieces, mostly indecipherable but she can pick out a few words here and there. She can’t make out anyone other than Merlin, so he must be on the phone. Roxy’s always been a little bit nosy, so she tries her best to listen in as she freshens up for the day.

 

“Absolutely not, this is completely mental…”

 

“With all due respect, sir, I’ll talk to you however I bloody want…”

 

“She has no experience in these matters, it’s a risk to the entire agency…”

 

“You’re overreacting and putting my team at risk…”

 

“Will you just let go of bloody Russia already? If he hasn’t done anything by now, it’s most likely he won’t. It’s been decades, Arthur…”

 

“Look, I understand it is your call but …”

 

“No I will not pipe down, you fucking pipe down!”

 

“Go right ahead, I’m sure you’d have a lovely time trying to replace me .”

 

A knock comes at her door; Tristan pokes his head in.

 

“They’ve been at it for an hour now; it’s hurting my head.” He rubs at his eyes and sits on her bed, watching as she does her hair up.

 

“Merlin and Arthur?”

 

“Yeah, you can hear some of it?”

 

“A little bit. What’s going on?”

“Arthur’s sending you to Russia.”

 

“What, why?”

 

“Classified; Arthur will brief you himself over the vidchat.”

 

“But I’m not an agent. Why would he send me in?”

“You seem clever; you tell me.”

 

“...Because it’s revenge on Percival without it looking like revenge … and he can use my time and experience here as an excuse?”

 

“Excellent reasoning skills, Watson.”

 

“Sod off.” She goes to her closet and pulls out her suitcase. “Well. Guess I better start packing. He’s that angry then, huh?”

 

“He has his petty moments. Definitely the type to stab you in the back; makes for an effective Arthur cuz it takes a bastard to outthink other bastards, but it doesn’t really make for a good friend.”

 

“Well. I want to be an agent, so I guess I can’t get angry if I’m being treated like one?”

 

“Eh. Wait until you get there; Moscow isn’t really my cup of tea.”

 

She looks up at him from where she is folding some clothes into the suitcase. “You know something.”

 

“I know a lot of things, darling,” he says as he leans back and throws a pillow into the air, catching it.

 

“What has Arthur upset about in Russia? It can’t be that bad if he’s sending me; I’m not a proper agent. There’s no way I have the training for it.”

 

“I’m not saying a word. But trust me; you’ll figure it out.”

 

She’s not quite sure she believes him, but she lets it go. The rest of the conversation is banal and meaningless, just bits and bobs to kill time and stead off boredom while they await the inevitable.  Merlin’s voice still coming in through the walls, but he seems to have given in. He’s less angry and his voice is softer. It’s harder to pick out his words.

 

There’s a part of Roxy’s brain that can’t stop thinking about “ She has no experience in these matters, it’s a risk to the entire agency… ” and she won’t lie and say that it’s not a huge blow to her that Merlin apparently doesn’t trust her. Granted, he’s right; she doesn’t have a lot of experience but really, how is she supposed to get any if she doesn’t get out there and take some risks? Hasn’t she demonstrated in the past few days that she can think on her feet and get a job done? Why is she good enough for seducing Italian criminals but not good enough for ...well, whatever it is that is waiting for her in Russia?

 

Patronizing bullshit, is what it is. Sure, let’s go ahead and throw Roxy in as a seductress and trust her to get the job done between the sheets, but having her act in place of a Kingsman? Heaven forbid, we can’t allow that. Sure, yeah, maybe Arthur’s just doing it because he’s trying to get back at George but if he’s been that upset about Russia for ages, he certainly wouldn’t send Roxy in unless he had confidence in her.

 

She’s good enough for Merlin’s bed, but not good enough to do the job she desperately wants? A risk to the entire agency? Fuck him.  Fuck that noise.

 

God, she needs to get out of this house.

 

“I’m going for a walk; text me if I’m needed.” She grabs her coat from her closet in a near vicious manner, breaking the hanger.

 

“Hmm? Do you want some company?” Tristan looks up from his phone, where he’s been playing Candy Crush of all the ridiculous things.

 

“Thanks, but I could use some alone time for a bit. Who knows, I might not have it again for a while.” She gives him a soft smile.

 

“Cheers, love. Go and say goodbye to Venice.”

 

“Have fun with your game!” She gives him a smirk as she heads out; he throws a pillow at her and misses by the swing of the door.

 

Since she storms out with her head lost in angry mental clouds, she’s not particularly paying attention to where she’s going, nor does she care that much. She’s too busy replaying her own angry thoughts in her head, rewinding them like an old battered tape that skips and has become warped with time.

 

It’s a complete surprise to her when her feet take her back to the same cafe that Merlin took her to on that magical night, when everything felt more like a fairytale and less like a whiplash in her veins. It’s open for a late lunch, so she goes straight to the bar and orders a glass of wine.  She’s just starting her second glass when a voice purrs in her ear, “A beautiful woman should never be forced to eat alone.”

 

Ah, fuck. It’s Alessandra.

 

Which, isn’t the worst thing ever. Under any other circumstances Roxy would be hard pressed to say it was bad at all, seeing as she still is a little bit heart-eyed about last night. It’s just ...definitely not expected and so many ways this could go bad. Maybe Roxy is a pessimist, or maybe she just spends too much of her free time watching old agent videos. Bors in particular keeps getting himself into nasty scraps and let’s not even get into Bedivere’s last trip to Morocco.  Morgan told her he  spent weeks in medical, and Arthur only okayed him going on another mission soon after because the knight wouldn’t leave Arthur’s office until it was approved.

 

At least, from the way Alessandra is eyeing her up, it doesn’t look like it’s going to have that kind of ending. Doesn’t really perk up Roxy’s spirits, though, and she’s sure it shows.

 

“Darling, whatever is the matter?” Ugh, Roxy is so sick of people calling her ‘darling’ right now.

 

“Lover’s spat, I’m afraid,” she informs Alessandra, giving her a small smile and hoping she buys it.  

 

Alessandra makes a tutting sound. “About last night? I wouldn’t have thought Charles was the jealous type.”

 

It dawns on Roxy that, unconventional as it might be, this might be a situation where Alessandra can give her advice. Or maybe that’s the wine talking, but hey now. Only one way to find out?

 

“It’d be easier if he was; that is easily solved, but I’m not quite sure how to solve this one.” Roxy plays it up, letting her voice convey the appropriate level of heartache and frustration that goes along with the story she’s spinning together in her head. She knows it works when Alessandra places a hand on her shoulder and kisses her forehead, imploring her to continue.

 

“How do you deal with someone who seems to appreciate your looks more than they trust your abilities?”

 

“When I was your age? A Tanfoglio FT 9. But somehow I don’t think that is the answer you are seeking.”

 

“No, I think I prefer him alive...and not wounded, either.”

“Shame,” Alessandra drawled, taking a sip of her wine. “Best type of man is a dead one.”

 

If Roxy ever doubted for a second that Alessandra was dangerous, it was comments like this that continued to hit it home. Though, in the moment? Not very disturbing. Comforting, really. She contemplated briefly if she should be worried about not finding it disturbing, but gave herself a mental shrug. Not really a priority, after all.

 

“It’s just ...My family needs me. It’s not a very safe situation, so maybe I can understand his point of view. But I’ve also proven to him on several occasions that I can handle myself, and he doesn’t want me to go at all. It stings, this whole lack of faith in me. As if I’m just a pretty face, or some stupid trophy wife.” Now that she’s started on about it, it all comes rushing out like a flood. Roxy’s face is heated, she’s making swooping gestures with her hands, and her voices takes on a dangerous and cutting edge.

 

“Often times the only way to make a man understand is to ignore him and do it anyway. You won’t change his mind by trying to convince him with words. They understand direct action, not nuance or subtlety. You must meet roughness with roughness.”

 

The last line shocks her a little; she remembers, of all ridiculous things in this moment, scratching it on her body when she was angry at Andrew her first year in uni. God, she hadn’t even spared a thought for her soulmate since kissing Merlin. The thought of that makes her cringe a little, to know that she has been so easily swayed by someone’s charm and good looks and who doesn’t even see her for the person she wants to be. Who isn’t even her soulmate. Sure, there’s something to be said for romance and heated passion and she had wanted Merlin with an intensity that would have scared a younger Roxy but ...well. None of that really mattered, did it? It’s not like she was going back to London with him anyway. There would be no dinner, after all.

 

She gulps the last of her wine, and throws money on the bar. “Thank you,” she says, facing Alessandra. “I am very sorry that our time together has been cut short; if I were able to stay longer, I would. But I’m afraid it looks like I will have to fly out tonight.”

 

Alessandra gives her a fond smile. “Family is important. Passion, while always delightful,” and here her smile becomes slightly fierce in a way that truly curls Roxy’s toes, “will always have to come second place. I understand. Should you ever come to Italy again …” she trails off, drinking more wine.

 

“I will.” Roxy states, firmly. It’s a shame this is how their last meeting will go, she reflects, but it’s really just as well. She was never meant to have this, either.

 

***

 

Merlin isn’t around when she gets back. She doesn’t bother asking where he is. Does it matter?

 

Tristan hands her his tablet. “Arthur wishes to speak to you, if that’s alright.” The way he purses his lips slightly at the end of his sentence and the sarcastic tone clearly tells her that he’s presently annoyed, but whether it’s her or Arthur that is the culprit she cannot say.

 

It’s a quick press of a button and then Arthur comes on the screen. She has seen pictures and video footage, but this is the first time she’s encountered the old man himself. He looked like a severe angry Scrooge until he smiled, she thought. An old man in a young man’s field , she thought. You’ve got to be more than a little ruthless to survive long enough to age. If she remembered correctly, he’d only been Arthur for about the past 20 years or so, and he was in his early eighties now. She didn’t have clearance to see his missions when he was an agent...it really made a person wonder.

 

“Good afternoon, sir.”

 

“Ah my dear it is a pleasure! I am very sorry we have not met before, but I have been kept up to date with your training and your work has been exemplary.”

 

“Thank you, sir.” She won’t lie; it does feel good to hear that, even if the reason behind this meeting is less than ideal.

 

The briefing is short and sweet; she gets the essentials of the job - she’s to work as an interpreter in the British Embassy in Moscow and to keep a close eye on the ambassador such as his comings and goings, who he meets with, et. cetera. If this was anyone other than Arthur, she would certainly ask more questions ...it feels weird, that she’s being sent for a pretty straight forward recon mission when Arthur’s been complaining about Russia so much that he’s willing to wake Merlin up in the middle of the night.

 

She’ll figure it out later; right now her job is to be a model employee. It’s not just Percival’s future which is potentially on the line here, after all. It’s a strange world of doublespeak, this spy thing, but she doesn't miss the implication Arthur is sending her: do well, and maybe there might be a place for her at the table, after all.

 

He promises to have the pertinent details forwarded to her and she will read them on the plane; she has very little time before she needs to meet up with the Kingsman pilot. It’s a good thing she packed earlier.

 

There won’t be time to say goodbye to Merlin. She ignores how she feels about that, pushing it aside to focus on only what was directly before her.

 

Tristan sees her to the plane; he’s quiet most of the way over there but before they arrive he starts out with, “The thing about Merlin is …”

 

Roxy is startled, but presses him to continue. “Yes?”

 

“Well, he’s Merlin.”

 

“Very helpful, Tristan.”

 

“Shut up, I’m trying to help.”

“And you’re doing a very eloquent job of it, really. Have you ever thought about becoming a speechwriter? You’d go very far, I’m sure.”

 

“Look. You have to be a bit of an arsehole to work at Kingsman; you’d never stay alive otherwise. And Merlin’s entire job is to basically be the arsehole who has to keep us alive. He trains us, protects us, and often steps in as a handler even though he really doesn’t have to.”

 

“So… he’s an angry bald Scottish cowboy with a heart of gold?”

“I swear to fucking God I am going to tell him you said that.”

 

“Don’t you fucking dare!” Roxy shrieked.

 

“Fine. I won’t say who said it, but I am definitely calling him that. On a day when he’s being particularly delightful and I can leg it fast.”

 

“Oh my God, this is how we die.”

 

“Don’t be silly. This is how we get a recording of Merlin’s best facial expression, ever.”

 

“Okay but ...what you’re saying is, I should cut Merlin slack because he has to be the arsehole to herd all the other arseholes and boss them around?”

“I did not fucking say anything about cutting him slack. I just wanted you to know how it is; what you do with that is up to you.”

 

“Gotcha.”

 

He pulls up to the private jet. “Anyway. Try to enjoy Russia, alright? It’s got some good points to it.”

 

“I’ve never been. At least it’s not really winter anymore.”

 

Tristan laughed. “It’s Russia, love. You’re definitely going to have to go shopping.”

 

Tristan helped carry Roxy's luggage on to the plane and got her situated with her own Kingsman tablet and various briefcases of Kingsman gear.

 

“There are files on everything; you have any questions, you call Morgan yeah?”

 

“Will do, Captain.” She gave him a cocky salute.

 

“It’s been grand meeting you; sorry we have to part so soon.”

 

They exchanged hugs and Tristan walked down the staircase, Roxy watching him go.

 

As he opened the car door, he called out, “Oi! When you figure out the real reason you’re going to Russia, give him a Hello for me, will you? I miss the crazy bastard.”

 

And then he was gone, leaving Roxy alone with only her questions.



















Chapter Text

It has been several weeks since Roxy arrived in Moscow and she’s ready to invade the Kremlin if only to give her life a little more excitement. She’s clearly not cut out for office work and she still can’t shake the anxiety Tristan’s parting words have left her with.

 

“When you figure out the real reason you’re going to Russia, give him a Hello for me, will you?”

 

She still hasn’t figured out what it means and it’s driving her absolutely bonkers. She knows one thing for certain, though; there’s definitely a hidden reason why she’s here, one that Arthur deigned not to reveal. What she can’t place is the why .

 

The ambassador, an Archibald Beauchamp (white male, 6’1”, estimated 170 lbs, 65 years old, ambassador for the last fifteen years and hasn’t returned home to England once), was the quintessential English gentleman, from what Roxy could tell.  Arrived at the office every morning exactly at 9 am, kept odd hours but mostly seemed to be in accordance with his daily calendar. Nearly every minute was already accounted for and the office staff referred to him as Phileas Fogg behind his back, so it’s not like one could say he was likely to go off book.

 

By all accounts, he was the poster boy diplomat and the only thing telling Roxy otherwise was this niggling feeling she had every time she saw him. There was something in the way the man held himself that told Roxy he was not a paperpusher.

 

Still, there was really no reason for her to be tracking his schedule the way Arthur had prescribed; Kingsman could have just hacked into his digital calendar and went from there. The only interesting bit about his schedule was his 3 o’clock daily afternoon tea, where no one was allowed to disturb him or his female bodyguard for at least 45 minutes, upon the threat of “stabbed in the head with a stiletto heel,”  according to one of the older clerks. While Roxy first assumed this meant an amorous affair, so far she had found no evidence supporting this and there was absolutely no office gossip revolving around it either.

 

Granted, not that she had much access to it; Roxy was the youngest employed by at least two decades and they seemed to greet her with an air of cautious suspicion, as if they weren’t sure why she was there and if she would be of any use of them at all.

 

Suffice to say, she had yet to make any friends even though she knew her work was excellent, she rarely had a chance to interact with the Ambassador and she couldn’t see an end to this assignment any time soon. Worst of all, Tristan had been right, it was bloody cold outside .

 

She hated Russia. She never should have listened to Andrew when it came to languages, and taken up Greek instead. She could have been in Athens, she kept muttering to herself.

 

The real reason that Russia was so awful, though, had nothing to do with the temperature outside but rather the temperature inside of her heart. Arthur had ordered complete radio silence with other agency members, aside from himself or Merlin and only the latter in case of emergencies.

 

Roxy had never felt so lonely before in her entire life.

 

She was cut off from anything that was happening back in London, if George and Simon were okay, if there had been any more fall out, how Tristan was doing undercover, what crazy hijinks Morgan had decided to throw herself at, if Merlin missed her …

 

Sigh.

 

That was the crux of her present situation: Roxy was bored, she knew she was being lied to, she was really fucking cold, and in a bitter twist of events she was finding herself to be more than a little heartsick. And on top of everything, Arthur was her only line of communication and tie to “the outside world,” which mostly consisted of daily reports and banal instructions. He was seriously a contender for the world’s worst penpal.

 

So maybe Roxy’s having a hard time adjusting and it’s seriously messing with her mood, but she’s a professional, or at the very least determined to be. She’s dutiful in detailing all of Ambassador Beauchamp's “comings and goings” just as ordered, and when she’s ordered to tail him or undergo the odd stake out, she reasons to herself that at least she is practicing her disguise skills and if she swipes a few wallets here and there to keep herself entertained and keep her pickpocketing skills sharp, well. What Arthur doesn’t know won’t get her in trouble.

 

Seriously, Arthur, why not just tell her why she’s really there? Roxy gets the point of secrets, especially working for a secret spy organization , and it can’t all be about punishing George, can it?

 

Yeah, so the thing about Roxy that people keep forgetting about?

 

She’s fucking badass who doesn’t play by stupid rules and gets things done , which is why she’s finding herself hacking into Arthur’s personal files in the Kingsman databases a little after 1 a.m., three weeks into her “mission.”

 

It’s not like she can sleep anyway, not with the fucking dreams she’s been having about Merlin, Jesus fucking Christ. Leaving her hot and bothered and without any sense of relief, she’s been a total live wire for the past week, feeling fire in her veins and ready to bust a cap at the next person who even dares to look at her wrong. If she can’t seek release, then the very least she’s going to get herself some answers so she get this fucking job done and hop on a fucking plane back to fucking London and pull down Merlin’s zipper with her fucking teeth and ride him all night, her personal anger at him be damned.

 

She finds what she’s looking for, buried in a file system looking oddly enough like a set of matryoshka dolls, folders compressed hidden within image files and only accessible through a backdoor.

 

She’s willing to bet her stolen pickpocket money that Merlin is responsible for this set up, because it’s certainly not something she would attribute to the 83 year old Arthur. He seems the type to still prefer paper files, after all.

 

Who is Archibald Beauchamp and why is he so important to Arthur, anyway? A hidden relative? Illegitimate son? Is Arthur being blackmailed? She’s imagining all sorts of scenarios that belong more in a Mill & Boons novel she’ll never admit to reading than in a Kingsman mission dossier.

 

She almost chokes on her coffee when the file finally loads and the truth comes out.

 

Of all things, she never would have expected a former Kingsman agent. But there it is, in unsettling black and white; Archibald Beauchamp, formerly known as Kay (and sponsor of the current Tristan, which fucking explains a lot), who spent years undercover in Russia during the Cold War until one day in 1999 he just ...up and left.

 

Resigned, no reason given and no word from since. Buried in the organization as if he never existed at all and apparently has never given any indication over the years that he remembers Kingsman at all.  Huh. Roxy wonders if they tried to get him with one of this amnesiac darts she’s seen, but at the same time ...she cannot imagine an agent who managed to stay alive in the former Soviet Union for nearly twenty years as fucking spy being someone who’d be easily taken in that way.

 

She can’t imagine Arthur taking it well, either.

 

She’s contemplating what to do with the knowledge as she’s removing the traces of her digital presence and stumbles upon a folder named “Recruiting.” She hesitates, pausing her cursor over the file, intensely curious and desperately wanting, her heart beating faster not unlike the last time Merlin held her in her arms … should she? Was it really what she thought it might be?

 

Before she could make up her mind, a message pops up on her screen.

 

“Don’t you fucking dare.”

 

And her phone started to ring, for the first time since Venice.

 

“Hello?”

 

And then Merlin cuts in without even bothering to say hello, “Don’t you fucking dare touch those files. I know for a certain fact that George is going to propose you if we ever have another opening, and I will not be forced to come up with an entire new recruiting plan just because you couldn’t keep your nose out of it Those take time, you know, time I don’t currently have.

 

Roxy sighs, unable to keep the small smile off her face even as Merlin is chewing her out. “Yes, Merlin. Sorry about that?”

 

“Right. And next time you decide to hack into files that are way above your clearance in a brass balls moves that can only come from being raised by George, try doing it after midnight London time, when I’m sleeping in my bed at home.”

 

And that would be Roxy’s brain coming to a stuttering halt and freezing at the thought of Merlin’s bed, yes yes it would be. What a traitor.

 

Her silence must concern him, because a few moments later she hears a soft “Roxy?” from him over the line.

 

Fucking damn him, she’s still angry at him. She hasn’t forgotten what she overheard in Venice ...it’s just that. Russia’s been so lonely, she really can’t help it and she’d give anything to hear his voice in person right then.

 

She clears her throat, and tries her best to manage a neutral tone of voice. “How’s London?”

 

“Wet. Gray. Too quiet. Missing its favorite lady.”

 

She lets out a small gasp, a hitched breath in the dead of the night. Smooth, thy name is Merlin.

 

It would be so easy, she thinks, to sit here and chat quietly with him. Close, intimate words shared in the night time, two people separated by countries yet connecting over the phone, a romantic wistfulness of the entire situation.

 

She can’t do it.  

 

She can’t explain just why , of course. There’s anger there, leftover from Venice of course, and uncertainty and a certain confusion of feelings and being torn between Merlin and Andrew. But there’s more to it as well, something she can’t quite name but she knows it’s there. Now that she’s not caught up in the rush of a mission’s urgency, of forced romance under prying eyes, she’s had time to calm down and think about the consequences of what could happen between her and Merlin and its long term potential.

 

She’s not ready for it, whatever this could be.

 

“Morgan out of town?,” she replies back, keeping her voice light and teasing.

 

There’s a shade of amusement in his reply, so at the very least she knows there are no hard feelings by her dodge. “Hardly. I don’t think she’ll ever leave London again.”

It’s been way too long without any information, and she has to know. “What about George and Simon? Is everything okay? I haven’t been allowed to contact anyone,” she ends with a whine.

 

“Okay being a relative term...everything is fine. Or, it will be. Arthur still prowls around the halls with a scowl on his face, but I don’t quite think that’s related to them anymore. George was sent off on a mission in Ireland, but it’s actually legitimate and Simon’s been keeping his nose to the grindstone, so at the very least Arthur can’t claim the relationship is affecting anyone’s work.”

 

“I bet that’s got him more annoyed than anything else.”

 

A huff of a laugh, and she wishes she could see his smile. “Only known Arthur officially for less than a month and you’ve already got his number. Knew you were a clever lass.”

 

Yeah, she can’t help but preening a little at his praise. Fucking try and sue her, yeah?

 

“How’s Russia?,” he asks, before she can say anything else.

 

“Cold and lonely, mostly. Boring. Hence the, you know,” she says referring to her not insignificant breach of protocol.

 

“I have no idea what you’re talking about, I didn’t notice anything out of the ordinary.”

 

At least she knows Merlin’s got her back on this. It’s a comforting thought that goes a long way to easing some of her feelings.

 

“Any word on how long I’ll be here?”

“None at the moment, but I’d expect another month. Maybe two …Arthur never trusted Kay after he left and it’s always bothered him why he couldn’t figure out why.”

 

“Could be my ticket home early, then.”

 

“Don’t put yourself at risk. Your safety comes first.” His voice this time was commanding and forceful, sending a shiver down her spine and prompting a “Yes, Merlin” before she even knew what was happening.

 

It prompted what she bet was a full body blush. No way was she going to have any PG 13 dreams anytime soon, not after that.

 

Trying to push those thoughts the fuck away for now, she moved on. “Why didn’t Arthur just tell me? It’s not like it’s difficult to explain.”

 

“It’s a personal matter for Arthur. Kay was family, and he doesn’t exactly want it to get out that his own nephew left the agency. He’s a private bastard.”

 

“Most agents are, from what I can tell. What’s your name again, Merlin?”

 

Her only response is a deep chuckle.

 

Roxy rolls her eyes. Kingsman agents and their bloody impossible secrets.

 

“What’s the point in sending me to do a job but not giving me all the requisite details? If Arthur cares that much, he should want me to gather all the information I can so a full determination can be made.”

 

“If I knew everything behind Arthur’s decision makings, I’d be able to sleep better at night,” he tells her in the flat tone of someone who already knew all too well what she was complaining about, and had given up on trying to fix it years ago.

 

“You should go home; you work too much.” Roxy feels a bit like a mother hen, pointing it out, but she hasn’t forgotten how tense he was in Venice. She doubts it improved, even if he is no longer out in the field, playing her ex boyfriend.

“Not much to go home to, to be honest. I tend to prefer it here.”

 

“No pets to take care of?”

 

“Had a dog once; been a while though.”

 

“I really can’t picture you as a dog person.”

 

“No, it’s more Galahad’s thing than mine,” he laughed, as if sharing a private joke with himself.

 

“Maybe you should start small. Get a goldfish?”

 

“Perhaps...you know, Russia has good weather for reading this time of year..”

 

“I can imagine. When it’s this cold, I’m not exactly planning to go outside. Who knows, maybe I’ll start some Dostoevsky.

 

“Now there’s a surprise. Didn’t think that was your style.”

 

Roxy let out a laugh. “That’s because it’s not.”

 

A few more minutes on the phone before they finally part, with Roxy promising not to get into any unnecessary trouble, and Merlin agreeing to call Tristan a pillock for her next time he was in contact with him (“Just tell him it’s from Roxy, he’ll know why”) and then she stumbled into bed, hugging her pillow to her chest and falling to sleep.

 

Now that she knows more about her target, no thanks to Arthur, it’s easier to pick up on and she probably would have noticed in the first place if she had all the pertinent data at hand. Sure, from the first glance, Archibald doesn’t strike up any desire for caution, nor does he give out any indication that he is more than just a simple ambassador doing his work for Queen and country.

 

After all, that’s the rather the point, isn’t it?

 

Yet ... he doesn’t walk with any stiffness even though he’s always seen with a cane, his eyes dart about every time he enters a room as if he is searching for all possible exits and escape routes, and one morning he comes in with odd scrapes on his hands and face that seem at odds with his story of “falling down like a doddering old man, I should be ashamed of myself for walking without my cane.”

 

Roxy’s chance to find out more comes in the next week, where the usual lady who puts together Mr. Beauchamp’s tea tray has come down with a severe cold, and she spends the entire week recuperating in bed. As the youngest and having the least seniority, Roxy is assigned the task of putting the tea service together and bringing it up to the ambassador; she takes the opportunity to place a small audio bug under the tray, blending in perfectly with the silver.

 

She hits pay dirt on the fourth day; everything before that seems rather boring, through she keeps the files just in case. Discussion on literature, various art exhibits in other countries, debates about Russian politics, and whether or not Archibald should look into acquiring some property south of the city. She does notice that the tone between Mara, the bodyguard, and the ambassador is very relaxed and affectionate, but nothing to indicate that this is a lover’s meeting. Sometimes Roxy has to reminder herself that other people aren’t necessarily attracted to much older partners.

 

Day four starts with a discussion about the previous night’s ballet and a private reception afterward at another dignitary’s house. Everything seems normal enough, until they start discussing the various paintings and sculptures inside the house.

 

“What did we think about the Degas?” came Mara’s voice.

 

“Well, I’m certain it is not a forgery so that is reassuring. Should have tighter security, though our friend Zanardi seems confident in his staff. Should take us less than a week to plan it out.”

 

“And where is it heading?” There was a tone of affectionate amusement in Mara’s voice; that was curious, and Roxy wrote it down in her notes.

 

“Get in touch with Abramov. Last known location of the painting before the war was Hungary. See if he has any intel on who it rightfully belongs to.”

“Zanardi is a fool for having it displayed in the open.”

 

“He is a fool in many ways, my dear. But this one, at least, is to our benefit.”

 

Well, then. Definite criminal behavior going on. What’s more, the conversation gave Roxy a target, a location, and a time frame, as well a potential destination if Arthur had any word on who this Abramov is. She should notify him of this intelligence immediately …

 

Except, she thinks as she puts down her pen with a frown on her face, where did that get her? A place at the table in Kingsman? If Arthur was willing to lie about his connections to her target, Roxy doesn’t put it past him to lie about anything else to get what he wants. An offer to be an agent after one successful boring mission? It feels too good to be true, enough that it makes Roxy uncomfortable.

 

She wishes she could call up George or Tristan, or Morgan or … well, anyone, really. Clandestine conversation with Merlin aside, she also doesn’t trust that their phones won’t be bugged or monitored, nor does she want it to seem like she cannot make a decision on her own.

 

Roxy knows she should report this, but her gut is telling her something completely different.

 

If there is one thing Roxy has learned in life so far, it’s that she needs to follow her gut.

 

She doesn’t confront Archibald, not yet. Roxy is a smart girl and knows that without real evidence, she’s got nothing as leverage and would only be outing herself as a snoop. There’s no reason to blow her cover at this point in the game, not without something up her sleeve.

 

So she watches, and waits, and well. Waits some more really, only this time it’s not fucking boring because she actually feels like she’s doing her job. Since she knows more than Arthur at this point, she also knows that watching Archie is pointless, and aims her gaze at Mara instead.

 

And if she maybe develops a little crush on the bodyguard, who is to say?

 

Though she might just go to a bar after watching Mara break into a local store, because Jesus Christ, she’s realized she has a fucking type. Roxy has a danger kink, apparently, and someday she’s going to blame George for this, only it would involve actually telling him and ...while it might be worth it to see the look on his face, it’s not exactly worth the teasing she’d get for the rest of her life.

 

She throws back a shot of vodka instead, and navigates being hit on by overly amorous Russian men.

 

It’s not that Mara wasn’t attractive in her own way; she was built in a way that looked like she was packing heat and could sucker punch you out in half a second, and Roxy appreciated that in her women. But she really hadn’t given Mara much thought until she watched Mara lower herself down on a rope and pick the lock of a window, while being suspended in air and avoiding being caught by the cameras. “That’s fucking hot,” Roxy caught herself thinking as she watched through her binoculars, and then promptly went out afterwards to get herself wasted because some realizations warrant it.

 

It’s then that her dreams of Merlin take on a decidedly more dangerous tone.

 

Previously, they were all general ‘run of the mill’ sort of sex dreams; hands on bodies and lips touching, her subconscious lingering on the sensations of two bodies together more than anything else. Feeling Merlin’s breath on her skin as he maps out her body, her dreams taking over and finishing the what-could-have-been from the night she and Merlin were rudely interrupted. More than once she would wake up after a dream climax, her skin wet with sweat and her body aching, unfulfilled.

 

The night after she watched Mara and needed to get relief in the form of vodka, Roxy’s dream has a whole new twist on the situation.

 

“Merlin,” she calls out between kisses, as his body presses against hers, his hands are reaching down to unbutton her shirt.

 

“You need to be quiet, love. They’ll hear.” Merlin and Roxy are cramped up next to each other in a closet, hiding from the enemy. A break in gone bad, now they’re hiding out of sight as not to get caught. But how can Roxy stay quiet when Merlin is mouthing at her neck and his hands have left her shirt and now heading for her trousers?

 

“I can’t,” she starts off but it turns into a moan as Merlin’s fingers find their way inside of her panties, light and nimble.

 

“I know you can. You’re such a good girl for me, Roxy.”

 

It feels like there’s a flame inside of her, she’s burning up and keeps getting hotter.

 

He lowers himself down, shushing her once again. “This time, no one will interrupt us.” Then his mouth is on her and she has to bite herself to keep from crying out.

 

Roxy quickly learns that it’s hard to hold onto being angry at someone when they’re a frequent player in her bedtime dreams. Even though it still stings, flirting with her doesn’t mean that Merlin actually knows her. It doesn’t matter anymore what she overheard Merlin say in Venice; she knows what’s she’s capable and she doesn’t need to prove herself to anyone. If she shows Merlin what she's made of, it's because it's who she is and not because she has an agenda.


And who knows, maybe she’ll show him in the bedroom as well. To get out of her system, she tells herself.

 

For the first time, she finds herself turning away from Andrew not in anger or disgust, but out of lack of want. It’s a little unsettling and she feels guilty, but the truth of the matter is that she’s tired of chasing after a ghost. Soulmate or no, Roxy would rather fly solo than jump through someone else’s hoops.

 

When books arrive from Merlin the day after, Roxy is still not swayed (although she will admit to being charmed).  Some Neil Gaiman, Terry Pratchett, and an old copy of Lord Of the Rings that looks as if came from a second hand store, writing indicating that it once belonged to a “G.F.A. Agnew,” and on top of everything else there is a picture of a goldfish.

 

“Her name is Carassius auratus. Galahad’s nicknamed her Rassi. He’s a prat, everyone sends their love,” is scrawled under the photo, written in Merlin’s script.

 

Roxy rolls her eyes at Merlin’s name choice and Galahad’s antics. Kingsman, it seemed, attracted the weirdos. Herself, included, she willingly acknowledged.

 

Roxy ends up confronting Archibald after his heist on the Italian embassy, where Zardini’s Degas was located. She gives a silent thanks to George for teaching her to pick locks, as she situates herself in Beauchamp’s living room, waiting for him to arrive home with the stolen goods in his hand.

 

She inwardly revels at the look of shock on his face when he sees her, sitting casually in his living room with a bottle of wine opened and a drink in her hand.

 

“Tristan says Hello.”







Chapter Text

*Three months later*

 

“Incoming on your left,” Mara calls down, bracing herself before letting the rope go and meeting Roxy at the bottom of a high security wall, far away from the guards they had left stunned and unconscious.

 

“How are the cameras looking?” Roxy whispers into the comm piece, seeking a confirmation from Archie for the go-ahead.

 

“Our feed is in place, running smoothly. They’ll have no evidence we were here at all, should the two of you refrain from any antics this time.”

 

“You worry too much, Batya,” Mara scolded. “It’s an in and out job; no need for worry.”

 

“Yes, of course. Forgive me, it’s only my daughter and my protege’s neck on the line here. We’ve done a good job staying away from Interpol; I’d like to keep it that way.”

 

Roxy let out a small laugh as she pressed in the combination to the keypad lock. “We’re only ten feet away from the server room; we’ll have the files and meet you in less than 5 minutes. Have the refreshments ready.” Mara and Roxy sneaked in through the door, moving softly down the hall to their destination.

 

“One rum and coke and 2 scotches on the ready. At least one of you has good taste.”

 

“He’s always bitching about my drinks,” Mara muttered under her breath as she covered Roxy, aiming her gun towards the corner of the hall.

 

Roxy gave her a fond smirk as she picked the lock of the door. “We’re in.”

 

As predicted, the job took only a matter of seconds. Get in, load up the USB drivers, get copies of the files from Kaspersky Lab, a Russian security firm, and then get the fuck out before anyone noticed they were even there.

 

It shouldn’t have been so easy, Roxy thought. A few months ago, it definitely wouldn’t have been. That’s the thing about working in a team , she pondered, as she ran out the building with Mara at her side, easier to divide tasks, learn new skills, and someone’s always got your back. I missed this.

 

They met back up with Archie at his flat; Mara and Archie going over the data while Roxy changed into an midnight blue evening dress for tonight’s gala. She was going as Archibald’s date; it was a ridiculously easy sell to Arthur, telling him that she had become the man’s lover in order to get closer to him. Which was hilarious, in its own way - Roxy liked older men, but not that old. Still, it had explained their proximity to each other in the past few months as Mara and Archie trained and honed her skills, Arthur hoping that as a lover Roxy would be able to gain access to whatever it was that Arthur thought was there since he had still refused to bring her home... Roxy was certain that the only thing there was Arthur’s uncalled for paranoia. Aside from the occasional cat burglary to entertain himself and help balance the scales of justice a bit more accurately, the only thing the former Kingsman was hiding from his uncle was Mara, the daughter he had had years ago with his soulmate, who ended up being a Soviet spy.

 

“We’re going to be late,” she said crossly as she walked out, putting on her earrings.

 

“Fashionably late, darling.” Archie was already dressed in his tuxedo and Mara in a black suit.

 

“Fashionably late may be too late to rendezvous with our contact., “ Roxy pointed out slightly exasperated. In the past few months she had come to admire the man in many ways, but definitely not for his laissez-faire attitude.

 

“Fear not, my dear lady, he shall wait for us. After all, we have what he wants.” He offered her his arm, and they headed out with Mara following behind them.

 

Making the drop was a piece of cake; no one would expect the exchange of diamonds for highly classified prison records during the Moscow International Film Festival. Roxy held the small bag for the rest of the night, as if it were a small fabric clutch that didn’t contain more than several hundred thousand pounds in uncut diamonds.  The money would be going, Roxy knew, to help fund a school in northern Estonia. Mara had close personal ties with the people running the school and had spent some of her youth there with her mother before she had passed away when Mara was in her teens. It was then that Mara had sought Archibald out, seeking the father she had only heard of but had never known.

 

For the past three months, Roxy had spun a web of lies and false information for the head of Kingsman. It wasn’t her proudest moment, keeping him in the dark as to what was really going on while giving him just enough information to keep him from realizing that Archibald had taken Roxy under his wings. It’s not that she was disloyal to Kingsman by any stretch or measure, but if she was forced into a road-to-nowhere assignment by a man who simply couldn’t just let things go, she was damn well going to take advantage of it in any way she could.

 

Archibald had taken to her immediately, once he was able to confirm from Tristan that Roxy could be trusted (she still had no idea how those two made contact, but knew better than to ask). Mara was more of a hard sell but she had come around eventually, especially once Roxy had show some enthusiasm to learn whatever the two of them would throw at her and test whatever limits they saw were there.

 

And test them, they did. It had taken a lot of time and nerve on Roxy’s part to prove Mara could trust her, not just as a part of the team but her capabilities in the field.

 

With the tiny, very tiny, come on it’s so tiny it’s not even a big deal, exception of heights, Roxy had never felt more confident in her skillset than now. And she figured they’d break through on that one last exception, considering that Arthur had indicated to her in his last missive that she could expect to be there for at least another month, just to be sure before he would even think of bringing her home.

 

He must still be angry at Percival , Roxy thought bitterly, when she was alone and back in her own flat re-reading Arthur’s message. He definitely knows how to hold a grudge, I must say. Well. If I never get to go home, maybe I’ll just go rogue and become a thief. It’s worked for Archie. Maybe I’ll steal a Faberge egg and lay it on Merlin’s doorstep. The look on his face would be worth any trouble I’d get into.

 

Roxy was in the middle of a delightful daydream about all the things she could do to put that exasperated look on Merlin’s face when her Kingsman issued phone started ringing.

 

Consider it had only run once during the entire four months Roxy had been in Russia, her shock was more than a little understandable.

 

“Hello?” She braced herself for a reply; she couldn’t imagine anyone breaking radio silence simply because they missed her.

 

“It is so good to hear your voice, darling.”

 

“George!” Roxy let out a sigh of relief. “How are you? I have missed you so.”

 

“And I you, poppet. Simon sends his regards, so does Morgan. We have all been pining these past few months.”

 

“Is anything wrong? Has Arthur changed his mind, why are you calling?”

“I’m afraid I have bad news.” There’s a pause, a moment of silence before he continues on. “We’ve lost Lancelot.”

 

Roxy had never met James, but had only heard good things about him. She knew Simon was fond of him, Merlin had sponsored him, and Percival and he would occasionally get dinner when they were in the same city.

 

“I’m very sorry, George. I know he meant a lot to you.”

 

“Thank you, dear. But I’ll cut to the chase; pack your bags, you’re coming home.”

 

“What?”

 

“We’re starting trials for his replacement, and you’re my candidate. This is top priority; Russia doesn’t need you anymore, Kingsman does. We have a flight scheduled for you at 0 900 tomorrow morning.”

 

It’s all so sudden, and yet everything Roxy has wanted since she had even heard about Kingsman. It makes her head rush and she moves around her apartment frantically, pulling out suitcases and tossing clothes out of drawers while she listens to George’s instructions.

 

“George, do you really think I can do this?” Sigh. For all her earlier confidence, Roxy couldn’t help but feel more than a little thrown. This was it, this was the deep end.

 

“Don’t be ridiculous! Of course you can. Now pack, go! Plane! Be there!”

 

“Aye aye captain.” Even though he couldn’t see her, she still gave a small mock salute.

 

“I am so very proud of you.”

 

“Oh, George.” Tears started welling up in her eyes, her voice a little choked. “Stop that. I’ll see you tomorrow?”

 

“Counting on it.”

 

After all the excitement of the night, the news and the packing, Roxy barely got any sleep. Her taxi arrived in front of Archie’s place at half past seven; she knocked on his door, apparently disrupting the man from a lie in.

 

“Roxy? What’s this?”

 

“I’m headed home, Archie. There’s an opening at the table.”

 

His eyes widen, both with shock and sadness. “Oh no. Who?”

 

“Lancelot.”

 

If he’s relieved it’s not Tristan, it doesn’t show in his face but she knows he was worried all the same.

 

“George is putting me forward as his candidate.”

 

“Is he now? Well done.” They share a knowing smile, which soon becomes a tight embrace as Archie hugs her goodbye.

 

“I’ll tell Mara you said farewell; she’s not in at the moment and I don’t know when she’ll return.”

 

“Give her my best? I’ll contact you as soon as I am able.”

 

“If all goes well, it won’t be for a while. And I’m confident it will..”

 

“Thank you, sir. That means a lot.”

 

They embrace once more before Roxy heads back to her taxi, Archibald pressing a kiss to the top of her head. She smiles, tears forming a bit at her eyes before taking her leave and walking away.

 

“Roxy!” Archibald calls out as she reaches for the door.. She looks back, to see his smiling face.

 

“I’d pick you, if I could. You were made for this.”

 

Roxy slept for most of the four hour flight, but she still woke up feeling groggy and tired. Luckily, George had sent a Kingsman issued private plane, so at the very least she didn’t have the added pleasure of any disgruntled traveling companions, and George, Simon, and Morgan were all there to greet her when she landed. Hugs all around; it was so wonderful to see them again, but she barely had time to sit down with a cup of tea before she was called into Merlin’s office.

 

Stubbornly avoiding the way her stomach tied itself in knots, she walked into down the hall with a grim face and her shoulders set back.

 

Roxy closed her hand around the doorknob and took a deep breath, trying to collect herself. What was it that Mara had said, again?

 

Easy enough to think you’re in love during mission, Roxanne.  The two of you against the world, close quarters, the rush of adrenaline? It’s like falling into deep slumber, and when it’s over there’s a cold awakening as reality sets in. I know you think yours is special but never doubt that there  always will be a wake up call.

 

It is foolish to think otherwise. You don’t particularly strike me as a fool.

 

It wasn’t what Roxy wanted to hear, but she had come to trust Mara’s instincts in general. It was easy enough to trust her with this as well.

 

Pushing the door open after a short knock and a confirmation to come in, she came face to face with Merlin for the first time since Venice. As handsome as ever, nothing had changed. He had turned around in his desk chair, and looked up at her from where he was taking a sip from his mug.

 

“Ms. Morton. Welcome back.” He placed the mug on the side of his desk, what little room was left on it. It had files stacked high on one side and more mugs on the other. Seemed as if Merlin had been very busy in a very short time.

 

“You wanted to see me, sir?” She pulled herself to attention, keeping her arms and hands clenched behind her. It was taking a lot of effort on her part not to walk closer to him; she didn’t want to give that away.

 

“Congratulations on being named a candidate.”

 

“Thank you, sir.”

 

“I wanted to clarify that your time with the agency or involvement with its staff would not, in any way, impact your experience in the trials. Kingsman does not show favoritism for any of its recruits. Is that clear?”

 

“Perfectly. I wouldn’t dream of it being otherwise. Sir.”

 

She thought his eyes darken a little at that last ‘sir’ but she was too far away from him to know for certain. Steady on, Rox. This is not the time for dramatics or reading into anything.

 

“Is there anything else?”

 

Merlin’s face had remained emotionless, smooth and steady as a rock. “That will be all, thank you. The rest of the recruits will be coming in by 2100, so see that you are in the recruiting areas by that time.”

 

Roxy made to leave, but stopped and hesitated. Merlin noticed, a small furrow forming between his brows.

 

“Roxy?” he asked, his voice going soft and questioning.

“I just ...I’m very sorry about James. I know the two of you were close.”

 

There was a fleeting expression that came over his face, but it was gone before Roxy could place it. He opened his mouth and closed it again, as if he wasn’t quite sure what to say at first.

 

“Thank you, Roxy. Now get some rest before the rest of the recruits come in. You’ll need it.”

 

“Yes, sir. Good day, sir.” Roxy gave him a small nod of the head, keeping her face blank and passive before turning out of the room and closing the door behind her. She leaned her back against the hallway wall and sunk down to the floor, closing her eyes and taking some deep breaths.

 

Her time away from him hadn’t diminished her pull to him, after all. If anything, it had increased it.

 

It had been months since she had felt any sense of intimacy with another person, Merlin had been the last; Alessandra did not count, no matter how much fun that had been. While the companionship of Archie and Mara had been fun and useful, it was strictly professional … in a way. As professional as it can be, when one is learning the illegal tricks of a trade. It was interesting, it was educational, and many times it was a fucking blast, but it was not warm nor did it arouse any spark in her.

 

Not the way that Merlin had.

 

Jesus Christ; she knew from talking to Archie that recruitment could take several months, depending on the candidates. He hadn’t given her any specific details and she hadn’t asked - Merlin’s remarks about the training files still held sway with her - but he had on occasion spoken about his time at Kingsman after he had a few drinks. Mara had rolled her eyes as if she had heard the stories many times before, but for Roxy they were new and exciting and Archie had delighted in her questions about agents she had never met, who had left the agency (in one way or another) long before her time.

 

He had even told her stories about her father; even though Roxy had access to all the Kingsman archives (except Arthur and Merlin’s, which was the reason for her hack into Kingsman in the first place, over three months ago), she had never looked up her own father. Adopted father. Well, still her father at any rate and by any measurement that mattered.

 

The point was, she had always felt nervous and shy about it, but here was the this charming older man who not only knew of him, but delighted in sharing information. It had always been a little difficult to bring it up with George, and felt even more so since they had gotten drunk together over it.

 

Archie had indeed spent most of his time with Kingsman undercover in Russia, but there had been a span of five years after the Soviet Union dismantled that he had returned to London, off and on. From 1992 to 1996 he had been largely UK and Europe based, keeping an eye on former Soviet operatives who had left the motherland. So he had been there when her own father had gone through recruitment, and had even spent a great deal of time at HQ helping Merlin out with the recruits after a leg injury forced him to go under some physical therapy before taking up field work again. It had been an unusual training session then; Kingsman had needed to replace two agents, both Lancelot and Percival. This meant that both Roxy’s father and godfather had been recruited together and had outshone all the others.

 

Some day, Roxy was going to get George very very very drunk and finally get the details of the great romance story he must have had with her father. Very very drunk and very far away from Simon, just in case.

 

Anyway, the even greater point is that Roxy knows with great specifics that the training could take a very long time and she’s going to have to deal with Merlin for the entire duration and there would be no distractions this time . Bollocks.

 

She really should take Merlin’s advice and get some more sleep. Yet, what she needed more than anything else was some good ol’ fashioned girl time with Morgan who she could complain to without any judgment at all. And, as Roxy had on good authority, had the luxury of a full size bathtub in her Kingsman HQ suite.

 

Not too long after leaving Merlin’s office and her subsequent freak out over what her next several months had in store for her, Roxy found herself soaking away her frustrations in a decadent bubble bath. Morgan herself was sitting on a small ottoman next to the tub, giving herself a pedicure, and was catching Roxy up on everything she had missed while she was in Russia.

 

“And Tristan’s decided that in lieu of coded messages over the computer, he’s been mailing all his USB’s straight to HQ sewn into lace knickers. He’s pissed of at Merlin for something, but for the life of me I can’t figure it out.”

 

“Wait, what size are the knickers?”

 

Morgan gave her a smirk, looking up from her nail file. “I’m fairly certain they could fit Merlin, though I’m not sure if I want to know how Tristan took the measurements.”

 

“Did he keep them?” Roxy’s really not sure what to do with the image she has in her head of Merlin in a lacy pair of black panties. It’s not a bad image, not really.

 

“I haven’t seen them since. And not in the garbage either. I’ll say this for Tristan; he’s definitely a little petty when he’s in a black mood, but he’s got damn good taste. I’ll have to call him up as soon as I’m able to find out where he bought them.”

 

Roxy burst into a peal of laughter, Morgan quickly joining her.

 

“But what’s this, why do you care so much about Merlin in lace knickers? I heard you were taking up with a man much more … distinguished, shall we say.”

 

Roxy gave out a quick gasp. “How’d you hear about that?”

 

“I overheard Arthur telling Merlin. It was one of the rare occasions he actually bothers to come down to the tech division, and I was curious to know why. I didn’t get the whole conversation, but I definitely got that.”

 

“Ugh. That man.” Roxy dipped her head under water to rinse out her shampoo.

 

“Do I have to talk to you about your weird taste in men? I get the appeal of Merlin; he’s all sultry eyed when he’s focused on his work. But I looked up the file on your mission and well. It’s not that he couldn’t have been handsome when he was younger, but 40 years older than you!” Morgan gave her such a look of consternation and concern that Roxy almost felt bad for her lies to Arthur, if only because it had led to this.

 

She definitely felt anger at Arthur telling Merlin. What was the point of keeping her mum on the mission if he was just going to go and blab all the details to the rest of the agency? Great. She dreaded to know what Merlin must think of her now … or that he might think their time in Venice had no lasting affect on her.

 

“It wasn’t personal preference, Morgan. I was just doing my job.”

 

“Mmmhmmm.”

 

Roxy sighed. “I bet if I make Lancelot, I’d have to do it far more often.”

 

“Pfft. As if I’d let them throw you into all the honeypots. That’s what Galahad is for.”

 

“Really?”

 

“He has a rather high success rate, when it calls for it. Hell, I bet that man could even seduce me.”

 

“Yes, but are ...what are they called again? Honey pots?” Morgan gave a noise of confirmation as she picked out her nail color. “Are they common? I mean, that’s what I had to do in Venice, after all.”

 

“Alessandra was a special case. She didn’t let many people get close to her and she didn’t go to many social events, so our window of opportunity was narrow and everything we had tried before had failed. Her staff was ridiculously loyal and also very well paid. It’s hard to get information out of someone who doesn’t see any incentive to share. Sometimes missions just need a personal touch; at the very least you can rest assured that honeypots are rarely a case with older male targets...even though you’d probably like that..”

“What’s wrong with the older men?” Before Morgan could even open her mouth, Roxy saw the look at her face and quickly amended her question. “By which I mean, why doesn’t it work on older male targets.”

 

“If all it took was a sweet smile from a young woman to drop all their secrets, corporate espionage would happen all the time. No, honeypot missions are actually done more often with younger targets. Especially the men. That’s why Galahad’s closing rates are so high; they must have a daddy kink or something.”

 

Roxy had only met the man that once, and it was brief, but she figured she could see Morgan’s point. Galahad was tall, slender, but definitely packing some serious muscle, and was known to be an extremely fastidious dresser. If she wasn’t so taken with Merlin, she figured she’d find herself more susceptible to his charms. Which, were rumored to be legendary. If someone had his full attention on them ...well, like Morgan said. She’d probably be up for seduction as well.

 

Roxy finished up her bath and got dressed; she still had time for a quick nap for meeting George for dinner at 7 pm. Before she left to go back to work, Morgan had handed her a small box. “Consider this an early birthday present, though god knows when you’ll be able to find the time to use it.”

 

Inside was a small, but very powerful vibrator. Oh, God bless you, Morgan. It wasn’t Merlin’s hands or mouth on her, but it would do for now.

 

Needless to say, her nap wasn’t as long as it could have been. And she certainly hoped the rooms were soundproof, otherwise anyone walking in the hallway outside would have certainly had an earful.

 

Unsurprisingly, since there was a number of staff at the HQ on any even day or time, Kingsman had a large kitchen and scheduled cooking staff. George met her in a small dining room, though he pointed out right away that as a recruit, the dining accommodations wouldn’t be nearly as nice.

 

“Afraid that we’ll get spoiled?”

“A little of that and a little bit of sequestering unofficial bodies away from the rest. You’ll be okay since you’ve already been here and you might have a little more roam of the place than usual recruits - up to Merlin, of course - but it’s never good to let disqualified candidates have too much information.”

“Would they talk? We’re all given confidentiality agreements, yes?”

 

“Most recruits are taken from Kingsman families, such as yourself. They’ve either grown up knowing the truth or had it revealed to them before they became a candidate. Such individuals already have high standards placed upon them and they would be risking intense shame on their families if they were to blab. But this was most definitely unexpected, so everything is a little bit more ...rushed. I don’t think anyone coming in this time has such a vested interest in protecting Kingsman, other than yourself.”

 

“There’s something you’re not saying, and you should quit beating around the bush and just come out with it.”

 

George gives her a magnificent smile. “Darling, I have missed you.”

 

“Naturally.” She smirks at him while cutting a small portion of her steak and biting into it.

 

“As usual, you are correct. It probably wouldn’t make too much of a difference, but be careful what you say to the other candidates. I’ll trust your judgement if you think anyone would be careful, but best to not mention your connection to anyone at Kingsman or that you’ve been working here.”

 

Ah. That was a very good point, she had to admit. “If any of them were disqualified and I was left, I’d be a very easy target for them after they left, as would anyone else who worked here. Not everyone has agent training.”

 

“Correct. And should they find out about you, the other recruits could try to claim that your insider knowledge of Kingsman has put you at an unfair advantage.”

 

“Merlin has assured me it won’t.”

 

“Did he now?” George smiled to himself and let out a small laugh.

“Besides, anyone attempting to make things easier for themselves while putting someone else down isn’t Kingsman material. Though, I’d like to see someone try and take that argument up with Merlin, and have all their limbs attached when he was done.”

 

George toasted in her direction. “So would I, darling.”

 

Roxy and George time it so she’s not the first one in, as that would be too obvious, nor is she the last to arrive. There are six other candidates when she arrives including ...Amelia.

 

Obviously she’s a lot more grown up than the last time Roxy saw her; what has it been, over a decade?

Still, a girl doesn’t really forget her first real crush, nor her first kiss. (At least the first kiss that mattered; Roxy’s actual first kiss involved a stupid boy from her horse lessons essentially attacking her with his lips and her pushing him into manure. She was seven years old at the time and her mother had received a very angry phone call from the boy’s mum. Roxy had thought she was in trouble, but her mother had given her extra cake for dessert and then talked to her about the importance of not letting anyone else touch her without her consent. The next time a boy tried something and didn’t want to listen, Roxy had sent him home with a black eye.)

 

When she first saw Amelia, Roxy’s first instinct was to walk up to her and give her a hug. Except Amelia beat her to the punch, holding out her hand for a shake and saying “Hello, it’s nice to meet you. My name is Amelia.”

 

Huh. Was Roxy really that forgettable? She struck her own hand out, and gave Amelia a hearty sake and a warm smile. “Roxanne. Roxanne Morton, but please call me Roxy.”

 

She could swear that there was recognition in Amelia’s face but it was gone quickly and soon enough, the rest of the recruits - all men, Roxy noticed with a frown - were introducing themselves as well.

 

What kind of idiotic name was Digby Barker? Were his parents dog enthusiasts? Rufus grossed her out immediately by staring down at her chest instead of her face when shaking her hand (and it’s not like there was much; she had chosen this blazer specifically to downplay that), but Hugo and Piers seemed nice enough.

 

And then Charlie walked in. Roxy has recognized him from some of the dinner parties George had taken to her to as a teenager; she knew he wasn’t connected to Kingsman by any stretch of familial connections, but he was definitely well connected. And arrogant about it, as well. They’d rarely had any direct run ins with each other, but she had heard enough to know that he was a snobby little prick, who quite likely had a little prick of his own.

 

She’d be willing to bet over a thousand pounds that he was Arthur’s candidate. The smirk of a smile he gave when he saw her basically confirmed it. He introduced himself to the rest with such confidence that she could tell Digby and Rufus were already in full on twat love with him. Gross. It was going to be one giant bro fest here on out, with just her and Amelia who seemed quite content to act like they had never met before.

 

Well. Two can play it that way, after all. It stung, but Roxy guess she couldn’t blame Amelia. They weren’t here to be friends or catch up on old times. They were all chosen to compete for one spot. Time to put feelings aside and make sure that spot belonged to her.

 

Roxy moved her luggage over to one of the beds, specifically choosing one closest to the exit and that didn’t already have any of the other candidates next to it. She figured it’d be taken up by whoever the last candidate was, but whoever he was had to be better than this lot. No way she was going to sleep next to Charlie.

 

Everyone was gathered in a small informal circle by the time the last candidate walked in; Roxy had been a slight discussion with Hugo about his stint in the Navy and seeing if they had any mutual acquaintances. Aside from Amelia who obviously did not serve in any British military branch, the rest of the lads were Army and Royal Air Force. She really should have known; cocky shits all of them.

 Then the door opened, and in walked the final candidate.

Roxy could feel everyone turning around to see who the last bloke was and how they were measuring up; she only turned her head slightly to take him in, preferring not to make it seem like she was overly interested in any of her competition. She was already forming a plan in her head, figuring out how she was going to interact with everyone.

 

And then Merlin walked in right after him, telling everyone to fall in.

 

He didn’t even make eye contact with her. It’s the first time she’d ever felt ignored by Merlin, and while it was to be expected, she couldn’t help that it hurt either.

 

Got to get used to it, Rox. Who knows how long this will take, or where you’ll be by the end.

 

Then her brain decided to be positively unhelpful and she pictured Merlin wearing black lace knickers as he walked out. And then promptly bit down on her tongue.

 

Seeking to distract herself, she introduced to herself to the new guy.

 

Eggy? Eggsy? Okay ...odd name, yeah, probably a nickname. Still. Way better than Digby Barker, who immediately proved himself to be a wanker of epic proportions with Charlie and Rufus backing him up.

 

And the way that Charlie immediately demanded to know who proposed Eggsy? Definitely Arthur’s choice. I bet he only asked so he could tell everyone he was handpicked by Arthur.

 

Unlike the rest of them, however, Eggsy was immediately friendly and treated both her and Amelia with respect rather than giving off the impression he was mocking them for being there. She liked him immediately, and was reminded by something Mara had once said as she ranted about men.

 

“Men! Useless creatures. They all fall under three types: family, lovers, and prey.”

 

Roxy cocked her head to the side as she talked to Eggsy before turning in; his eyes had lit up when she told told him she had been in the Royal Navy. He was very attractive, she wouldn’t deny that, but she really wasn’t feeling any chemistry between them. The way he reacted to Charlie and his followers, not to mention the way he held himself in general, she wouldn’t place him as prey either.

 

Only time will tell, she thought to herself before falling asleep.

 

Then she had woken to water rising up and surrounding her; it had begun.

Chapter Text

Roxy felt heaviness in her limbs, and it had nothing to do with her muscles.

 

Amelia was dead. And it was her fault. She should have been paying attention.

 

She couldn’t believe it; was this the Kingsman that George had told her about? That she had been working for and wanted so badly to be apart of? It seemed so much at odds with what she knew, and yet ...of course. Only one candidate would make it through, after all. Everything would be a test, there was no certainty, and the risks were high. But there was a difference between knowing and having it smack you right in the face.

 

The way Merlin had looked at them, with such cold disappointment ...it wasn’t the man Roxy knew. Or maybe it was how he really was, underneath it all.

 

God, she felt sick to her stomach and worst of all, she couldn’t show it. The guys would jump on it, like it was a weakness to be exploited. She couldn’t afford to let her guard down. No way was she letting one of them become Lancelot.

 

All she could do was keep her head up and act like she had a job to do. Which wasn’t far from the truth, really. If there was one thing Roxy knew how to do, it was to stay focused and get the job done.

 

Still. Thank God for Eggsy, though. Thinking a pug was a bulldog? Really. It was beyond precious.

 

Roxy privately thought Jack Bauer, or JB, wasn’t really an appropriate name for a dog, but she supposed she couldn’t talk. She had named her own poodle Eowyn, after all.

 

The first week of their recruitment was like being back in basic training; waking early, a regimented schedule focusing on evaluating their skills and physical fitness, and not a lot of down time. In some ways, it was a bit of a relief. Follow the schedule, go through with the motions, don’t think about how she let someone die.

 

Ignore the itchy feeling under her skin and the bad dreams where the sound of Merlin’s voice telling her over and over again that she failed; just fucking keep pressing on, Rox.

 

Train your dog, run one more mile, fire one more weapon. One small step at a time, showing how good you are. That you do belong.

 

She kept her head down, she focused on her work, she ignored (and much better than Eggsy did) the small comments Rufus and Digby would throw her way, trying to bait her. Charlie didn’t say much to her, but there was something in his countenance that made it very clear to her that he thought the fact she was there was ridiculous. Piers and Nathaniel kept to themselves as well, but they kept sending her looks as if wondering when she was going to crack.

 

Expecting her to.

 

Roxy is a tough girl, and she’s up for any challenge. She wouldn’t be here at all if George didn’t vouch for her. There’s a lot of people out there who believe in her and have got her back, people who are rooting for her, even. It’s a bit humbling and reassuring at the same time, and she clings to it desperately to remind herself that she can pull through.

 

And if she dotes a little heavily on Eowyn, well. That’s just because her girl is the one cheerful spot of this entire week. Roxy’s just trying to be a good dog mama.

 

After the first few days of training, Merlin started inserting some ‘downtime’ in their afternoon schedules. Ideally, it is for candidates to brush up on any deficiencies that have been pointed out to them, studying up on any new techniques, and spend time training their puppies. There’s not a lot inside of the mansion they can go on their own except their dorms, a mess hall, a library, some rooms converted into classrooms, and an indoor gym; however, the grounds are fairly open to them. As Merlin put it, “If you’re not allowed to be there, you’ll find out very quickly.”

 

Roxy’s quite familiar with the grounds, having spent a good deal of time here when she first started her own Kingsman training. So she stays away from the areas she knows aren’t actually foliage but secret entrances to other buildings or underground enclosures, and wanders with Eowyn over to the conservatory.

 

It’s unlikely she’ll meet up with any other candidates here, which is why she’s chosen it.

There are a few gardeners about, but they don’t pay her any attention, so she’s free to wander about and take in the various plants and flowers and take in the peace and quiet.

 

Not for the first time, she’s wondered who built this place and what it was before Kingsman took it over; which parts are of the original design and what was added on later? What has been changed or remodeled and what has been kept the same? Who has added their own little touches along the way?

 

The conservatory feels a lot like Merlin. Orderly, secluded, practical, and yet very peaceful and calming. And of course, there’s a small room inside with a mini kitchen, bathroom, some low recliners, and a bookshelf. The books are a mix of practical technical readings with some fantasy thrown in.

 

Roxy wonders if this is how Merlin spends his downtime, when he can be bothered to take it.

 

There’s not a lot of time left before dinner, but she curls up with a cup of tea and Eowyn in her lap, and starts in on a book about survival techniques in the desert. Eowyn is worn out and falls asleep, snuffling in against Roxy’s chest.

 

She’s on the third chapter when Eggsy walks in with JB, a smile on his face when he sees her.

 

“So this is where you’ve been hiding?” He plops down in the other chair. “Should have known, you seem to know your way around here pretty well.”

 

“You found it well enough,” she points out.

 

“Got lost,” he admits, getting her to laugh. “It’s nice, though.” JB curls up in his lap and Eggsy smiles down at him, petting the wee dog.

 

“And quiet. No Rufus or Digby.” They share a smile at that.  He looks at her, a little unsure. “Do you mind if I stay? We’ve got an hour before dinner. I don’t feel like going back just yet.”

 

She shakes her head; there’s something about Eggsy that she just likes . She can’t exactly put her finger on it, and that bugs her a little, but overall she’s just happy that there’s someone amongst the recruits that she can get along with.

 

“Stay as long as you want. There’s tea in the kettle.”

 

Eggsy pulls down a book on safe cracking and they settle in. Roxy knows very few people that can manage to be quiet for a long time like this; she gets the feeling that Eggsy needs it as badly as she does.

 

They walk back to the mansion together. Unfortunately, Charlie meets up with them when they do.

 

“And where have you two been, all this time?” He leers at them. Eggsy takes immediately affront to his implication. “Oi, none of your fucking business, wanker.”

 

Charlie doesn’t give up, though, even though Roxy and Eggsy pick up their pace and try to out walk him. “I’m sure Merlin would love to hear about the two of you wandering off together. Fraternization amongst the recruits? Tsk.”

 

It’s enough to make Roxy roll her eyes and she can feel Eggsy bristling up beside her.

 

“I’m sure Merlin has more important things to be concerned about than any baseless rumor you choose to start,” she retorts, coolly.

 

“Yes, I am certain he does,” Merlin says, popping out from behind them. Jesus, where did he come from? Charlie and Eggsy both startle, and at least Charlie has the smarts to avoid looking Merlin in the eye. Eggsy colors a little, however, and isn’t that odd?

 

“Eggsy, Charlie, inside. Dinner’s waiting. Roxy, a word?” Eggsy gives her questioning glance before he heads in.

 

“Sir?” To be honest, Roxy has no clue what this could be about.

 

“Did you enjoy the conservatory?”

 

“Yes sir, it was lovely.”

 

“Good. I’m glad.” He gives her a small smile, though it’s not even close to the smiles she has received from him in the past. It still makes her insides tingle a little, however.

 

“Is that all, sir?”

 

“Ah, no. Forgive me, but it’s been brought to my attention that bathing facilities in the dorms might be inadequate for you.”

 

Roxy’s not quite sure what to make of this. Sure, she hasn’t enjoyed using the showers in the open space, but so far the boys have been gentleman, if completely awkward about it. Most nights she just informs them that she is going to take a shower and they turn away, focusing on the telly. She does the same for them whenever one of them says they need to shower. It wasn’t ideal, but she wasn’t about to make a fuss about it. All in all, she just felt grateful that her birth control stopped her periods, so at least she didn’t have to worry about that .

 

Merlin looks like he means to say more, then he gives a shake of his head. “Here, follow me.”

 

She and Eowyn follow him through a winding loop of hallways, down into the basement near where the dorms are located. “I’ve been having the recruits conduct your PT outside while the weather has been cooperative, though soon enough you’ll have to use the indoor gym. Have you been there before?”

 

“No, sir.”

 

It’s not far from the dorms; Merlin takes her around a few corners and there they are. The indoor gym has two small pools, a running track, a boxing ring, several treadmills and ellipticals, a wall of free weights and several weight machines, and one wall has been turned into a rock climbing wall.

 

“When you’re down to six recruits, your schedules will be more flexible. You’ll of course have to keep up your physical training, but by then we’ll have a further grasp of your capabilities. Outside of the mandatory sessions and training exercises, how you choose to fit it in will be up to you.”

 

“Yes sir.” She’s not sure where he’s going with this, to be honest, but it’s a bit of a relief to know she won’t always have to go for a run knowing that Digby is checking out her ass.

 

He leads her to the wall nearest the pool. “This gym isn’t used only by agents, in fact it’s primary purpose is the use of the support staff here. Thus, a locker room for men and women. “He nods in her direction. “I have never been inside the women’s locker room, but I’m told it should be more than adequate for you.”

 

Suddenly, the picture is a lot clearer for Roxy. “Morgan yelled at you, didn’t she?”

 

It’s the first full blown smile Roxy has seen from Merlin since she got back. She can’t help but feel pulled towards it, but clenches her hands behind her back instead.

 

“Aye. She might have gotten a wee bit miffed when she found out all the recruits share showers.”

“Sir, no disrespect but I am perfectly capable ...I mean. Thank you, but I wouldn’t presume to ask for any special favors.”

 

“I know , Roxy. The beauty of this is that you didn’t, Morgan did. And I’m really not up to fighting with her right now, especially not about this.There’s no reason for you not to know about it, after all.”

 

Merlin looks down at Roxy’s puppy and smiles. Eowyn tries to dart closer towards him; Roxy can relate. “Excellent choice of dog, Roxy.”

 

“Thank you, sir. Her name is Eowyn.” He looks up at her, a little surprised, before another smile takes over his face.

 

“Ah, yes. ‘For she is a fair maiden, fairest lady of a house of queens,’” he quoted, giving Eowyn a small scritch behind her ears before standing up straight again, not noticing how Roxy had completely melted on the spot.

 

He gestured towards the door. “See that you are back in the dorms by 2200, but the rest of the night is yours.”

 

“Sir?” Roxy asked, confused, but he ignored her and walked out of the gym. Roxy shrugged, pushed the door open, and was immediately engulfed in a hug by an enthusiastic Morgan.

 

“Happy Birthday!” Morgan cried out.

 

“Wait, what?”

 

“It’s September 10th, you silly girl.”

 

Holy crap, had she really forgotten about her own birthday? Yeesh.

 

After introducing Morgan to Eowyn, and Morgan going nuts over the cute puppy, Morgan takes her arm and shows her the bathroom. It’s ridiculously luxurious and Roxy finds that although she meant every word she said to Merlin about not special treatment or privileges, she is incredibly grateful for Morgan’s existence right now. Her muscles have been killing for a good soak in a bathtub, and the gym bathroom has a hot bath and a cold tub.

 

Morgan had also snuck in some pizza and wine. “It’s not the birthday dinner I’d have treated you to if I could, but well. You signed up for this, so we make do. There’s no way I’d ever have enough leverage on Merlin to take off you off the grounds during recruitment.”

 

“Wine and pizza is more than enough of a birthday treat me for me,” Roxy assures her.

 

Morgan narrows her eyes. “From here on out, I’m in charge of all your birthday celebrations. Clearly you’ve been doing it wrong.”

“Deal,”  Roxy laughs, clinking her glass with Morgan’s as they share a toast.

 

“So tell me everything. We’ve got a betting pool on who gives up first, and I need details before I place my bet. Merlin doesn’t give us a lot, so give me the goods, woman. What are the other recruits like?”

 

Roxy shares the little information she has so far; Morgan’s eyes narrow again when Roxy complains about Charlie, Rufus, and Digby, and she looks thoughtful when she hears about Eggsy.

 

“Unwin, you say? Hmm.”

 

“What do you know?”

 

“Name sounds familiar, is all. I’ll look into it.”

 

In the end, Morgan decides to put her money on Piers. “I would wish for your sake that it was Charlie, but I agree with you - it does sound like he’s Arthur’s candidate, and Arthur is far too crafty to pick someone if he doesn’t feel assured of their abilities.”

 

Catching up with Morgan is exactly what Roxy has needed for the past week. Between this, the conservatory, and Eowyn, Roxy feels the weight lifted off her shoulders and like she can breathe again. She tells Morgan so; Morgan looks up at her from where she’s been playing with Eowyn.


“Amelia isn’t your fault, Roxy. You couldn’t have known.” Her lips are thin and pursed, she looks angry and irritated.

 

“I know, I know , a part of me really does know that. But I just feel awful about it, all the same.”

 

Morgan huddles closer, putting her arm around Roxy. “I wish I could tell you this goes away and you never have to deal with it again. But it doesn’t love. Try as we might, there will be causalities. Civilians sometimes get in the way, they get hurt, agents don’t come home. I’m sorry you have to deal with this, among everything else, but you’ll get through it. I promise.”

 

Roxy heaves a heavy sigh. “I don’t want it to happen again,” she admits softly.

 

“Then don’t let it, if you can . Merlin is always saying the most important rule is teamwork, and I think he’s right. To be a successful agent, you have to work with a team and you have to trust that your team has your back. The agents that last the longest out there in the field, they don’t work alone if they don’t need to, they trust their handlers, and they trust Merlin. That’s what’s important.”

 

“Trust?” It felt so hard to trust anyone, right then. Morgan, of course. And George and Simon. But the other recruits? Roxy wasn’t sure.

 

“You don’t have to trust everyone. That wouldn’t work out for you very well right now, anyway. But find the ones you can and build a team together. Make sure you have each other’s back, so when Merlin throws something at you, you know who you can rely on.”

 

“When did you get so  smart, Morgan?” Roxy teased, grateful for the good advice.

 

“Bitch, I was born this way.”

 

Roxy makes it back to the dorms just in time; everyone else is already in bed and asleep, except Eggsy. He’s got JB curled up on the bed next to him, sitting in the dark.


“Rox? Where you been?”

 

“It’s a long story, why are you still awake?”

 

“Long story. Tell you tomorrow, yeah? Don’t want to risk anyone else hearing.”

 

“Deal. Same time, same place?” She means the conservatory and knows Eggsy will understand. She’s got a good feeling about him, after all.

 

“Deal.”

Roxy’s just got herself settled into the chair in the conservatory, a pot of tea brewing on the stove, and Eowyn napping at her feet, when Eggsy shows up. Like the previous day, he plops down in the chair and it’s as if all the air is blown out of him; he deflates immediately.

 

“Charlie again?” She asks, handing him a biscuit. She found a box of HobNobs on the bookshelf, a post-it note on it saying “Enjoy.” Eggsy takes it from her with a grin, munching down happily.

 

“God he’s such a wanker. Who’d ever propose him for an agent, I just can’t understand it.”

 

“Probably someone who saw himself in Charlie,” Roxy replied. The look of disgust that Eggsy shoots her sends her into a fit of giggles.

 

He shook his head and checked to make sure they were alone. “I think Piers is going to leave,” he said.

 

“Is that why you were up so late last night?”

 

“Huh? No that’s something else, I’ll explain in a minute. Piers has been jumpy all morning, didn’t you notice?”

 

She had a little, but hadn’t put much thought into it. Turns out Eggsy had.

 

“But what makes you think he’ll leave? It hasn’t even been two weeks yet.”

“Saw some writing on his hand. Can’t be sure, cuz it ain’t like I was gonna ask the guy to show me, but it looked like ‘where are you?’”

 

Ah. Of course, soulmates. Roxy obviously hadn’t told Andrew, but then she hadn’t been in contact with him for months. The  way the two of them went, she doubts he was surprised.

 

Still … should she have told him? Or at least indicated something ? If she died during training, he’d never know.

 

Then again, he could be dead as well and she would never know.  She pushed the thoughts away for now, and brought herself back to the conversation before Eggsy looked at her funny.

 

“I guess I never thought about the risks of a soulmate, when agreeing to this,” she confided.

 

“Me neither. Didn’t seem important, to be honest.”

 

“Have you ever met yours?” Roxy asked, curious.

 

“Nah.” Eggsy shrugged. “I don’t think I have one.”

 

“I thought everyone has one.”

 

“Yeah but,” and he looked a little uncomfortable here, “they’ve never written anything. I mean, I haven’t either, cuz it’s not like I’m going to walk around with writing on myself with my stepdad around, yeah, but I figured …” he trailed off.

 

“I’ve never met mine either,” Roxy confessed.

 

Eggsy looked at her in surprise. “What? Girl like you? You’ve got looks, smarts, and money. Would have figured you’d have that locked down.”

 

She gives him a wan smile. “It’s complicated. We’ve written to each other, exchanged emails even. He’s older than me, by a lot, I think.”

 

“Does that bother you?”

 

Roxy laughed, heartily. “Definitely not. It’s kind of my type.”

 

Eggsy huffed a laugh of his own, and winked at her. “Same. Should see the guy that proposed me, he’s fit as hell.” Then he sobered up quickly. “Actually that’s why I was awake last night; he’s landed himself in a coma, it seems.”

 

“Oh Eggsy, I’m so sorry.” She knows it’s not George obviously but ...she knows she shouldn’t ask, shouldn’t even know but. Was it Tristan? “I’m sorry, who is it?”

 

“Galahad. Do you know him?” Eggsy looked at her, curious.

 

“I’ve only met him once, actually. And briefly; it was before I knew anything about Kingsman, really...well, actually that’s kind of how I got started.”

 

“Yeah? Share with the class, Rox.”

 

And so they both exchanged stories of how they got involved; Eggsy told Roxy about meeting Harry after being arrested and the subsequent epic bar fight that was a pleasure to watch. Roxy told Eggsy all about meeting Merlin and George at the restaurant and the mission they gave her, and meeting Harry briefly the next day. She even told him about getting shot in the ass, though she threw a biscuit at him when he laughed at her, and then shared how she had been working for Kingsman ever since.

 

“So you’ve got a pretty good handle on this deal? Jealous.”

 

“Yeah but it’s not like it helps , you know? I have no idea what’s going to come next here, just like you. And please don’t tell anyone else.”

 

He shot her a look. “Who am I gonna tell? Charlie? Please.” He helped himself to another biscuit. “Man, all this health food has got me going crazy. Ain’t my normal.”

 

“I had pizza last night,” Roxy admitted.

 

Eggsy’s jaw dropped. “Get out. No seriously, get out. We ain’t gonna be mates no more. I take everything back.”

 

“Too late, we have to be friends.”

“And why’s that?”

 

Roxy pointed to JB and Eowyn, who were snuggled up together on the floor. Eggsy looked over and his eyes went soft, his entire face melting into an “Aaaaw” expression.

 

“Yeah, okay then. Guess you’re right.”

 

And that was pretty much settled for the next few months. They did become friends, very good ones, for all that they were each other’s competition. But in the same way, they were becoming a team; Roxy and Eggsy against the rest. They studied together, readily signed up to be each other’s partner during training exercises, and were often found at the gun range at the same time. Roxy helped Eggsy sneak one of the dorm’s armchairs into Harry’s hospital room, though she mocked him the entire time and he was completely unrepentant; when they started splitting up their schedules after Nathaniel and Piers dropped out (Piers going first, as Morgan and Eggsy predicted) Roxy and Eggsy worked out together with Roxy showing him how to rock climb and some mixed martial arts moves and Eggsy demonstrating the fundamentals of boxing to Roxy (“Got a friend who owns a gym, yeah, did some work for him the past”), and Eowyn and JB playing together in the afternoons as Roxy taught Eggsy how to train a dog (“A bulldog , really?”, “Shut up, Rox.”). And then when the others were complete berks, they kept each other in line; Roxy keeping Eggsy from going after Charlie when the asshole threw water on Eggsy and JB, Eggsy grabbing Roxy’s hand under the table during meals, so she wouldn’t stab Rufus or Digby in the arm with her fork.

 

It didn’t take long for Eggsy to find out about Roxy sneaking off and enjoying the tubs in the women’s locker rooms; he spent only ten seconds on jealously before he was begging her to sneak him in. She ended up caving, but only, she swore, because he used JB in the end, bringing the dog’s sad face up close to Roxy; “Come on, Rox, do it for JB’s dad, yeah? My legs are killing me. You gonna make me stay showering with Charlie? That’d make anyone sick in the morning.”

 

A lot of their downtime found them continuously in the conservatory, as none of the other recruits had discovered it yet. From the looks they would send, Roxy was pretty certain that Charlie had indeed spread rumors about her and Eggsy, but it really didn’t feel that important to her. She knew the truth, and she was certain Merlin did as well; that’s what mattered. And from the way the bookshelves in the conservatory kept changing about, adding in murder mysteries that Eggsy seemed to really enjoy and more fantasy novels that Roxy sunk her teeth into, along with a constant supply of biscuits and tea, well … Roxy had a feeling it was all Merlin’s doing, anyway. Perhaps a subtle indication of favoritism that the man couldn’t shake off; she wasn’t complaining. It made her feel warm and cared for, like maybe there could still be something between them when this was over.

 

It was during these conservatory hours that she shared with Eggsy the story of her parents, and he told her about his dad’s death, his mum, stepdad, and little sister. How he worked odd jobs like bartending and bouncing at club. Making money under the counter so he could help out and save up to get his family away, but had to make it look like he didn’t have job because “Dean’d steal any money he found in the flat, no lie.” Roxy told Eggsy about William and Rosina and the goddaughter she had in Italy, the boy’s eyes going soft when she brought out a photo. Eggsy confessed to Roxy that he was “mad into” Galahad, who had now woken up from his coma and Eggsy would often come into the conservatory with a huge smile, having just finished visiting with the older man who was still at the mansion for his physical therapy. Eggsy had nearly killed himself laughing as Roxy shared all the stories she had picked about Harry Hart during her time at Kingsman; she only hoped that Eggsy knew better than to pass these stories onto Harry.

 

She kept her stories about Merlin to herself, however. They may be friends but ...well. Some things were just intensely private. At least for now.

 

Roxy was fairly certain that Mara was wrong, some men were more than just “prey, lovers, family.” For the first time in her life, Roxy felt certain she could have a best friend.

 

And when the parachute test was over and Roxy felt her stomach settle back into her body, she knew she wasn’t letting Eggsy go, no matter who became Lancelot.

 

So she showered and got dressed, and headed to Merlin’s office.

 

“Come in,” he called from the other side of the door, after she knocked.

 

“Merlin. Sir.”

 

“Roxy. What do I owe the surprise?”

 

Roxy eyes narrowed; she spotted a broken mug on the floor, coffee spilt all over the floor. Merlin followed her gaze, made a small face, but didn’t say anything.

 

“There are still openings among the support staff here, correct?”

 

The man’s face didn’t give any of this thoughts away, but his shoulders tensed a bit and he leaned forward in his chair. “That is correct, including your former position. Are you thinking of packing things in?”

“Absolutely not, sir.”

 

“Good. Then why do you ask?” Was it just her or did he seem relieved?

 

“I’m asking for Eggsy, sir. I’d like to keep him around.”

 

“Ah. I see.”

 

“He’d be an excellent asset to Kingsman, sir. Even if he doesn’t make it to Lancelot.”

 

“I’ll keep that in mind, Ms. Morton. Eggsy does possess a number of useable skills, and he does work well with others, if not always his superiors. The two of you have made quite the team.

 

“Thank you, sir. He’s been an excellent partner and opponent, both.”

 

“Agreed. Will that be all?”

 

“Yes, sir. Thank you sir.” Roxy hoped she wasn’t overstepping her bounds, but she really couldn’t let Eggsy go back to the estates, trying to provide for his family when she could do something about it. It’s what friends do for each other, yes?

 

Merlin turned his chair around, back to his computer. “You’re dismissed, Ms. Morton. I will see you later.”

 

“Yes, sir.”

 

Roxy tried to ignore the coolness coming from Merlin during their conversation; it hit her a little hard, as it always did, but she was figured she needed to get used to it. She couldn’t let herself get affected by him so much, like a soppy teenage girl with a ridiculous crush.

 

As she kept reminding herself, she had a job to do.

 

A job that sometimes involved seduction, as she was reminded later when they were giving an NLP task. At least this target was pretty, she supposed, even though she had nothing on Alessandra.

 

Still. Roxy couldn’t say she’d mind getting to know the target better. It had been months , after all. And while Eggsy was very pretty, she didn’t see that there was much in the way of competition here. Not really; and definitely not from Charlie. Boys didn’t really know how to reel women in, after all.

 

She found herself having to drink a little more just to deal with Charlie’s bad attempts at flirting.

 

As she woke  groggy and with her head feeling like a pile of lead as she was tied to the train tracks, she really should have seen this coming somehow.

 

“Jesus fucking Christ,” she yelled, hearing the train’s horn and there was a man staring down at her.

 

“This knife, it can save your life,” he told her.

 

“Fuck that, I’ll save my own life.” She yanked on the ropes; they were tight but Mara had tied her better. Roxy leaned her neck down towards her right arm and was able to grab the knot with her teeth.

 

“My employers got two questions for you, Roxy. What the fuck is Kingsman and who the fuck is George Ashcroft?”

 

“Fuck, I don’t know!” Roxy yelled out, having been able to free her right arm.

 

“Don’t mess with me, lady, I just killed two of your friends who gave me the same bullshit answer.”

 

It was then Roxy realized what was going on; she hurried up with the rest of ropes and was able to get herself untied. The first clue, there was no gun being held up to stop her.

 

The second clue? No fucking way Charlie didn’t roll on Kingsman. Eggsy, she knew, would never give up Harry if asked. But Charlie was the biggest fucking baby Roxy had ever seen, with no sense of loyalty.

 

Still, she thought, as she got up shakily from the tracks, ignoring the warnings the man was yelling out, it never hurt to be sure.

 

“Is Kingsman really worth risking your life?” he asked

 

“Fuck yes,” she said, and punched him out.

 

Suddenly there were bright lights and George was standing in front of her.

 

“Well done, darling. Absolutely fabulous.” He opened up his arms and pulled her in.

 

“Oh thank fuck,” she sighed and sank into his hug.





Chapter Text

“Galahad, Percival. Congratulations. Your candidates have reached the final stage of the testing process. As tradition allows, you now have 24 hours to spend with them.”

 

“So where are we going?” Roxy asked George, as they settled into the cab.

 

“You’ll see when we get there. Well, if you remember it.”

 

“Very cryptic, darling.” Roxy shot him a smirk and a roll of her eyes, making George laugh.

 

“I am so very proud of you, my lady. I hope you know that.” He threw his arm around her and pulled her in close.

 

“I do, I really do.” She snuggled into him, the stress and adrenaline of the night taking its toll on her, and she dozed off for a while.

 

When she woke up, they were outside of a house in Chiswick; the taxi had pulled up to it.

 

George pulled her out of the car and led her to the front stoop. “Do you remember it?”

 

Roxy looked around. “It looks familiar, but I can’t place it.”

 

She knew the second he opened the door, however. “This is where we stayed when we came into the city, when I was growing up. Mother and I would meet Father here.”

 

George gave her a large smile. “And now it belongs to you.”

 

Roxy looked at him in bewilderment. “Come again?”

 

He led her around, the two of them taking in the large rooms. “Although Kingsman have been using it these past seventeen years, it does officially belong to you now that you’ve turned 25. It was your mother’s house, originally. We’ll have to go over the details of your inheritance at a later date, but you will find this only one of the many houses you own across England.”

 

“That’s insane. How?” Roxy knew she was well off, but to be honest she had never really thought about it. She had never wanted for anything as child, but had assumed her lifestyle when she was older was the result of George. Truthfully, she really should have questioned it a lot earlier, but she hadn’t felt any reason to.

 

“You’re the only surviving member of both sides of your family. Both of your grandparents have died and your father was an only child. You did have an aunt, if you remember, but she was much older than your mother and passed away when you were a teenager. I thought about taking you to the funeral but it seemed out of place; you had never met her. She and your mother did not get along.”

Roxy turned around in a circle, looking at the large ceiling. “How many houses?”

 

“At least twelve. Others in Europe, mostly in France and Germany. Merlin would know the exact amount.”

Now that got her attention. “Merlin?”

 

“Since I’ve been the trustee on the account, I’ve allowed Kingsman to rent them as various safehouses. It seemed like a good business opportunity. Kingsman takes good care of them and in return you have been paid a sizeable amount in rent. If you have any objections, we can change that.”

 

“No … I mean. I have never seen them; I’m not attached. But this house …” she trailed off, one of her hands dancing lightly across a wall.

 

“Yes, that’s what I thought. Come, let’s have dinner and we’ll pour over some the documents.”

 

They ordered Chinese, as Roxy had been craving it for weeks and George could never pass it up.  However, she nearly choked on it when she opened up the portfolio George handed her.

 

“10 million pounds?”  She looked at him, shocked.

 

“And that’s only one of the accounts, darling.”

 

“I definitely don’t remember us being that well off, growing up.”

 

“Kingsman does have a hefty life insurance policy for all their agents, once they have passed the final test. Even though your father wasn’t killed in service, it was still paid out. And then your fortune increased as other family members died and left you portions of their money. In total, I think it’s at about 25 million? Again, you’ll have to talk to our financial department; they’ve been handling your money. Mostly I just look it over, approve, and sign off.”

 

“Clearly you’ve been doing a bloody good job. I have no idea what I would even do with this money.” Though she had to admit, ideas were already pouring into her head. A trust fund for Annalise, her goddaughter, and maybe one for Eggsy’s sister as well ...granted it might be weird since she had never met Daisy, but it didn’t matter. She already adored the little girl from Eggsy’s stories, and it’s not like she couldn’t afford it. After the stories Eggsy told her about his stepdad, Roxy wanted to whisk his mum and kid sis away. Maybe take them on a ridiculously extravagant vacation with Morgan.

 

“You’ll have to make some decisions, eventually. And keep in mind that when I go, you’ll inherit from me, as well ...aside what I leave to Simon.” He leaned back in his chair, a happy smile on his face.

 

“So it’s serious, then?” Roxy teased.

 

“Very. I am ridiculously and disgustingly happy, petal.”

 

Roxy shot him a wide grin. “Then I am disgustingly happy for you...Wait. Have you two moved in together? That’s what the house is really about, isn’t it?”

 

George laughed. “Well, I cannot deny that it would be a good idea for you to have your own space in London, now. If you are Lancelot, you will get a Kingsman issued apartment that is within close walking distance of the shop; this wouldn’t be good enough for all that it’s a 20 minute drive away. However, no matter what I felt that you should have a place that felt like home.”

 

“That’s a very sweet way of kicking me out.”

 

“Let me put it this way - do you want to walk in on Simon and I?”

“Ew, gross. No thank you.”

 

After dinner, George and Roxy explored the upstairs rooms of the house. “The upper rooms have been closed off and used as storage for your parents things. Originally we had looked in storage lockers, but honestly we just never got around to it. It’s a large enough house, and we never needed to use all the rooms so I believe things just got piled in here and the doors locked up.”

It was certainly dusty when they opened the doors, but the windows were large enough and soon the air was breathable. One room contained different chests of mens clothing, golf sets (“I don’t know why, your father never played and your mother hated the game”), antique guns, and quite frankly a lot boring bits and bobs. Furniture that must have come with the house before Kingsman made it more suitable for agents and various guests, safes that she would have to figure out how to open (that would be an exciting day, she was sure), and lots and lots of books piled high.

 

The other door, though, definitely struck a chord in Roxy’s heart when she opened it. “Oh my,” she exclaimed when she turned on the light. It was the suite of rooms her mother and her had stayed in. The sitting room that had been Roxy’s play area, with her old toys and dollhouse still in the corner, Roxy’s childhood bedroom set in one small room and her mother’s boudoir and adjoining bedroom next to it.

 

“I have to admit, I’ve been half wondering if we’d find a skeleton in these rooms.”

 

“Don’t be absurd, George.”

 

“Come now, it’s a bit like a fairytale. Locked up rooms that haven’t seen the light of day for decades, holding mysteries inside …”

 

Roxy shot him a look, as she opened her mother’s closet. “Time away from me has only made your dramatics worse, not better.”

 

Lots of darling vintage dresses that looked like they would fit her; she’d have to bring them into Morgan so the other woman could go nuts over them. They were definitely beautiful, Roxy thought, but she wasn’t clotheshorse enough to give them their proper due.

 

She went on her tiptoes to look inside the top of the closet and spied a jewelry box. Now that was something that Roxy would appreciate.

 

“Ah!” George exclaimed, as she pulled it out and onto the bed. “I remember that, look at that gigantic thing. Your mother was mad for jewelry.” It was true; there were six drawers and when Roxy pulled them open, her eyesight was flooded with diamonds and gold.  

 

“I cannot imagine where I would wear these, but I absolutely cannot wait.”

 

“Suddenly it’s a shame I never gave you a debutante ball.”

 

“Don’t even. Luckily, I’m too old for that now...this drawer won’t come open and the lighting in here isn’t good enough...do you have a phone?”

 

“Yes, I forgot, candidates have restricted phone access. We didn’t exactly have the issue of smart phones when I went through my recruitment. Most of our families knew where we were anyway.” George pulled out his phone from his inner suit pocket and handed it over.

 

Roxy rolled her eyes, but couldn’t argue. Merlin had only allowed them to turn on their phones after they had dwindled down to six candidates, and that was a handful of times for less than an hour to make phone calls. Data and internet access had been strictly removed. Roxy had watched JB a handful of times so Eggsy could make short phone calls to his mum, but she hadn’t had anyone she needed to call. Everyone who mattered knew where she was and what she was doing. William and Rosina were used to not hearing from her for long stretches at this point and wouldn’t think anything of it, and Andrew ...well. She never had his phone number anyway.

 

“You’re showing your age, dear.” Roxy pressed the flashlight app on George’s phone and beamed the light over the jewelry box.”

“There’s definitely a lock here of some sort; this box looks like it was handcrafted. I’ll have to take a better look at it later, when I have my toolkit. Wonder what could be inside, when none of the diamonds were locked up.” She handed back the phone to him.

 

“Sometimes I wonder if I did a bad thing, teaching you my ways. You’re definitely not a normal 25 year old.”  He had a look of aggrieved exasperation on his face as he pocketed his phone.

 

Roxy gave him a cheeky grin. “What, only sometimes?”

 

They didn’t spend the night in the house, as they had no extra clothing or toothbrushes. Simon greeted them at the door when they arrived back to George’s flat … or rather, Roxy supposed, it was now George and Simon’s, for all that she still had a room there. Not for much longer, at any rate.

 

The next day was a whirlwind of food, shopping, and museums. Morgan and Simon came to join Roxy and George for the day out; it was such a fantastic blast that Roxy found herself wondering when she last had so much fun. At least, legally. The group spent the day doing ridiculous touristy things, like visiting the Sherlock Holmes museum, going on the London Eye, as well as touring the Tower of London and the London Zoo. By night time she was incredibly worn out, and snuggled up with George to catch up on Doctor Who. Morgan and Simon had went out for the night, giving the two of them time to spend together.

 

“Is it ever weird, George?” Roxy asked.

 

“Hmm, what darling?”

“You, Simon, and Morgan. I mean,” she got flustered and stammered a little. “Not all three of you, but rather. Simon and Morgan are soulmates, but you and Simon and now living together. Is it ever weird?”

 

“It could be ...I imagine if we were other people and had other careers, it very well would be. But Morgan and Simon are very happy with their arrangement, and Morgan trusts me to look after Simon’s heart. Was it ever weird for you, with William and Rosina?”

 

“No, not really. Sometimes sad, because I knew I wasn’t going to stay with them. I think they would have been happy for me to do so, but it’s not what I wanted.”

 

“Of course not, you’re a different sort of girl. Eye on the prize, that’s my Roxelot.”

 

“...That is a ridiculous name. Absolutely not.”

 

Absolutely ye s, petal. Just you wait, I know you’re going to be Lancelot.”

 

“I hope so.” She looked down at her hands, where they cupping a mug of hot chocolate.

 

“You’re not doubting yourself, are you?” asked George. “That’s not the Roxy I know.”

 

“No …” she started off slowly. “I feel confident I can handle whatever Merlin throws at me. It’s just...ugh. I don’t know how to say it.”

 

“I’m listening, whenever you’re ready.”

 

The problem with being Lancelot, Roxy supposed, was that there was niggling doubt that had been in the back of her mind ever since Venice. “It’s not about being an agent. It’s more about who I will be an agent for .”

 

“So you’re doubting Kingsman.”

 

“No! No ..George, what really happened to make Arthur send me away? That’s what he was doing, wasn’t it? Because of you and Simon?”

“Yes, it was. Maybe someday he’ll be able to admit it, but I don’t think he will anytime soon. I’m sorry that you had to bear the brunt of that.”

 

“I didn’t mind Russia,” though she wasn’t sure if she would ever tell George what really happened to her there, “but I mind the reasoning behind it.”

 

Understanding dawned on George’s face. “I see. You’re not doubting Kingsman. You’re doubting Arthur.”

 

“I want to be a Kingsman agent, but I don’t know if I can trust working for someone who can hand out assignments based on petty whims. Will Arthur have my back, when it comes down to it?”

“I’m afraid I cannot answer that for you, darling. It’s something you have to figure out on your own. It’s an agency of spies, and while Kingsman takes great pride in honor and tradition, everyone has a hidden agenda somewhere along the line. Eventually you need to decide who you trust and who you don’t ...and sometimes you might need to bet on your faith in someone, even when you’re not completely sure you can trust them.”

 

“I see,” Roxy said slowly, drawing out the words.

 

“No, I don’t think you do. But you will,” George said confidently. “In the meantime, just focus on what’s in front of you and you’ll do splendidly. And answer me this, out of everything you’ve been through these past months ...maybe you don’t trust Arthur right now, but do you trust Merlin?”

 

She looked at him, surprised. “Yes, of course.”

 

He kissed her forehead. “Then remember that, love, and you’ll be fine.”

 

George dropped her off early the next morning, just as the sun was rising. She and Eggsy took their dogs out to play.

 

“So how did things go last night with Harry?,” Roxy teased him.

 

The blush that took over Eggsy’s face was captivating.

 

“Hush. I mean, obviously nothing happened,” he muttered.

 

“But you want something to happen.”

 

“Course I do, have you seen him? He’s amazing. You should have seen the spread he made for breakfast, it was totally unreal.”

 

“When this is all over, you think you’ll make your move?” Regardless of whether or not she became Lancelot, she wanted Eggsy to be happy. Like she had told Merlin earlier, she saw no reason why Eggsy couldn’t find a place at Kingsman even if he wasn’t an agent. The boy was so besotted over Galahad, Roxy hoped that Harry would stay in Eggsy’s life no matter what.

“Dunno.” He scratched the back of his head. “Can’t see what he’d want in a bloke like me.”

 

Roxy was about to read Eggsy the riot act; she had no idea why he continued to put himself down so, but they were interrupted by Merlin’s approaching footsteps.

 

“Come with me,” he said and led them up the stairs to where Kingsman kept the offices.

 

“Eggsy. Arthur wants to see you. Roxy, you’re with me.”

 

“Yes, sir” they responded in unison. Merlin opened the door to a room and went inside; Roxy was about to follow but turned back.

 

“Eggsy, wait.”

 

“Hmm, what Rox?”

 

She knew it was bad form to keep Merlin waiting, but she had a bad feeling that this was the next test. She spied a container of elegant pens on a small table in the hallway, but no paper.

 

“Look, no matter what happens, we’re still best mates right?” Roxy implored.

 

“Yes, of course.” Eggsy just looked back in her in confusion.

 

“Alright then. Give me your arm.” He did so without questioning, and she rolled up his sleeve and scrawled her phone number on it. “That’s my mobile, now you do me.” He gave her a smile and put JB down, before rolling her sleeve up and writing on her as well.

 

“Funny thing, this is the first time anyone’s ever written on me, including myself. Wonder what my soulmate will think,” he said with a laugh.

 

“So you’re starting to believe you might have one?”

“Nah, but I wouldn’t mind if it was Harry.” He gave her a wink and then picked up JB and darted off to Arthur. Roxy laughed, rolled her sleeve back up and went inside the door with Eowyn at her heels. It was a large conference room, with a long dining room table and ridiculously posh portraits on the wall. Merlin stood there, holding a silver tray with a gun.

 

She had no idea what this could be. His posture was rigid and his face was stern; there was no hint of the enigmatic man who had swept her off her feet in Venice, nor the man of even a few days ago, who had seemed concerned that she was about to back out.

 

He handed her the gun and told her it was live. It felt oddly light in her hand, but Roxy’s attention was immediately drawn to Merlin’s next words.

 

“Shoot the dog,” he said, staring her dead in the face.

 

“From now on, there are no safety nets. Understood?”

 

Panic immediately swept through her, and anger as well. What was Kingsman doing, giving her a puppy and teaching her to train it, only to expect her to kill it? Is that was they wanted her to become, a cold hearted killer who would shoot without question?

 

But that didn’t make sense … it didn’t fit with any of the agents Roxy had met. She gripped the gun tight in her hand and stared down at it. George definitely wasn’t cold blooded, and neither was Tristan … and Merlin, when he wanted to be, was a very caring man. Roxy had spent so much time with him in Venice and she had learned to trust him, or so she thought.

 

Trust.

 

Eventually you need to decide who you trust and who you don’t.

 

What it boiled down to, Roxy thought, was that she did trust Merlin. Even when he didn’t trust her, she knew that was unshakeable. Maybe she didn’t trust Arthur, not yet, but she trusted Merlin and Merlin was asking her to do a job.

 

To shoot her dog.

 

Roxy aligned her body and posture, and aimed at Eowyn. She closed her eyes, and bit her lip, bracing herself as Eowyn looked up at her with questioning eyes.

 

Shoot the dog.

 

Wait. Shoot, not kill? Merlin didn’t say “Kill the dog,” right? He said “Shoot.”

 

The weight of the gun kept throwing her off, and then it came to her. Blanks, not bullets?

 

She wasn’t sure. There was only one way to find out.

 

Come on, Roxy. What do you say? Do you trust Merlin?


Fuck yes, I do.

 

She fired.

 

The next hour was an entire blur, that all rushed together in a seamless surreal time loop. Merlin handed Eowyn over to a medic waiting outside the door, promising a shaken Roxy she’d be looked after, and then escorted her to meet Arthur.

 

“Welcome to Kingsman, Roxy.”

 

She grabbed her bag from the dormitory, and George was waiting outside with a content smile on his face.

 

“Knew you could do it. Never had a doubt.”

 

“That makes two of us,” she smiled back at him.

 

“Let me walk you up to your room here, and then I’m headed out.” he told her.

 

“Where are you going?”

 

“Simon wants to introduce me to his mother. Morgan’s coming along to be my buffer. I’ve been warned that Simon’s mother is very interesting, but they won’t give more details and Merlin refuses to use Kingsman resources to find out more.”

 

Roxy broke in laughter. “I want updates, and pictures. Text me everything.”

 

“Might not be able to, love. She lives up in North Wales, near Gwydir Forest. I’ve been warned that cell phone reception isn’t good.”

 

“Least you’ve been warned about something, “ Roxy joked.

 

He dropped her off at her door and gave her a hug. “I”ll be back at the end of the week, hopefully with all my limbs intact and my sanity restored. Don’t burn the place down.”

 

“Without your assistance? Wouldn’t dream of it.”

 

One parting smile, and George was gone leaving Roxy alone in her spacious Kingsman suite.

 

She immediately flopped herself on the bed, letting the events of the past day catch up with her.

 

Shit. Eggsy.

 

Of course he didn’t shoot JB. God, how could she have forgotten?

 

She grabbed her phone, and rolled up her sleeve to enter the number in.

 

Huh. She had a missed call from an unknown number. Roxy checked it against the number that Eggsy had scrawled on her, but it wasn’t a match

 

Could it be Eggsy’s soulmate? Apparently there was a part of Roxy that was a die hard romantic, because her face immediately had a gleeful expression and she was calling back.

 

But, no answer. It went straight to a beep; not even a voicemail message. Curious. She would look it up late, she thought to herself as she typed in Eggsy’s number and sent him a text, when she had access to a computer.

 

She waited a while but there was no response from Eggsy. Sigh. Would he be holding a grudge? Angry that she was now Lancelot and he wasn’t?

 

Angry that she shot a dog?  The thought of it bothered it immensely; she didn’t want Eggsy to think poorly of her and she was still adamant that he would still find a place in Kingsman.

The thought dwelled in her mind as she took a shower and got dressed in clothes that were glorious jeans and a sweater, and not a ridiculous tartan jumpsuit.

 

She threw a blazer on because even with excellent heating Kingsman HQ still got chilly in February, and headed down to Merlin’s office.

 

The first time she would be meeting him not as his staff, but his equal. Another Kingsman agent,

 

Oh, shit.

 

She could barely keep herself from running.

 

She threw back the door to his office, not even bothering to knock but he wasn’t there. Where could he be?

 

She travelled the halls until she spotted him, walking towards her from a distance. His eyes were on the tablet in his hands, he hadn’t spotted her.

 

Roxy saw a supply closet a few feet ahead and smiled slyly to herself. Oh, yes. This will do.

 

Perhaps it was the adrenaline and confidence rush of the day, or the way Merlin had been looking delectable in those sweaters for months and now Roxy finally had the freedom to do something about it ...Roxy found that she wasn’t nervous at all or hesitant about dragging a startled Merlin into the closet.

 

“Roxy,” he started sounding annoyingly calm even though his eyes were wide with surprise. “What’s going on?”

 

She didn’t say a word, just pulled his head down to hers and kissed him.

 

Honestly, she had been expecting some kind of resistance or more questions. She had been expecting Merlin to protest and say that they couldn’t, that it was unprofessional. And she had arguments, definitely. Months of being in close proximity to him and not being able to touch had given her plenty of arguments about why they could do this, now that she was Lancelot to his Merlin, and she had been fully prepared to list them off.

 

She hadn’t been expecting that he would not only match her enthusiasm but also run with it, but she wasn’t complaining.

 

“We don’t have much time,” he muttered between kisses. “Arthur’s expecting me soon.”

 

“Arthur can bloody wait,” she said before biting down hard on his bottom lip, extracting a deep moan from Merlin.

 

“That’s never a good idea,” he said breaking away, and kissing down her neck and removing her blazer.

 

“It’s been months ,” she complained. “Months and I can’t wait much longer, Merlin. I need you .”

 

“Aye lass, I’ve got you.” He got to his knees and rubbed his cheek and tip of his nose against her belly, breathing her in,  fingers on the button of her jeans. He looked up at her, asking for permission with his eyes.

 

“God, yes, please .”

 

It was like he had invaded her mind and found all those steamy dreams that had kept her from sleeping, and here he was at her feet, reenacting them.

 

He unbuttoned her jeans and pulled them down, smiling at the lace panties she had put on. When she had gotten dressed, she had only been thinking of how lovely it was to wear whatever she wanted, but now she was very thankful she had worn these. It looked like Merlin was appreciative of them as well, as he ran his fingers across them, moving his thumb up and down in the area Roxy needed him most.

 

“If you don’t,” she started. “If you don’t do something soon, I’m going to go mad.”

 

Merlin tsked. “Seems like you still need to learn some patience.” He leaned his head forever and replaced his thumb with his tongue, lapping at her panties.

 

Her knees were going weak, she clutched the box behind her to steady herself.  “You’re the one who said we didn’t have time,” she reminded him.

 

“True,” he hummed against her causing her to giggle. “Quiet now, pet. Can’t have anyone hearing us,” he cautioned as he moved back to pull her panties down.

 

Sweet merciful heaven, the man was a dream come true.

 

He was quick, but focused; using his fingers and his tongue, he pulled all sorts of delicious moans and breaths out of her, until she was climaxing and calling out his name.

 

She pulled him back to his feet for more sweet, decadent kisses as she fixed her clothing. Roxy thought she could spend eternity like this, hidden away in private with Merlin. She reached her hand down to cup his length; it was warm and hard and it twitched at her touch.

 

“My turn?” she asked. He kissed her again hungrily, and then there was beeping coming from his clipboard.

 

He pulled back with a sigh, but Roxy already knew what that meant. Arthur, again. 

 

“I’m afraid not,” he kissed her once more, softly. “But I’ll come find you when I’m done, yes?”

 

“I’m holding you to that,” Roxy promised. “And I’ll come find you, if you take too long.”

 

He kissed the top of her forehead before grasping the door handle.

 

“No worries, lass. I’m not running.” He looked her up and down, her body tingling in response to the way his eyes roved and settled on her. “I plan on savoring you properly. Enjoy the rest of your afternoon, Lancelot.”

 

And with that, he was gone.

Chapter Text

*One month later*

 

Roxy sat at the low end of the club’s bar, drinking a scotch and scanning the crowd. It wasn’t as crowded as it could be, she had been told, but there were plenty of bodies looking for new lovers or something to take the edge off.

 

The ramifications of V Day had been stressful for everyone. In the midst of all the clean up and trying to put the pieces back together again, people were searching for an escape.

 

So was Roxy.

 

It had been a hell of a month, and most of the burden had fallen on Merlin, Roxy, and Eggsy’s shoulders. It was technically unfair, but what else could be done? Like everyone else, Kingsman had been hit hard.

 

Though, she reflected to herself as she sipped her drink, it could have worse. Roxy had been luckier than most; the people she cared about had survived. The bad signal in the mountains had saved George, Morgan, and, Mordred; she had been able to call William and Rosina after Eggsy’s mom, and although Archie and Mara had been affected, they had survived.

 

They still hadn’t heard from Tristan, though.  Or, as far as Roxy knew, been able to locate Harry’s body.

 

Bors and Lamorak were dead, and Gawain injured. Although medical was to clear Gawain hopefully within the next week, that meant they were currently four agents down. That meant a lot of work for the remaining Kingsman; all non essential missions were put on hold and nearly everyone was doing double duty, especially Merlin and Percival. Merlin had taken over the role of Arthur as well as his own post, though Percival had been helping out a great deal.

 

Still, it meant that Merlin nearly never left his office and things with him and Roxy had been put on hold. To an extreme point.

 

Hence, her current predicament and location.

 

This has been one of the few nights she was given off this month. She had just returned from a mission in Switzerland and although agents were normally given a decent amount of time between missions when appropriate, she had to be back in the office tomorrow afternoon. Until then, she was determined to left off a ton of steam and get the adrenaline build up out of her system.

 

Look, it’s not that she wanted to sleep with anyone other than Merlin, not really, but a girl has needs and even a one night stand would do when Merlin had locked himself up in his office.

 

It’s not as if we were even together, Roxy thought bitterly. No, he had made that perfectly clear after V Day. Granted, he had never come out and said anything directly but ...he was her boss again, even though he refused to be called Arthur, and well. Roxy didn’t think it was a coincidence that they had never been left alone in a room this past month. It was if he was trying to avoid that, and Roxy? She could take a hint.

 

Coward. She didn’t know if she was saying that about herself or him, but either way it fit. She finished her drink and made it out on the dance floor; surely it couldn’t be long before she attracted someone. Wearing black shift dress and tall black boots, there had been several looks shot her way when she had arrived, but none enough to tempt her. Roxy got the impression that she was being read as a submissive and while she can play that game, that’s not where she was going tonight.

 

Roxy had been tempted to invite Eggsy tonight, since he was in town as well, but she wasn’t sure this bar was his scene.  While it definitely wasn’t as intense as the Torture Garden, thankfully, Belle Epoque definitely felt on the more risque and provocative sides of things. As cocky and lawless as Eggsy made himself out to be, she had a feeling he was more vanilla than he let on.

 

Their friendship was still pretty new; she didn’t want this side of her to shock him or make things weird between them. And granted, Roxy would have preferred something more along the lines of Killing Kittens or BookKlub, or even Kink Salon,  to find a lover for the night, but it just wasn’t in the cards. Belle Epoque would have to do. It was the only one that was currently up and running at the moment.

 

It didn’t take long for Roxy to gain any dance partners; several men had come to her from behind and tried their best, but Roxy put them in their place immediately. It created an opening for her to make eye contact with several gorgeous ladies, and soon enough she had her arms around one and things were getting hot and heavy on the dance floor.

 

So of course , that’s when Eggsy shows up.

 

Roxy first sees him at the bar, scanning the room like she had been earlier.He’s wearing the dapper suit that Harry had bought for him; although the tailors had made others for him since, this continued to be a favorite and one that Roxy knew he preferred to wear when he was feeling out of his element. The look on his face confirms it a little; he’s a bit slack jawed and wide eyed. Though, that might be because within three seconds of Roxy noticing him so did many others and if she’s not mistaken, he’s being hit on.

 

Regrettably, Roxy detangled herself from the gorgeous bird she had met. After whispering her apologies, she makes her way over to Eggsy.

 

“Never thought I’d see you here,” she said, swiping his martini.

“Oi, what does that mean?” He glared at her and turned to order another drink.

 

She made a broad sweeping gesture, to encompass the crowd of scantily dressed individuals. “This doesn’t seem your type of fun. I had you pegged as a local pub bloke, something low key with your mates.”

 

He gave her a shrug, having paid for his new drink. Looked it like it was a screwdriver. Oh, Eggsy.

 

You’re my mate, and you come here. Should be sharing, Roxy. Looks like fun.” He tipped a wink towards an older man walking past, delighting in the blush it caused.

 

Roxy sighed, exasperated. After since Harry died, Eggsy had been shagging his way through town. Privately, she thought he was refusing to deal with his grief over losing Harry, as if he could fill the hole in his heart by filling up his orifices instead. Well, it’s not like she could talk.

 

“Is your idea of fun the kind that comes with whips and paddles?” She cocked her head at him, looking him up and down. “I thought you were more into the back alley shag.”

 

“Ouch, quick to the punch, that’s my Roxelot.”

 

“I never should have introduced you to George.” Really, it had been nothing short of a glorious disaster, the two them getting along so marvelously. Percival had turned out to be just as fond as Eggsy as he was of Roxy. Mordred and Morgan had warmed up to him just as quick, as well.

 

“Holy crap, there’s a guy wearing horse ears and a bridle!” Eggsy exclaims, spitting out his drink.

“Yeah, I’ve never understood pony play. It’s not my thing.” Roxy just shrugs, casually.

 

Eggsy just stares at her, glaring. “But the rest of it is? I’ve known you for months now, Rox. You’ve never said.”

 

“It’s private, Eggsy. And I wasn’t sure you’d understand. The few times I’ve told anyone, they automatically assume I’m the sub. They don’t see me as dominant.”

 

Eggsy laughs. “Clearly they’ve never matched you in hand to hand.” They exchange a smile.

 

“Most people,” she trails off, pausing for a bit. He’s patient, and waits for her. “They understand the appeal of being tied up, or having the more submissive role. But they put a lot of implications and judgment on the person who wants to do the tying up,” she explained. “I wanted to avoid that with you.”

 

“Rox, you’re my best mate.” He puts his arm around her, and kisses her cheek.  “Just trust me next time, okay?”

 

She messes up his hair, fondly, ignoring his squawk of protest. “I’ll try? That’s all I can promise.”

 

He beams at her. “Good enough for me. Now come on, we have to go. Emergency meeting at the shop. Apparently Merlin has big news.”

 

She glares at him before rushing out the door. “Why the fuck didn’t you just say?”

 

Eggsy laughs and follows her; there’s a cab waiting outside. They make it back to the shop in record time and after nodding to Dagonet, they hurry up to the dining room.

 

Merlin, Gawain, and Percival are already there. Bedivere was still in Paris, Kay was in Morocco, and the rest of the table was currently empty. They would need to replace Arthur, Bors, Lamorak, and Galahad.

 

Eggsy hadn’t been given a name yet; Roxy knew he was hoping for Galahad in honor of Harry. He was also worried he wouldn’t be knighted at all, but she thought he was just being ridiculous. No way Merlin would have kept him around if he hadn’t planned on knighting him. Sure, Eggsy didn’t pass the final test but saving the world had to count for something?

 

Merlin and her would be having words, if it didn’t.

 

Roxy and Eggsy quickly took their seats. If anyone was surprised by Roxy’s night out attire, which was really tame in comparison to what she could have been wearing, they kept it to themselves.

 

Sort of. George kept giving her a look, and she couldn’t interpret it but since they were on Kingsman business she also decided to ignore it. She noticed that there were brandy glasses set on the table. Sigh. She hoped they hadn’t lost another agent.

 

“Agents, thank you for coming on short notice.” One thing that Roxy appreciated about Merlin is that he had never slipped up on the gendered language thus far. Eggsy had told her Harry’s story about how Kingsman were the modern day gentleman knights; it was a lovely way of looking at things, but no one could deny that Roxy was anything but a lady. With Merlin at the helm, she never felt out of place by being a woman agent.

 

“I am sure you have noticed, we are short staffed,” Merlin continued. “While I have done my best to fill the role of Arthur, I am afraid that the responsibilities are currently more than I can handle. Therefore, I have reached out to a former Kingsman agent and he has agreed to step in until we have enough agents to vote in a new Arthur.”

 

Eggsy and Gawain looked surprised by this news; George did not. Curious.

“If you look at the screen, our temporary Arthur will pop in to say hello; He is currently en route to London.”

 

The screen opened up and there was Archie, looking as dapper and cheerful as he ever was.

 

“Dayum, who is the silver fox,” Eggsy whispered to Roxy who was in a bit of a shock.

 

“Greetings everyone!” Archie crowed. “It is an honor to be your Arthur, as temporary as it might be. I am looking forward to the challenge and meeting all of you, very soon.” He looked at Roxy and winked. “Knew you could do it, Rox. Congratulations on being Lancelot.”

 

“Thank you, sir” she replied, a bit numbly.

 

“And, is it Eggsy? Yes, Eggsy. My first business of being Arthur is to declare you as agent, codename Bors. To Bors!” he cheered, and lifted up his glass to take a sip. The rest of the agents followed, Eggsy looking chuffed. “Congratulations, Sir Bors, on your removal of a corrupt and insidious influence within Kingsman, killing my uncle and thus allowing for my return home. Excellent job, really.”

 

With that the new Arthur signed off and Roxy burst into hysterical laughter, George and Gawain joining her as Eggsy just sat there looking dumbfounded. Merlin was as calm and composed as ever.

 

“That will be all for tonight; agents, you are dismissed.” He looked tired and weary, and in definite need of a good night sleep.

 

The rest of the agents cleared out, Eggsy and George picking up on a conversation they must have had earlier as they walked out. Roxy had gotten up as well, but hesitated at the door. Now that Merlin was no longer acting Arthur, would that mean things between thing could change?

 

“Did you need something Lancelot,” he asked, not even looking up from his tablet. His tone of voice was distracted and cool.

 

So maybe not that.

 

“No, sir. Have a good night.” She took her leave, catching up with Eggsy.

 

“I’m going back out. Care to join me?”

Eggsy grinned, throwing his arm around her waist. “I’d love to.”

 

“How’d you even know where to find me,” she asked when they were back in the cab.

 

“Ah, Morgan told us.”

 

“Wait, us?” She stared at him, hoping that the next words out of his mouth would not contain the names of George and Merlin.

 

Her hopes were dashed. “I was coming in to pick up some new glasses, and Merlin was annoyed he couldn’t seem to get ahold of you. You weren’t answering your phone” she hadn’t even heard the ring, amidst the noise of the club “and George couldn’t see you at your Kingsman flat or your house. So Morgan gave a suggestion and I volunteered to come fetch you.”

 

“Great, just great.” She laid her head back against the seat. “Any chance that they didn’t know what kind of club it was?”

 

He smirked. “None. They seemed pretty surprised by the name, but wouldn’t tell me. Now I know why. You naughty girl,” he swatted at her, like a playful cat.

 

“I need to get very drunk. And possibly fucked.”


“I can at least help for the first, but you’re on your own for the second. Cuz, ew.”

 

“Ew, indeed,” Roxy agreed causing them to both laugh.

 

It turns out, Eggsy makes for an excellent wingman. Roxy does not wake up in her own flat, and at least the itch of tension that has been plaguing her for months has subsided somewhat.

 

She sneaks out before the couple wakes up; as fun as the threesome was, Roxy had been firmly committed to the idea of a one night stand. While she’d be up for something ongoing with Merlin, she’d prefer to be a fun memory in this instance.

 

She meets up with Eggsy for coffee and a quick bite before they are due back at HQ. The hickeys on his neck tell her she wasn’t the only one getting some last night and she delightfully pokes at them.

 

“You’re such a slut,” she tells him with great fondness. He just laughs and shrugs. “Well, when you can’t have what you want, I guess you just have what you can take.”

 

“It’ll get better,” Roxy assures him. He looks away, like he doesn’t believe her. The ride on the bullet train is quiet, for the most part. Roxy gives him space, waiting for him to talk.

 

He starts, softly. “I feel like part of myself is missing, without him around. Like I didn’t know how much he meant until he wasn’t in my life. I feel anxious all the time, Rox.”

“Have you talked to anyone about it, besides me?”

 

“Who could I talk to,” he scoffs. “It’s not exactly like this is a normal gig, yeah? I can’t even explain to my mum.”

 

“What about George?” He looks at her confused, but she presses on. “He’s lost lots of people he loves, including my dad. But he’s been able to move on as well. Just look at him and Simon.”

 

George was thinking of proposing, Roxy knew.

 

“I’ll think about it, yeah? Thanks.” He gives her a soft smile, which she happily returns.

 

“You ever hear back from that Andrew bloke?” Eggsy asked her.

 

Shortly after V Day, Roxy had sent off an email to her soulmate, inquiring if he was okay.

 

She hadn’t heard back, and she didn’t know how she felt about it. Right now, she preferred not to think about it at all.

 

“No. I haven’t,” she replied as they arrived at Kingsman. Eggsy looked at her in sympathy.

 

“That’s rough, Rox.”

 

“I’ll be fine, Eggs. Don’t you worry about me.”

 

“Can’t help it, love.” He leaned over and hugged her, kissing her cheek. “You need anything, you come see me.”

 

“I will,” she promised.

 

“Good girl, Rox.”

 

Merlin turned the corner and greeted them, breaking them up.

 

“Excellent, you’re both right on time. Bors, you’re with me. Lancelot, Morgan is waiting for you.” Once again, he didn’t even look up from his tablet and just brushed past her.

 

Maybe Roxy would feel the sting of Andrew’s loss more if she wasn’t too busy feeling the loss of Merlin, she thought to herself as she sadly walked over to Morgan’s office.

 

“What’s up, cupcake?!” is what she’s greeted with when she opens up the door and is engulfed in a Morgan speciality hug.  When Morgan pulls back, she takes one look at Roxy’s face and asks “Oh darling, what is the matter?”

And so Roxy spills. Everything that has been going on in her head for the last month, dealing with the loss of both Andrew and Merlin and the stress of holding everything together, working around the clock for Kingsman, and being there for Eggsy.

 

Morgan just holds her close as they sit on her sofa, listening to Roxy talk. When she’s finished, she just says “Oh honey, you’ve got yourself into a right mess. I’m very sorry.”

 

She hands Roxy a tissue and starts the electric kettle to make tea. “ Though, I have to admit this does explain a lot.”

 

“Hmm?” Roxy inquires.

 

“Well, there have been rumors about you and our new agent, Bors.”

 

Roxy pulls a disgusted face. “That would be like hooking up with my brother.”

 

“Well, I know that now so I’ll at least put the word in to call off the betting pool.” She hands Roxy a cup of tea, which Roxy takes with much gratitude.

 

“There’s a betting pool?” she squeaks out. Morgan just simply nods, as she makes her tea to her liking.

 

“Mmhmm, darling. And I’m sure Merlin’s heard about it. You have to admit, there’s a lot of evidence to support it. You two were basically attached at the hip during your recruitment, you helped his family move into their new house, and you spend a great deal of time together when you’re not on missions. Hasn’t he basically moved into your flat?”

“Well, yes. But that was because he needs his space a lot from his mother and Daisy, and sometimes he comes home with bruises he can’t explain to them.”

 

“Right. So there’s an explanation for everything, but I’m just telling you how it looks. And it looks like the two of you are very cozy.”

 

“Oh, bollocks. He’s not even my type!”

 

“Of course not. He’s your age,” Morgan teases her.

 

“Ugh, I don’t even know how to fix this.” Roxy unfolded herself on the couch, throwing an arm over her eyes.

 

“Well, I’ll start correcting people when they say anything. We’ll all be very sad, though. After the events of V day, I think everyone was enjoying the harmless gossip.”

 

“It’s not harmless when it affects my personal life,” Roxy points out.

 

“True. You should just tell Merlin, and ask him out. God knows that man needs a night out from all this.”

 

“Good point,  I might just do. What did  you need me in here for, anyway?”

Morgan smiles at her. “We’ve made contact with Tristan.”

 

Roxy bolts up, to a sitting position. “And?” she implores.

 

“The reason he didn’t get in touch was that he was in the hospital. Coma, it appears. The man sustained multiple injuries during V Day, but it sounds like he gave more than he got. Anyway, we’re pulling him from his undercover mission as it is no longer necessary at the moment, and bringing him in by the end of the week. You’ll be his extraction.”

 

“Excellent,” Roxy’s spirits are uplifted for the first time in the past month. “That really is great news, I’m so relieved. I was worried.”

 

“I know, that’s why I’m having you go fetch him.”

 

“Why is his mission no longer necessary?”

 

“Ah. Among other things, most of the individuals are dead. It’s more of a clean up mission now, and Tristan is in no shape to help out.” She looks at Roxy sadly. “The dead count includes Alessandra.”

 

Ah. Roxy looks down at her tea. It’s not that she had feelings for the other woman but still. It had been a good night, the time she spent with her. “Shame, that.”

 

Morgan agreed. “At least she took out nearly everyone else first. It’s not a bad way to die, if you have to go.”

 

“Don’t let Eggsy hear you say that,” Roxy warned. “He’s still in bad shape about Galahad.”

 

“Mum’s the word, you can trust me.”

 

Morgan gives her the relevant details and then shoos her out of the office to rest up and talk to Merlin. She’s so lost in her thoughts on the way to Merlin’s office that she doesn’t even realize she hasn’t knocked when she opens the door.

 

And sees Merlin, on a vidchat with Galahad.

 

Galahad, who is supposed to be dead, but there he is looking alive and healthy enough, though there is a bandage covering up one of his eyes.

 

“What the fuck,” she screeches, loudly.

 

Both Merlin and Harry are startled, and immediately look guilty.

 

“What is going on?” Roxy demands. “I thought he was dead, why isn’t he dead.”

 

Merlin tries to speak up but Roxy isn’t having any of it. She’s too busy freaking out on Eggsy’s behalf to listen to any excuses. And that’s what everything sounds like, coming out of Merlin’s mouth.

 

One excuse after the other, covering up a trail of lies. So many lies, this past month it seems like. Here it was, Harry had been alive and Eggsy was grieving and no one had thought fit to tell him.

 

“How could you keep this from Eggsy?” she demands.

 

Harry pipes up from screen. “It was my decision, Lancelot, and I would appreciate your silence on the matter as well for the time being.”

 

She immediately tells him to go fuck himself. It feels great, in a way. Roxy stares down both Merlin and Harry, and says “You’re going to have to fucking amnesia dart me if you want me to keep this from him.”

 

Harry looks surprised, Merlin does not. “I had no idea you and Eggsy were that close,” Harry says from the screen.

 

It’s more than she can handle at the moment. “You have no idea …” she starts off. She ignores Merlin and directs her next words to Harry instead, loud with anger and cold. “I cannot believe you. That boy has been grieving tremendously over the past month and you couldn’t be arsed to make contact? Who the fuck does that?”

 

If Harry has anything to say in his defense, he never gets the chance because Eggsy chooses that moment to walk in through the open door.

 

“Rox, what’s going on? What are you yelling for….”He trails off, staring at the screen.

“What the bloody fuck?!”

 

Merlin quickly gets up out of his chair and pulls Roxy away. “We’ll just give you two a moment, yes.” He pushes a protesting Roxy out of the door and closes it behind them.

 

Roxy turns on him immediately, her face full of righteous fury. “You have an incredible amount of explaining to do, Merlin.”

 

She puts as much scorn into his name as she possibly can. Merlin is supposed to help and protect the knights of the round table, not keep devastating secrets from them instead.  

 

“Listen, lass,” he starts but she interrupts him. “Don’t call me that. You don’t get that right, not right now.”

 

He looks sad and worn out, but her anger doesn’t allow for any sympathy.

 

Finally, he just says “I did what I thought was best, and to help a friend. That’s all I can say. I’m sorry.”

 

She nods, but sternly.

 

“I am going to wait here for Eggsy,” she tells him. “If I were you, I wouldn’t want to be around when he comes out of there.”

 

Merlin doesn’t say a word in response. He just nods and turns around and leaves.

 

Coward , Roxy’s mind whispers. I thought I could trust you.

Chapter Text

It had been a long flight back from Italy on Friday morning, primarily because Tristan was a whiny little bitch when he was weaning himself off painkillers, and then they had to taxi around in Kingsman air waiting for another plane to land first. It was possibly the longest three hours of Roxy’s entire life.

 

Though, he had been a bit helpful (that was one way of putting it) in helping Roxy understand where Merlin might have been coming from. She hated to admit it, but when the older man told her to ‘just fucking ask Merlin why he did it instead of moping like a mardy little teen who wasn’t invited to a party’ she figured it was probably a good idea to take him up on his advice.

 

She didn’t particularly like being angry at Merlin. There was something about it that was ill-fitting and uncomfortable. It didn’t mean she thought he was in the right, but maybe she could have let him explain himself. Maybe.

 

And really, by the end of the first hour with Tristan she’d pretty much agree to anything he said if it got him to shut up for a bit.

 

She practically threw herself off the plane when they landed, quick to get away from him. And then ran into Harry.

 

Oh, looks like Galahad is home. That must be who was on the plane.

 

He wasn’t alone, but rather accompanied by an woman who seemed slightly older than Roxy with bright red hair and wearing a suit. Not bespoke, though, Roxy thought. Gorgeous looks with a fantastic body, however. She hoped for Eggsy’s sake this woman wasn’t particularly close to Harry in anyway.

 

“Ah, Lancelot. It is good to meet you, at last.” Harry extended his hand out to her and she shook it. He looked better than he had on the computer screen, though it was odd to see him in a casual sweater and trousers rather than a suit. And an eye patch as well. Wait until Eggsy sees him.

 

“Welcome home, Galahad.” Roxy said with a small smile. “I’m happy to see you’re in good health and not, after all, dead.”

 

He gave her a sheepish look but was spared from replying by the presence of Tristan.

 

“Galahad, you daft wanker. Give us a hug.” Without waiting for a reply, Tristan threw his one good arm around Harry and pulled him in tight. “I hear you’ve been a bit of an arsehole this past month.”

 

“Only a bit?” Harry laughed, seeming completely comfortable with Tristan’s affections.

 

“Yeah, you’ve been slacking. Tsk, you and I will have words about that later, mind.”

 

“I’m certain we will. It’s good to see you, Michael.” Roxy couldn’t decipher the look that passed between the two of them, but before she could question them, the red-haired woman cleared her throat. Harry’s face immediately looked sheepish.

 

“Oh, please forgive my appalling manners. Tristan, Lancelot. Might I have the pleasure of introducing you to Agent Monroe, courtesy of the United States.”

 

Tristan and Roxy murmured their greetings and shook Monroe’s hand. “It is a delight to finally see the Kingsman HQ in person,” Monroe said. “Normally our only frame of reference is the view of Merlin’s office.”

 

Speak of the devil; Merlin chose that exact time to walk in, followed by Eggsy and George. Both dressed in impeccable suits, George had his arm slung around Eggsy’s shoulders holding the boy in close as they walked, his face open and friendly. They seemed to be in a deep discussion before they looked over and noticed Harry’s presence. Seeing Harry created a mark difference in George; his normally friendly countenance disappeared and his eyes went blank. It was only knowing George as long as she had that Roxy could tell he was angry with the other agent; she wondered if Harry picked up on it. She couldn’t tell.

 

Merlin, naturally, was focused on his tablet so he missed the look that passed between Harry and Eggsy, but Roxy didn’t. She saw how Eggsy’s eyes lit up when he looked at Harry, and the way Harry’s face softened at the sight of the younger agent, with a small smile forming. Eggsy looked over at George, who nodded after a moment and removed his arm.

 

“Agents, welcome home.” Merlin said looking up briefly. “Bors and Percival are about to depart for Germany; say your goodbyes if you must.”

 

Roxy gave both Eggsy and George quick hugs, with a promise to the latter to check in on Simon. She didn’t miss the way that Eggsy and Harry edged off to the side for a small chat, or how Eggsy reached his hand up to thumb over Harry’s patch. She definitely didn’t miss the look on Harry’s face as he did so, a mix between affection and confusion. Or the way that George kept his eye on them the entire time, as if waiting for Harry to say or do something that would upset Eggsy.

 

Eggsy hadn’t told her what was said between him and Harry during that video chat. Afterwards, he was too upset and they had gone out to get plastered; she had put a drunk Eggsy to bed at 2 a.m. and both of them had received a text from Merlin assuring them they would not be needed the next day. Perhaps it was him trying to make up for it. Since then, Eggsy had alternated between long hours at the gym, helping the gardeners in the conservatory, or visiting R&D where Simon had recruited him to test some equipment. Eggsy had said he wanted to be left alone for a bit, so Roxy had been giving him space. It didn’t mean they had stopped texting each other at all hours of the day, but it meant that she had held off on any serious topics.

 

Still, if Eggsy thought Roxy wouldn’t press after seeing that , he had another thing coming. Roxy took out her phone, made sure no one was watching, and sneakily took a photo of the two. She’d text it to him later, demanding details and an explanation.

 

Everyone said their goodbyes as Eggsy and George boarded the small jet that had been waiting for them. Merlin and Monroe seemed to be in a deep discussion about cybernetics that didn’t really appeal to Roxy, so she allowed Tristan to pull her over to look at some of the newly purchased Kingsman cars before he had to head into Medical. He had just finished professing his love to a 2015 Ferrari 458 Italia with an amused Roxy looking on, when voices carried over the silence and wait, had she really just heard Agent Monroe ask Merlin out to dinner?

 

Roxy pushed down her first impulse, which was a dangerous desire to pull out her gun and shoot Agent Monroe. Her second impulse was to get the fuck over there and explain in no uncertain terms that no, Merlin could not and would not be joining her to dinner anytime soon or ever, at all, so just don’t even think about it and just fuck off back to America, okay?

 

She was deliberately ignoring her third impulse, which was calling her to steal Merlin away and tie him up to her bed. She’d take that one out later and look at it. In detail.

 

Admittedly, the main reason Roxy hadn’t gone over there was because as soon as they heard it, Tristan had clamped his good hand down on Roxy’s shoulder. “Shooting her would not be good for interagency relations,” he whispered in her ear, his voice taking on a decidedly amused tone.

 

Roxy murmured back angrily, “I should just put a sign around his neck saying “Roxy’s, don’t touch.”

 

To his credit, Merlin had barely even blinked before telling Agent Monroe, “Ah. Thank you, ma’am. I am flattered but I am also very taken.”

 

“Yes, Agent Monroe,” Harry said, stepping up besides Merlin and throwing an arm around him to pull him in close. “Merlin and I have had a very loving relationship together these past twenty years.” He leaned in and kiss Merlin’s cheek, close to the mouth.

 

Monroe looked decidedly embarrassed. “I’m very sorry, I didn’t know. If you would excuse me,” she muttered before dashing off.

 

Merlin turned and looked up at Harry. “I wish I didn’t know you.”

 

Harry looked over at Roxy and threw her a wink before responding to Merlin with a “My dear wizard, I am the best thing in your life.”

 

Merlin just huffed and walked off, with an amused Harry following.

 

Roxy just stood there, dumbfounded. She looked up at Tristan, whose face had become blank.

 

“Wait. Are they…was that real?” she stammered out, her heart beating faster in her chest.

 

“What have I been saying, love? If you want to know an answer, you need to talk to Merlin.” He kissed her forehead and walked away.

 

Merlin wasn’t in his office, so Roxy just picked the lock and let herself in. She wasn’t due in Arthur’s office for a few more hours and only Eggsy was lighting up her phone with text messages, bemoaning having to leave as Harry just arrived back. It’s not like she had anywhere to go, she figured. She was too tired to go to the gym, and the silence of Merlin's office was very calming. She could wait.

 

It took about forty-five minutes, which mostly consisted of Eggsy deflecting her questions about Harry and her promising to him that she would check in on Michelle and Daisy and update him with Harry’s activities if she could, before the door handle turned and Merlin walked in.

 

“Roxy.” He just stared down at her, looking surprised.

 

All of Roxy’s nerve failed her. She just gave a half shrug and pointed to the goldfish on his desk. “I came to meet Rassi.”

 

At the mention of Harry’s nickname for Merlin’s goldfish, he rolled his eyes and walked over to her. “Her name is Carassius auratus. It’s the - “

 

“The scientific name for a goldfish, I know. Anyone ever tell you that you’re a bit of a dork?” He gave her a small smile.

 

“Morgan, all the time.” That got a small laugh out of her, and he looked pleased. He pulled out another chair from a desk and sat down in front of her. “Carassius for everyday, Carassius auratus for when Harry is being particularly annoying which is everytime he is in my office, though I prefer my own nickname for her.”

 

“Which is?,” Roxy prompted.

 

The look he gave her sent a tingle up her spine. “I’ve been calling her Roxy.”

 

She tilted her head, looking at him in confusion. “You named your goldfish after me?”

 

He shrugged, not bothered by his admission. “She’s bright color in this gray world,” he said as he gestured around his office. “Much like her namesake. It seemed fitting.”

 

There was no answer to that but to kiss him. She all but jumped in his lap, though he didn’t seem to mind. He was holding her tight, and returning her kisses with equal fervor until she pulled back, “Wait, so you and Harry aren’t in some kind of long term open relationship?” God, that would just kill Eggsy if it were true. And her. Possibly both their livers.

 

“Fuck no, absolutely not. Harry’s just a prat who can’t pass up any opportunity.” He kissed her on the lips again, before moving down to her jawline, pressing small kisses there.

 

She positively melted on the spot, loving the feel of Merlin’s arms around her after so many months of not having it. “And,” she started, taking a deep breath and feeling a wee bit shaky “you are, as you said, taken?” Taken by her , yes please and thank you.

 

He stopped what he was doing to look up at her, his face gone serious. He reached his hands up to gently cup her face. “Did you have any doubt?”

 

God, she felt like she was flying. She leaned down to catch his mouth with hers again, soft gentle kisses that soon turned hungry. Figures, she reasoned. It had been so long for both of them.

 

“You still owe me dinner,” she murmured between kisses, moving to fully straddle his lap.

 

“Mmm,” he hummed back in response, stroking small circles in the fabric on her lower back with one hand and gripping her hip with the other. “Whatever you want.”

 

“You and a bed. With locked doors. Phones off.” She nipped lightly at curve of his head, right above his shirt collar.

 

“Absolutely no interruptions this time,” he agreed.

 

“I’ll shoot anyone who tries,” she promised.

 

Merlin laughed, and leaned away. “Does this mean I’m forgiven?” His tone was light, but his eyes looked serious. Remembering Tristan’s advice, Roxy leaned forward and kissed his forehead, then nuzzled the side of his face with hers, before pulling back.

 

She looked at him fondly, saying “It means I’ll allow you to explain yourself, which is what I should have done in the first place. Forgive me?”

 

“Always.” He sounded relieved, his shoulders looking less tense at her words. “Though, it’s not really a conversation for while I have you in my arms, not like this.” He reached out and caressed her face.

 

“Hmm, but I don’t feel like moving,” she pouted at him. She reached a hand up to chest, teasing at his nipple. “Right here is good.”

 

He ran his hands up her thighs, holding her steady at the hips. “I like having you here,” he said fondly. “But I have a meeting with Simon in about ten minutes. Bad form to have you sitting on my lap during a meeting when I won’t let George visit him in R&D anymore.”

 

“Hmm. I suppose . But you’ll make it up to me?” She snuck in another kiss before getting up. He spun around in his chair to watch her leave.

 

“That I will. Dinner tonight? I’ll send a cab to pick you up at 8.”

 

“Sounds lovely. Make sure you get a head start on your work; you’ll be coming in late tomorrow.”

 

The heat in Merlin’s eyes thrilled her. “Is that so?” he huskily responded.

 

“It’s a promise.”

 

***

True to his word, a cab arrived at her flat before 8 p.m and took her to The Ledbury. Merlin was waiting at the door, dressed not in his usual uniform of wool sweater and dress slacks, but rather a bespoke suit that he must have had made at the shop. He looked delicious; Roxy had nearly forgotten how well he pulled off a suit. Roxy herself was wearing a red silk halter dress that had Merlin’s seal of approval if the look on his face was any indication. She had missed that look; long months of stony expressions during her recruitment faded away in an instant, seeing him gaze at her that way again.

 

It brought back memories of Venice, of dancing and gondolas, and Roxy’s body shivered in anticipation. It was going to be a good night.

 

God, she was so nervous . It was hard to understand why...or maybe it wasn’t? This was a good chunk of what Roxy had been wanting for the past year, and even though it was coming to ahead it also scared her. Merlin seemed the type to play for keeps; she couldn’t imagine the man would be less serious in his personal life than his professional one. For all that Roxy had been wanting , there was another part of her that kept questioning if this was really what she wanted.

 

She felt pretty certain, don’t get her wrong. But it felt more like diving into the deep ocean and hoping the current wouldn’t wash you away. Merlin was a force of nature, there was no denying that. Under all that steady, solid ...whatever it was that made up Merlin’s outer shell, Roxy felt a depth of intensity that she knew would never let her go.

 

Could she do this? Could she really commit, was she truly certain?

 

And then he smiled at her, open and soft like she’d never seen before, and all her doubts disappeared.

 

He was hers. It wasn’t that she belonged to him, but rather that he belonged to her.

 

Tonight, she would show him .

 

But first, she thought as she grabbed his hand and pulled him in for a kiss hello, there was a dinner that was long overdue.

 

Roxy was enjoying getting to know Merlin better, on common ground and away from the office. At first she had been worried; she had to admit they had not had many conversations that weren’t work related. While there was a definite physical attraction and this amazing pull she felt towards him (and it didn’t seem to be one-sided), she had been concerned that once they finally sat down to have dinner, the conversation would lull.

 

Much to her relief, it hadn’t happened. Of course, work was still a large part of the conversation but it didn’t dominate. She filled him in on her meeting with Archie, the new Arthur; Roxy would spend the next few months working on a long term mission in London, establishing a cover that would navigate the ranks of the remaining elite society that had survived V-Day. With her fortune and upbringing, as well as being a woman, Arthur believed that Roxy could gather intel on an unprecedented level. Merlin agreed as well; it was both gratifying and nerve wracking to have their confidence. She hoped that she would be able to live up to it.

 

“You’ll do splendidly,” he assured her. “Doubting yourself in the beginning is normal for an agent, but you’ll have the support of Kingsman staff at the ready. Think of this as a long time recon mission.”

 

“From what I understand, my main objective is to get myself known and wanted, but to appear aloof and unavailable.”

 

“Correct. That’s the way to get a man’s attention.” He smirked at her, taking a sip of his wine.

 

Roxy looked up, a confused look on her face. “Funny, I don’t think that’s how I got yours.”

 

To her delight, there was a faint blush on Merlin’s cheeks.

 

“Ah, well. I’ve always favored ladies who take the direct approach.”

Now that’s a challenge in more ways that one. From the heat in Merlin’s eyes, Roxy can tell he knows what’s on her mind. But she chooses not to go there, not now.

 

Instead, she chooses that moment to go for the kill.

 

“So, Merlin. Tell me. How did Harry survive and why did you keep it a secret?”

 

Merlin poured himself another glass of wine, looked pained, and then downed the whole thing. Roxy just raised her eyebrow in response.

 

“I’ll tell ya lass, but you probably won’t like it. Give me a second.”

 

“I’m waiting.” She just stared him down, until he broke.

 

“You remember that Harry went to Valentine’s house before his trip? Well, when he was there he planted a few audio bugs around. Not many, and we didn’t get much. But we did know that they were going to be tracking him.”

 

“Then why did he go back to the shop?” If Harry knew he was being tracked, why would he have led them back to Kingsman?

 

“All of Harry’s activities that day were fairly normal for a well to do gentleman of his age. Visiting a tailor’s shop would have seemed rather routine. I’m still not sure how Valentine made the connection.”

 

“Did you tell Arthur?”

 

“No need. It was still basic mission fact finding. We only tend to update Arthur with vital information or when the mission has changed. If Arthur had known...I dread to think of it.”

 

“I’m sorry.” It had hurt Roxy to find out Chester had betrayed Kingsman; she could only imagine how the older agents had felt.

 

“Thank you.” He gave her a small smile. “But there’s no point on dwelling. As for how Harry survived? Well, that was a huge stroke of luck. We had been testing out new bulletproof lenses. They had never been used in the field until then; Chester hadn’t signed off on it yet.”

 

“And he did then?”

“Ah. No. Harry took them without asking.”

 

Roxy laughed, throwing her head back. “That does sound like Galahad.” They shared a knowing smile.

 

“It’s not something I would like my newer agents to emulate, but yes. In this case, Harry’s bad behavior paid off.” He turned more serious then. “I want to be very clear, Roxy. I didn’t even know Harry was still alive until two weeks later. He had been in a hospital in Kentucky, suffering memory loss due to the head trauma.”

 

Roxy sobered up. “Is it serious?”

 

Merlin shook his head. “Initial test results seem positive. Doctors seem confident that the initial gap in his memory was due to shock and heavy medication. He remembered who he was quick enough, but he originally held out contacting Kingsman until he could be sure of who to trust. I hadn’t realized he was trying to contact me at first; I wasn’t looking for the signs.”

 

‘You were heavily overworked,” Roxy said in his defense. He smiled and took her hand, caressing it.

 

“Aye, I was. Things are better now. I can spend more time tending to what matters.”

 

Dear god, the man wasn’t fair. How dare he just come out and say shit like that? Guh, there went her insides.

 

She squeezed his hand back. “Why did you keep it a secret? You said you were helping a friend, but how did keeping it from Eggsy benefit Harry?”

 

Merlin shook his head. “I didn’t do it for Harry. I did it for Eggsy.”

 

“Come again?”

 

“The first time Harry and I talked, he didn’t seem to remember Eggsy. Everything was in bits and pieces; he remembered the Lancelot trials but couldn’t remember if he proposed a candidate. He remembered JB first.”

“Oh god, that would have crushed Eggsy.”

 

“Indeed, lass. By the time you found out, most of Harry’s memory had returned but I still had my doubts. He remembers who Eggsy is, but I don’t think he remembers how he feels about Eggsy.”

 

That made her pause. “How does Harry feel about Eggsy? Or,” she corrected “How did he feel?”

 

Merlin shrugged. “Harry’s never come outright and said it, but I have my suspicions. I’ve known him my whole life. There’s not much he can get passed me.”

 

“Except his server  password, apparently.”

 

Merlin looked distinctly grumpy at that. “Still have no idea how Eggsy knew it and I didn’t. And he won’t share!”

 

“So you and Harry go far back…” Now here was a question Roxy had been wondering for ages. “How did you end up at the shop?”

Merlin just gave her a cheeky smile. “Now that’s a story for another time. Preferably not in public.”

 

Roxy just gave him a look. “I’m holding you to that. But for now, okay. If you’re pretty sure that Harry was into Eggsy, and I’m pretty sure that Eggsy is completely gone for Harry …” she trailed off.

 

Merlin arched an eyebrow in her direction. “Do you want to play matchmaker?”

 

“No!” she nearly dropped her silverware. “I mean. No?”

 

Merlin just laughed, nearly falling out of his chair. “I think that’s really a yes.”

 

“Oh shut up.  I wouldn’t even know where to start.”

 

“Well. I’ll tell you this. “ He paused for a moment, as if he wondered if he should continue. “Right before the dog test, which I’m still sorry for by the way, you and Eggsy exchanged phone numbers, right?”

 

“You heard that?”

 

“Not much around here I don’t hear.”

 

For some reason, her mind took her back to the first day she had come back from Russia, when Morgan had given her that vibrator. Had he heard that? She was sure her face went red.

 

He gave her a curious look, but continued.

 

“Later that day, Harry called me to verify a phone number for him. It was your phone number.”

 

The mystery of the missed call. With all the excitement, Roxy had completely forgotten about it.

 

“No way.” That was too good to be true. A potential happy ending for her best friend? Could it be?

 

“Way,” Merlin said, mocking her. “At first I was puzzled, because you and Harry hadn’t met yet by that point. But then I remembered overhearing your conversation in the hall and it all clicked.” So there it was; the chance that Eggsy and Harry could be soulmates. Roxy internally sighed, happy. For a split second, there was a great temptation to ask Merlin about his soulmate. Did he know them? Had they met? Roxy was curious, as she was about everything else in the man's life. It was on the tip of her tongue to bring it up but in the end, she couldn't do it. She chickened out.

 

She didn't think she wanted to know. 

 

“So what do we do now?” She asked instead, bringing her focus back to her best friend's potential joy.

Merlin just shrugged. “Do we use this knowledge for good or evil? I think they should figure it out on their own, personally. Yet if we just leave them to it …”

 

Roxy nodded. “They’ll take forever. I don't know how much longer I can handle a lovesick Eggsy.” Then she has a brilliant idea. “I say we get Morgan involved.”

 

Merlin’s eyes light up. “That’s perfect. She’s dying for a new project.”

 

“Merlin, the love lives of your coworkers is not a project.” Roxy exaggeratedly rolled her eyes at him.

 

Merlin just shook his head. “It is the way Morgan does it.”

 

After four courses, several glasses of wine, and a truly decadent dessert, Roxy is properly relaxed. Merlin’s company has been divine; his attention was on her all night, asking her questions and really paying attention to what she had to say. She was hardpressed to remember the last time a guy had treated her with such care; it had not been Charlie’s strongpoint. She supposed it was William, the last man who had put in so much effort.

 

It felt good to be the center of Merlin’s focus, which only made her contemplate where else she could have his attention.

 

“Are you tired, love? Would you like me to take you home?” he asked, coming up behind her while they waited for the taxi.

 

She shook her head and leaned into him, turning around to kiss him. “Yours?” she questioned.

 

He responded with a soft kiss. “As you wish.”

 

By the time they got up to Merlin’s, Roxy’s nerves had come back in full force. She was having trouble sorting it out, why she was feeling this way. She found herself babbling, commenting on different things in Merlin’s house while he took her coat and opened up another bottle of wine.

 

She liked the way his house felt, liked the way she felt it in. It reminded her of his sweaters, cozy and warm.

 

But still, she couldn’t seem to put herself at ease.

 

There would be no going back, not after tonight. And she didn’t want to go back; she wanted everything Merlin had to offer.

 

Maybe that was it, after all? For the first time Roxy wanted something serious, and she didn’t know what to make of it. Would it change them? Would it change her?

 

She was in the midst of talking a mile minute about Tristan accompanying her when she went to visit Michelle and Daisy, and how taken Michelle and Tristan were with each other, when Merlin interrupted her with a kiss.

 

“Are you okay?,” he asked, looking concerned. “This isn’t like you.”

 

“Oh, Merlin,” she signed. How could she explain? “It’s just ... so much .”

 

Merlin sat them both down on the sofa, settling her on his lap and holding her close. Her cupped her cheek and held her steady. Roxy found herself taking deep, calming breaths, just reveling in being close to him.

 

“We don’t have to,” he said seriously. “I never want you to do anything you’d be uncomfortable with, not here.”

 

She huffed out a laugh. “So dropping me from a plane not knowing I had a parachute is one thing, but you draw the line here?,” she joked.

 

Her attempt at humor didn’t change his expression though. “In my house? The line is always at what makes you uncomfortable.”

 

Roxy put a hand on the back of his neck, smoothing at the skin. She leaned in, kissing his forehead and noting the way his eyes closed and he breathed in her perfume. “It’s not the sex,” she assured him.

 

“Then what?” he asked, kissing her jaw.

 

“I’m not sure how to explain,” she started. “My last attempt at a long term relationship was with Charlie, and we both know how that ended.” Her mouth twisted in a wry expression as she thought back to that. Shooting your boyfriend, even in self defense, was a pretty intense way to end a relationship. “I’ve dated mostly women, and it’s not that I don’t want you, or that I don’t want everything with you, because I do I really do…” she faltered and didn’t know how to continue.

 

He just nodded. “It’s scary to want someone so much, isn’t it? To see how it changes you, how it changes your life.”

 

She nodded, shakily. Was that something in her eye? Oh god, was she going to cry in front of Merlin? “I trust you, but I’m still scared. I’ve spent so much time proving myself to be independent and capable and I - “ she cut off, because really, is there any way to finish that without worrying she was going to inadvertently insult him? She wiped at her eyes, squinting hard, hoping to keep the tears at bay.

 

Luckily, Merlin seemed to figure it out on his own. “When you give yourself to someone, to a relationship with another person, there’s always this niggling fear that in doing so you might lose a part of yourself. That they might not value your independence or strength, and seek to mold you to their liking. Is that right?” He pressed soft kisses to her shoulders, his hands running up and down her arms.

 

“Yes.” Roxy had trouble looking him in the eye. She rushed to reassure him, “It’s not that I think this of you specifically, it’s just been so long since I let someone in like this.”

 

“Darling,” he said, softly and bringing her face so that she could see his expression. “I don’t need you to make me feel better. I don’t need you to shed a part of yourself so that I can feel better about being with you. I don’t want you in spite of your strength, I want you because of it. You're not here to to raise me up, I'm here to rise up beside you.”

 

“Really?” she asked, giving up and letting a tear fall out.

 

He reached out and brushed it away. “Always,” he said, as she leaned down to crush her lips to his.


Chapter Text

The morning sun beamed down on Roxy’s face, waking her up. She gave a small whimper of protest, and rolled over to hide.

 

Except she couldn’t, not really. There was a strong arm around her, holding her tight and the press of morning wood against her back. Her eyes flew open in surprise, before she remembered where she was and what happened the night before.

 

A large, smug smile took over her face. From the sound of his breathing, Merlin was still asleep. Roxy wiggled around, trying to snuggle in closer to him and also avoid the pesky sun. Chest to chest, she buried her face in his neck as Merlin unconsciously increased the tightness on his grip, pulling her in closer.

 

Hmm, that was more like it. Now, she thought, let’s start on round 2. She snaked her free arm down to caress his upper thigh and started to press soft, nibbling kisses at the curve of his neck.

 

It didn’t take long for Merlin to wake up, or to realize what was going. He looked down at her with a sleepy smile; as he came to full consciousness, he gave a small body stretch and a low growl that clued her in.

 

“Good morning,” she said looking at him with an impish smile.

 

“Hmm, yes. Very good morning.” He laughed softly, his hands started to move up and down her back in a slow, barely there caress. He very subtly arched his back, causing his hard cock to press further into her belly. As if saying “Oh hello, are you interested?” That was one thing Roxy adored about Merlin; he waited for her to decide what she wanted first. Then he gave it to her, wholeheartedly.

 

And boy, did she want. She communicated her interest by wrapping one of her legs up and around him, arching her back and pressing her body into his. He let out a small gasp of pleasure as she moved her body against his, thus trapping his erection.

 

Last night had been amazing; she wanted a repeat of that this morning. It was still early yet, and she doubted anyone would be too upset if they were late to work. Even if it was by several hours.

 

God, she hoped it would be by several hours.

 

Merlin had moved one of his hands up her back, and started kissing at her jawline with slight scraping of his teeth in between kisses. It made Roxy’s toes curl, and she arched her body closer to give him more access. This got her a small hum of approval, as Merlin moved his hand to just under her right breast, teasing at the flesh.

 

One thing Roxy had learned last night was that Merlin was a touch slut. He was happy to spend long periods of time just smoothing his hands over Roxy’s skin, enjoying the sensation and in no rush to move things along. He would take his torturous time, if she let him. Which, she did. It was very different from any of her past lovers. Not that Roxy had any complaints, but there was something very soothing and reassuring in how Merlin touched her. It felt different, more loving. A softer side that Roxy hadn’t found very often and was truly appreciating it now.

 

He liked it when she touched him as well; for someone who had such a stern, stoic facade, he was incredibly responsive to her touch. Wherever her fingertips dare to roam, she was greeted with soft moans and hitches of breath. Even though she could feel his hardness insistent and needy against her body, he made no attempt to move things along faster for himself. Instead, he shifted his body so that his face was pressed into her chest, and he moved his hand lower to cup her butt, caressing and squeezing at the firm muscle.

 

He placed small, sweet kisses in between her breasts and Roxy’s heart melted.

 

“Merlin,” she whispered, as she wrapped her arms around him. He looked up at her, questioning.

 

“More,” Roxy commanded.

 

He gave her a bright smile, and the morning sun illuminated his face. Head resting on her body, he looked so happy. He turned his head to nuzzle at her skin, placing more small kisses and short nibbles upon it. Soon, his tongue and teeth found her nipples and he made her tremble with the attention. Meanwhile, his hand had moved to cup her hip, giving it a firm squeeze, and then moved to down to find her clit.

 

Roxy let out a sharp gasp, which Merlin took as a good sign. Still, he asked “Is this what you meant?”

 

“Yes,” she growled out. “Now be a good boy and don’t stop.”

 

“Yes ma’am,” Merlin gave a sharp, naughty grin and got to work.

 

He took his sweet, glorious time and Roxy allowed it. She knew that if she gave out a command to go faster, he would obey. For the moment, however, she was enjoying his ministrations and luxuriated in the feel of both his hands and mouth bringing her pleasure.  She was being spoiled, she knew, and worshipped.

 

Not a bad way to start a morning, not at all.

 

After teasing her breasts and leaving a good deal of bite marks, he moved his body down so that his mouth could join his hands between her creamy thighs. Short, flicking licks at her clitoris, alternating between soft and hard and moving back and forth and in circles. He moved his fingers inside of her, starting with one until she was wet enough for more. Soon enough, he had three fingers inside of her, as her body responded to him. He made short curling motions with his finger tips, finding her g-spot and making her nearly arch off the bed in pleasure.

 

“Like that?” he asked, and she could hear the smugness in his voice.

 

“Oh god,” Roxy cried out. “I should have known you’d be good at this.”

 

She heard a dark chuckle and felt him vibrate against her. In between licks he said, “It helps when I have good inspiration.”

 

“Stop being so smooth, how the fuck can you be so smooth?” If she angled her head, she could see his cock. It was red and dripping with precum; she had no idea how he could stand it.

 

And then she couldn’t even concentrate on that thought further, because his fingers twisted and his tongue hit the most perfect spot and she was climaxing. And still, Merlin did not stop. He kept going and only got more aggressive, bringing her off several times until she had to beg him to stop.

 

“What do you want, darling?” he crooned out, moving up to kiss her. She responded hungrily, morning breath be damned. “Tell me, and it’s yours.”

 

Roxy groaned, pushing his body away so that she could get up on her hands and knees. She took his cock into her hand, moving her hand up and down over the length of him and causing him to groan loudly. Steadying herself on knees and toes, she moved her other hand to pinch at his nipple as she bit into his skin, returning the favor.

 

“I want a hard good morning fucking, and you’re going to give to me. Do you understand?” She asked, giving him her best ‘don’t fuck with me’ stare. She squeezed his cock hard, conveying her intent. She wanted to see how he would handle it, her being this aggressive. “Yes ma’am,” he said, without hesitation. Absolutely perfect .

 

“Good. If you do well, maybe I’ll give you a reward and let you cum. Would you like that?”

 

“Yes ma’am, very much.”

 

She let go of him and turned around and bent over, so that the top half of her body was pressing into the bed and her rear was presented to him. She felt him take her arse in hand and squeeze, kneading it. “What do you want, baby?” she purred. She arched her back and pushed her body out, giving him a good view. She couldn’t see his reaction, but judging from the way his hands clenched harder at her, it was a good move.

 

“Can I…” he started, and he sounded unsure for the first time in Roxy’s recollection. She decided to put him out of his misery.

 

“Yes, fuck. Your hands feel so good. Come on, give it to me.”

 

And still, his hands did not move. Roxy was dying, waiting for the first stroke. What was he doing, trying to make her beg? Well, let it never be said she couldn’t be a team player.

 

“Merlin,” she cried out, putting an emphasis the first syllable and rolling the ‘r’. She stretched her body and arched her neck and head, putting herself in cat pose. Glancing over her shoulder, she caught his eye and pouted. “Please, baby,” she said, whimpering. “I need it so badly.” She flexed her arse muscles, and heard him groan. “Need you ,” she moaned out.

 

“Fuck,” she heard him exhale. And then he let go, and the first stroke fell. It felt delicious, he really knew what he was doing. “Fuck yes,” Roxy exclaimed, wanting him to know exactly how much she was enjoying it. She let herself go, completely getting into it. If she came across as a wanton sex kitten, it didn’t matter as long as he knew she was Merlin’s wanton sex kitten. Fuck, he had really good hands.

 

Soon enough, her cries turned into begging, telling him how desperate she was for him to fuck her. His strokes faltered, and if she wasn’t so far gone she’d be able to tell just how wrecked he was from his breathing alone. She heard the tear of the condom wrapper, and felt his fingers inside her again, scissoring and opening her up. It would be tighter in this position, but that’s just how she wanted it. She wanted to feel everything .

 

“Fuck,” she cried out. “That’s it, baby. Take me. I need your cock, it feels so good inside of me.”

 

“You’re fucking dangerous,” he growled. If he could see her face, he’d see the huge smug grin she had, loving how much she was affecting him.

 

“Less talking, more fucking,” she commanded. Her voice broke into a deep, guttural moan on the last word, as Merlin started entering her from behind. Dear god in heaven, the man was blessed.

 

Now Roxy was too. Fuck, he had a beautiful cock. Not just long, but a good girth as well. He completely outshone all her past lovers, not that she’d tell him that. Well, maybe someday. On a Christmas or a birthday. Or when she needed him to do something for her, like fuck her on the Kingsman dining room table. Anyway, not the point.

 

He kept up an unforgiving pace, listening to Roxy’s moans for ‘more’ and ‘harder’ and putting them immediately into practice. She loved a man who could take direction, and Merlin was brilliant at it. His strong arms held her hips steady while he rammed into her, and the amount of control he had turned her on even more. She pressed her upper body further into the bed, and adjusted her back and arse so that he could go deeper. His Scottish brogue had gone so wild, she couldn’t understand the things that came out of his mouth but the tone of it completely undid her. She herself was babbling all sorts of inane things that in the light of day would make her blush to recall.


“Yes, baby, fuck your good girl, I’m your good girl, fuck my pussy, that’s it baby, show me how good you are for me.” Just a stream of nonsense pouring out of mouth; she couldn’t stop it and everything just felt so good and then she was climaxing again, and fuck it was the most beautiful feeling.

 

“Come for me,” she cried out. “I want you to come, fuck me .” One more growl from Merlin and a few more thrusts and he was breaking open behind her, his grunts and moans turned into heavy, heaving gasps and she felt the stutter in his movements. “That’s it darling,” she crooned, feeling him twitch inside of her. “So good, Merlin. So good.”

 

Soon after, they were curled up again beside each other enjoying the afterglow. Merlin pressing more soft kisses to her shoulder, as he wrapped his arms around her and spooning her from behind. Roxy hummed with contentment, taking his hand and entangling it with her own.

 

“This is the best way to start the day,” she whispered.

 

“Hmm,” he agreed. “Or maybe spend the whole day?” He asked.

 

“Think we could pull that off?” she asked, sleepily.

 

“I think they can manage without us, just for today.” He moved his head to nuzzle at her jaw, tickling her slightly and causing her to giggle. “Sleep now,” he said, “and then a bath later, and maybe even pizza.”

 

“Ooo,” Roxy laughed. “Careful now, you’ll spoil me.”

 

“That,” Merlin said firmly, “was the entire point.”

 

Two more rounds later, in between napping and pizza, and Roxy was feeling sore and deliciously content. Merlin had run a bath for her before heading back to bed, and she had been soaking in his glorious tub for the past hour. She would have prefered him to be in the bath with her, but the poor thing was just plum worn out. By the time she finished, he was dead to the world and she didn’t have the heart to wake him.

 

And if she took a photo f him sleeping and sent it to Eggsy, well. Merlin would never know. After Eggsy’s initial reaction of “!!!!!!” and “Well done, Rox!” he had promised to delete it in exchange for Roxy giving him all the details when he got home.

 

With Merlin asleep, Roxy took her time exploring his house.  For one person, five rooms was probably ridiculous, yet Merlin seemed to have a use for every room. There was his room, which housed a personal library, a large desk with several computers, a spacious king size bed and a tv on the opposite wall. He had converted one of the bedrooms into a much larger library/office, and his guest bedroom seemed rarely used.

 

Merlin’s dining room was really a glorious sunroom that Roxy would have to take advantage of on another day; as it was, she could sit in it now and enjoy the night sky but it felt much colder than the rest of the house. She had borrowed one of Merlin’s sweaters, but all his pajama pants were far too large for her. In the future, she’d had to plan ahead and pack an overnight bag. Was she getting ahead of herself? She hoped not.

 

His kitchen seemed well-equipped; it made her wonder of all the delicious things that Merlin might be able to cook. He had cooked for her in Venice, but they were simple dishes as the kitchen did not have much to go on. Here, the counters were full of appliances that she couldn’t even recognize.

 

Knowing Merlin, he probably had safes and hidden rooms she wouldn’t be able to find without more investigation; that really wasn’t the point of her exploration. She started the kettle going on the stove. She liked that he had both an electric kettle on the counter and the old fashioned kind sitting on the stove. Something about that just made her smile.

 

While waiting for the water to boil, she went back to the library to find a book to read until Merlin woke up again. Volumes on history, world cultures, philosophy, and an extensive fiction collection. No technical manuals or guides, nothing that spoke to her of Kingsman or what career Merlin could have. She opened a few to look through them, and noticed that every single volume had the name “G.F.A.Agnew” written on the inside panel. Huh, she thought. She remembered that the copy of Lord of the Rings Merlin had sent her contained those initials as well.

 

This was her first clue as to what his name could be. Interesting. She never even thought he could have several. It didn’t really surprise her, however. Roxy herself was really ‘Roxanne Elizabeth Louisa Isabelle Charlotte Morton,’ which she privately thought was a ridiculous collection of names.  She knew some of her names were to appease older relatives, long since having passed, but she had no idea where Charlotte came from. No one on either side of her family had ever had that name.

 

Roxy resolved to try and ask Harry what Merlin’s name could be. If he really knew Merlin as long as Merlin implied, he would know. And, Roxy thought, there had to be something she could barter with that Harry would want. Information on Eggsy, perhaps? As his best friend and frequent drinking companion, Roxy knew a great deal about the boy, including his favorite sex positions and some of his dirtiest fantasies. The boy had a daddy kink. Surely that knowledge had to be worth something, if Merlin was right and Harry did have feelings for Eggsy.

 

Roxy grabbed a copy of Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass, surprised to have even seen it on the shelves. Merlin didn’t exactly strike her as the poetry type, though perhaps he was full of hidden surprises. She got a fire started in the living room fireplace, and curled up on the sofa with the book and large mug of tea. Occasionally she found herself texting Morgan or Simon, but overall she was left on her own, reading in peaceful contentment.

 

Eventually she heard feet padding down the stairs, and Merlin appeared in the doorway, clothed in only a bathrobe and pajama bottoms. He joined her on the couch, and gave her a lingering kiss.

 

“Sleep well?” she asked.

 

“Very. You wore me out,” he teased.

 

Roxy laughed and snuggled into his side. “I don’t recall you complaining.”

 

Merlin swung his arm around her, and kissed the top of her head. “No, it was a very pleasurable way to go, I must admit. What are you reading?”

She showed him and he smiled. “That is one of my favorites.”

 

“Really? It doesn’t seem like you.”

 

“Ah, you’ll get to know me better.” He looked her up and down. “What are you wearing?”

 

“I forgot an overnight bag; I didn’t have anything to wear after the bath so I grabbed one of our sweaters.”

 

He frowned, looking concerned. “I’ll have to clear some room out for you to keep things here. You’ll catch cold in just that.”

 

Roxy was torn between amusement at the grandma-like phrase of “You’ll catch cold” and the proof that Merlin had not only assumed there would be several more nights like this but also, he had no trouble making space for her right away. In the end, she just thanked him. “I’ll contact the shop to have some items sent over for you,” he said. “They’ll leave the packages at the front door by morning, and that way you won’t have to stop back home before work tomorrow.”

 

Roxy was delighted. “So I can stay another night?”

 

“Darling,” he murmured as he cupped her chin, running his thumb over her bottom lip. “You can stay anytime you want.”

 

“You might get sick of me,” Roxy pointed out. Merlin just laughed. “I highly doubt that. Now, do you want to watch a movie, or shall I fetch my own book and join you in reading?”

 

“Hmm,” Roxy hummed as she gave a great big stretch. “Movie sounds nice.” Merlin agreed and told her to pick whatever she wanted, and handed her the remote. She flipped through his Netflix before settling on The Decoy Bride. Merlin made a noise of surprise. “I haven’t seen this one yet,” he said.

 

“Oh, it’s lovely. Lots of pretty Scottish accents,” she teased.

 

“I should have known,” he said, rubbing her shoulders. “You’re just interested in my accent.”

 

“It’s very nice. Other parts of you are nice as well,” she winked at him.

 

“Cheeky,” he grumbled at her, but she wasn’t fooled. His hands had sunk into her shoulders and neck, and he was giving her a heavenly massage. All in all, Roxy couldn’t think of a better way to spend the night.  

 

She had meant to ask him about the name in the books, but between the movie and the massage ...and then what followed after the massage, it completely slipped her mind.

 

In the morning, Roxy was surprised that Merlin didn’t insist they take separate cabs to the shop, or take the train separately. She figured it would be pretty obvious what had happened between them and told him so.

 

“Aye, lass. But I’ll not be hiding you like a secret and I’m not ashamed of what we have done. Are you?”

She quickly shook her head no. “Never,” she assured him. “I just didn’t think you’d want to deal with the gossip.” He nodded.

 

“People will always gossip,” he said. “We’re such a small organization, everyone eventually knows everybody else’s business. Can’t be helped.” He reached over and held her hand tight. “Don’t worry about it, and just do your job. If anything, people will be happy for us.”

 

“And you’re happy?” She asked. It’s not that she doubted it, considering his behavior over the last twenty-four hours. Still, it didn’t hurt check.

 

“Very much so.” He lifted her hand to his mouth and kissed her knuckles.  “And you?”

 

Roxy blushed and looked away. In a soft voice she told him, “I can’t think of time when I’ve been happier.”

 

“Then that’s all that matters.”

 

***

 

After meetings all morning, mostly with Morgan going over her prospective cover story and talking about everything that had happened with Merlin, Roxy finally found time in the afternoon to head over to Harry’s. She had promised Eggsy she’d look in on him, and she meant it. Armed with what Merlin swore were Harry’s favorite chocolate biscuits and boxes from the shop, she knocked on his door.

 

“Lancelot,” he said with surprise, as he opened the door.

 

“Good afternoon, Harry. I’m under orders,” she told him “from both Merlin and Eggsy. They think you’ll waste yourself away if you’re left on your own.”

 

Harry rolled his eyes and beckoned him inside. “Between the two of them, I never get a moment’s peace. Merlin is checking in several times a day and Eggsy has demanded to talk via the vidchat every night until he comes home.”

 

Roxy scoffed, not believing his irritance for a second. “You love it,” she claimed.

 

Looking up from where he was getting the tea service ready, Harry gave her a small smile. “I suppose there are worse things to deal with.”

 

“Of course,” Roxy agreed. “After all, we do what can for our family.” As if by saying that she could remind Harry of how vital he was to everyone at Kingsman, not just as an agent but as a person who was cared for and loved. His disappearance had affected everyone, not just Eggsy. By the smile he gave her, as he handed her a cup of tea, she hoped he got the message.

 

“Family is important,” he agreed. “I realize now, Roxy, that you and I haven’t spent any time together as of yet. That seems to be somewhat of a shame.” She agreed heartily, and took one of the biscuits he set on a plate. They were divine; no wonder that they were Harry’s favorites.

 

“Do you have time this afternoon to stay and chat? Perhaps we can swap stories.” Harry’s good eye had a bit of a twinkle; it was easy to cotton onto his meaning.

 

“Stories on Eggsy for stories on Merlin?” she suggested.

 

“Deal.”














Chapter Text

*Three months later*

 

“I have the files and am heading to the extraction point.” Roxy was hurrying out of the building, but not so fast that she would appear inconspicuous. Through the rush of people trying to get out of the office after a long day, she blended in perfectly.

 

“Excellent work, Lancelot.” Merlin’s voice in her ear, praising her, never got old. “You’ll be picked up in ten minutes. Try not to blow anything up this time.” Swear to god, you “accidentally” drop an explosive as you leave a terrorist hide-out and you never live it down.

 

“I’ll do my best, just for you.” She joked into the comm, feeling a spring in her step. Life had been good lately; her long term mission in London playing up her ditzy socialite cover had been going well enough to allow her to take simple side missions in between invitations. It meant that weekend-Roxy was expected to party and look pretty while she flirted with all the men and women, but during the week she could strap on her gun and suit and go wherever Kingsman needed her to.

 

Knowing that she always had Merlin to come home to, no matter where the job had taken her? That was the icing on top of a very delicious chocolate cake. It was pretty nifty, in all.

 

“Are we still on for tonight?” she asked, as she walked down the street to where Eggsy was waiting for her. They didn’t often team up together on simple missions, but it just so happened that he was already in Paris, so why not kill two birds with one stone? Or an entire bush of birds, considering that last night was a multi-assassination job. It just made sense that they would hitch a ride out together after both their missions were completed, and save Kingsman the trouble of arranging separate trips. Plus, she hadn’t seen him in nearly a month.

 

“Hmm, yes.” Merlin spoke softly into his mic, even though she knew he was working from home and didn’t have to worry about anyone overhearing. “I have the chicken ready to go into the oven, and after this I’ll get started on dessert. Plus, Eowyn’s anxious for her mama.”

 

“Aw, give her a scratch for me and tell her I’ll be home soon.” She got a view of Eggsy and knew it was time to cut the call short. “I’m nearly there, I’ll see you tonight.” Her voice took on a more teasing tone, and dropped in volume. “I’ll be wearing the purple lace.”

 

“Now that is something to look forward to,” Merlin said. “Stay safe, love.”

 

With that he disconnected the call, leaving Roxy feeling slightly flummoxed. She got in Eggsy’s car, and after a few minutes of chit-chat, allowed her mind to wander while they made their way to the safehouse.



It wasn’t the first time he had called her ‘love’, but definitely the first time while they were both on the job and with the line being recorded. It threw her a little, she wouldn’t deny it. In private, Merlin was free with the terms of endearment, peppering everyday conversations with them. When they first started dating, however, he established a clear line between “Merlin, who Roxy is having all sorts of nasty, kinky, fantastic sex with” and “Merlin, the Kingsman quartermaster who monitors Lancelot’s missions on a regular basis, and looks out for her well-being.”

 

It wasn’t often that he crossed the streams, so to speak. She didn’t mind, not really; it was just surprising.

 

Then again, Merlin had been full of surprises these past few months.

 

Most of the time, everything was strictly professional at work. Not going to lie, Roxy actually appreciated that aspect of their relationship. She liked knowing that when she got into the office, she could put her personal life away and focus on her job. Otherwise it could be too distracting, and in their field of work, that could have damning consequences. (If she or Merlin occasionally broke that distinction during the random lunch hour that they were both available and in the same location, that was only because everyone knew lunchtime didn’t count, okay?)

 

There were some days where she could tell Merlin had paid a visit to the conservatory because she’d come back to her office after the gym to find a flower stem at her desk, but that was pretty much the only way their relationship had bled into their professional domain. Roxy sometimes stuck a note under his door (sometimes the message was sappy, sometimes dirty if she was in the mood) but talking on the comms never got very personal. Today’s conversation had been a deviation from the norm, and even though Roxy had started it, it still made her stomach flip.

 

In a good way, mostly, but still. That was something to think about. Were they entering a new phase of whatever this was? Bah. Roxy didn’t like analyzing things too closely, especially not when they were going so well.

 

She’d do it another day, over drinks with Eggsy. They could both get tipsy and talk about their love lives. He and Harry were inching ever so closer in one another’s direction and it had been absolutely adorable to watch. Galahad was still on medical leave from field missions, and Arthur had used that as an excuse to put him in charge of training the Lamorak recruits. Roxy had sponsored Mara, to Archie’s delight. (It wasn’t that Archie hadn’t thought of it, but rather that Roxy got there first). Eggsy had put forth a former Marine buddy, and had used that as excuse to see Harry whenever he was free from missions. He was just very concerned about the end result, that was all. Really, Rox, stop looking at me like that.

 

Morgan had assured Roxy that things were coming along fine between the two male agents. Once it became apparent she and Eggsy worked really well together, she had become his de facto handler, and Eggsy had come to view her as an older sister. If he wasn’t in Roxy’s office or bothering Harry, he could be found taking catnaps on Morgan’s sofa. His own office was rarely used, and if he wasn’t tailing after his master, JB spent most of his time at Harry’s side. Eggsy had complained the pup got to spend more time with Harry than he did. Roxy had teased Eggsy a bit for being jealous of the dog, but couldn’t really fault him. In the past two months, Eggsy had spent less than two weeks total at HQ. Everyone got to spend more time with Harry than he did, at this rate.

 

The nightly chats had continued, though. If Eggsy was away on a mission and they could both fit it in their schedules, they would either talk by phone call or webcam. It was nearly every night, Eggsy had confided in Roxy that much, at least. She had overheard part of the vidchat from the night before, and teased Eggsy about it afterwards. While their conversation had seemed platonic and completely within the realm of two friendly colleagues catching up, there was no mistaking the affection in either of their voices. Eggsy had blushed and tried to deny that Harry could be interested in him the way, but Roxy was positive from her own observations that Harry was only biding his time.

 

Roxy gave it a month, tops. Maybe less if Eggsy got to stay home more often. Any longer than that, and she might just grab the nearest pen and write “Eggsy + Harry 4EVA” on whoever was closest to her at the time, and just see what happened next. Even Tristan and Michelle had gotten with the program and started dating. Eggsy pretended to kick up a fuss in the beginning, but once it became apparent that Tristan treated Michelle like a queen and absolutely doted on Daisy (who adored him back), he became pretty supportive of it. It also freed him a bit from the worry of being away so often, knowing that he had people to look after his family. Between him, Tristan, Roxy, and Harry, Michelle and Daisy were well taken care of.

 

Roxy had even promised to take Daisy to the zoo in the coming week. Maybe if they both pouted at him, they could convince Merlin to leave his office and come and join them for a bit. Roxy would readily admit that one of the best things about the past three months was learning all the different ways she could get Merlin to do exactly what she wanted. Her version involved a lot less pouting and a lot more getting handsy, though. Not that she’d ever complain about that.

 

It was nearly 7 o’clock by the time she got to Merlin’s front door.  She had showered and changed at HQ, having ditched the suit for jeans and a black sweater. She entered in the code for the electronic lock, and quietly walked in, removing her shoes and coat. There was noise coming from the kitchen, and Eowyn bounded up to greet her. A few pets, ear scritches, and snuggles to calm her down and then Roxy was heading in Merlin’s direction.

 

He was wiping down the kitchen counter, dressed in khaki trousers and a soft gray henley with the sleeves pushed up. Mm, delicious . She tiptoed behind him and snuck her arms around him, hugging him from behind. He was warm and cozy, the perfect thing to come home to after a hard day’s work.

 

“Hello there,” she said as she pressed kisses to his back. Merlin turned and twisted in her arms, dropping the rag he had been holding, and wrapped his arms around hers. He leaned down for a soft kiss, “Welcome home,” he said.

 

Roxy reached up on her tiptoes to press kisses at his jaw. God, he was so tall. She loved it, but sometimes it made things difficult. As if noticing her frustration, Merlin moved his arms around her lower body and picked her up, placing her on the counter. “Better now?” he asked, smirking.  She immediately wrapped her legs around him, pulling him in close and kissing his neck. “Much better,” she hummed into his skin. “Dinner almost ready?”

 

“Aye, it’s keeping warm in the oven. But first,” he teased, sliding a hand under her sweater, “I believe you have something for me.”

 

She couldn’t respond; she was too busy delighting in his touch and the kisses he placed on her mouth. This , she thought, was perfection . God, I fucking love him .

 

She hadn’t told him yet, but it was on the tip of her tongue every time she was around him. She wasn’t sure what she was waiting for; she wasn’t ready to say it yet. Everything was still so new, so different from every relationship she had had before. So much more, though she could barely believe it. But she felt it, in every inch of her body and soul. She fucking loved this man.

 

The night saw her riding high up all the way to cloud nine; post mission sex was turning out to be one of her favorites. In the morning, she headed back to her flat with Eowyn in tow. Time between missions varied, but Roxy had the next twenty-four hours completely to herself. She had plans to catch up on some reading, take Eowyn to the dog park, and go out that night with Eggsy. Though she had been spending most of her downtime at Merlin’s, it felt good to come back to a place that was strictly hers once in awhile. Well, her and Eggsy’s. She appreciated that Merlin never seemed to begrudge her time away from him; Charlie had often been sulky when Roxy had been too busy to see him, or wanted to catch up with friends first. Merlin actively encouraged Roxy to have a life outside of him and it was a breath of fresh air.

 

“I won’t have you ignoring your friends to spend time with an old man,” he had chided her when, one time, she had turned Eggsy down to stay at Merlin’s.

 

“Old man?,” she had teased, as she crawled into his lap and unzipped his trousers. “I’d like to see an old man do this ,” before putting her words into action. Still, all teasing aside, Roxy had taken his words to heart. She did her best to balance her time between Merlin’s place and her own, had brunch with George every Sunday he was in town, and she made an effort to keep her friendships from stagnating. Merlin was right; she didn’t want to be one of those girls who dropped all their friends when they got their hooks into a man. Plus, someone needed to keep Eggsy in line. It was a rough job, but it looked like Roxy was the one to do it.

 

Especially since it sounded like he was home and pissed off, if the slamming of the door was anything to go by.

 

“You alright, hun?” She called out from her room. A minute later, he came inside with a thunderous look on his face, JB at his feet. He threw himself on the bed next to her, snuggling into her pillows. After a pout and sniffle from JB, Roxy gave him permission to come up as well. The little pug snorted delightfully before settling into next to Eggsy.

 

“Had a fight with Harry,” Eggsy mumbled.

 

“What happened?” she asked, rubbing his back.

 

“Tilde’s in town next month; wants me to be her bodyguard/date to some posh gala.”

 

“What’s wrong with that?  The two of you are still friendly, right?”

 

“Yeah, no she’s great. Best ‘saved the world shag turned into awesome mate’ ever, really.” He turned over slightly to give JB some scritches. “We’ll have a blast, I’m sure. The problem ,” he continued bitterly “is that Arthur gave me the assignment in front of Gawain, Kay, and Harry.”

 

“Ah,” Roxy uttered. “I take it there were some comments?” There probably wasn’t a single soul in Kingsman who didn’t know about Eggsy’s fantastic post-saving-the-world shag. Except, she thought, maybe Harry.

 

“Yeah. Gawain and Kay started teasing me about needing to be on my best behavior” Eggsy rolled his eyes at that, “and when they noticed Harry was confused, they kindly filled him in on the details. Prats.”

 

Roxy settled down next to Eggsy, throwing her arms around him and becoming the big spoon. She placed her chin on his shoulder and gave him a tight hug. “How’d that turn into a fight with Harry?”

 

“I tried to explain to him after the meeting that Tilde and I were just friends, that the whole thing never meant anything. And he somehow took that to mean that I just tossed her aside after we was through. He practically accused me of ‘ungentlemanly like behavior.’”

 

Ouch. No wonder why Eggsy was cross. If there was one thing Eggsy wanted most in the world, it was Harry to think well of him. “I’m guessing you did take that very well, huh?”

 

Eggsy sighed heavily. “Might have blown up at him a little,” he mumbled. “Didn’t mean to, but he was just standing there looking so fucking gorgeous and perfect, and accusing me of shit I didn’t do. Like a giant reminder that hey, Eggsy, you ain’t good enough for the bloke and he’s never gonna think you are. He was so quick to think the worst of me, Rox. It hurts so bad.”

“Harry’s a blind moron if he can’t see how perfect you are,” Roxy reassured him. “Eyepatch is no excuse.” Although the older man hadn’t lost sight in his eye, the scar tissue had made it quite difficult for him to see. It would be another few surgeries before he would be Galahad once more.

 

She could practically feel Eggsy roll his eyes again. “You gotta say shit like that, you’re my best mate.”

 

“Doesn’t mean it’s less true.”

 

Eggsy sighed but didn’t disagree with her anymore. “Do you think …” he trailed off, silent for a bit before picking up again. “Some of the shit Harry said, the way he said it...well. He basically implied that I was a giant slut. Talked about ‘immature dalliances of an inappropriate nature’, what the fuck, Rox.”

 

Roxy was fuming. “How fucking dare he, what’s it any business of his?”

 

“I know, but like ...that’s not what I’m going for here. Fuck. I know I slept with a lot of people when I thought he was dead, but I haven’t touched anyone since, swear down. I only want him .”

 

“Do you think he might have heard gossip? Kingsman is pretty rife with it, though Merlin tries to keep it at bay.”

 

“Shit, I don’t know. I guess he could have. Rox, I don’t know how to fix this.”

 

Roxy sighed and rolled over, untangling herself from Eggsy. “This is not a problem we can handle sober. We’re gonna need a pub, several shots of tequila, and Morgan.”

 

“Fuck yes.” It was the first smile Eggsy gave since he walked into her room. Roxy was gonna kick Harry’s ass; senior agent or not, she wasn’t going to put up with anyone making Eggsy feel that way. It didn’t matter if Harry was Eggsy’s soulmate, that shit just wasn’t acceptable.

 

Not for the first time, Roxy wondered if she should tell Eggsy about her and Merlin’s theory. She wanted to, and she hated keeping things from Eggsy. But looking at him now? She didn’t think the news would help. And shit, what if they were wrong? She had no idea how they could be, but still. Roxy didn’t want to risk it, not with the way things were at the moment.

 

Alcohol was a much better plan.

 

Hours later, Roxy was of a firm belief that alcohol was an amazing plan. The best plan. She and Eggsy were rocking it out on the dance floor, with Morgan and Simon watching nearby. Eggsy was in a much better mood, having downed several drinks in the first hour. Roxy and Morgan had quickly joined him, though Roxy has tapered off and had only been drinking water for hte past hour. Simon had opted to stay completely sober as the designated driver/drunk agent herder and was currently trying to convince a stubborn Morgan to drink more water. Poor man

.

It was nearing midnight when Roxy’s glasses chimed; she excused herself and headed to a discrete corner.

 

“Lancelot reporting in,” she said, hoping that she would be heard over the noise of the club.

 

“Lancelot,” Merlin's voice greeted her. “Sorry to interrupt. Arthur wants to meet with you and Bors at 0800 tomorrow morning. Better make it an early night.”

 

“Thank you for notifying me, sir. I’ll attempt to wrangle Bors away from the dance floor.” She looked over where Eggsy was doing a great impression of a spastic monkey. At least he was a very cute one.

 

“Good luck with that,” Merlin laughed, a deep chuckle that never failed to make Roxy shiver.

 

“Is there a reason why you’re still awake?,” she chided him, knowing full well that on nights she didn’t come over, Merlin was likely to work past midnight.

 

“No need to fuss, lass. I’m in bed; was just catching up on some reading when Arthur contacted me. I’ll be turning in soon, even though it’s not nearly as nice without you here.”

 

That made Roxy pause. “Are we being recorded?” she asked. Merlin responded in the negative.

 

She did some quick calculations in her head and hoped Simon would be amenable to looking after Eggsy and Morgan. “I’ll be there within the hour,” she promised Merlin.

 

“I’ll be waiting.”

 

Having made sure that Eggsy knew about the meeting, and was in Simon’s good hands, Roxy caught a cab to Merlin’s. Morgan and Simon would look after JB and Eowyn, and Roxy would get to wake up in Merlin’s arms come the morning.

 

She quietly opened the bedroom door, the only light coming from Merlin’s tablet. He looked up and smiled, looking stupidly sexy in a pair of cotton pajamas. Roxy went to the closet and grabbed her own pair, quickly changing into them and then curling up at Merlin’s side. He put the tablet away and wrapped his arms around Roxy.

 

“You didn’t have to come over, you know,” he said after kissing her forehead.

 

“I know. I wanted to.” She gave him a sweet kiss on the lips and then burrowed into his side, trying to steal some of his warmth. A small wave of insecurity rushed over her, and she found herself asking “That’s okay, yeah?”

 

“Mmhmm,” he hummed out, his fingers moving in small circles on her lower back. He yawned and Roxy could hear the sleepiness in his voice. “Always like you here.” He gave her one more kiss on the top of her head, and then said “Now sleep. All good agents have to be up in six hours.”

 

Roxy grumbled, “Could always be a rebel agent. Bet they have more fun.” Though, she could feel the heaviness behind her eyelids, and she could feel the edge of sleep calling her name.

 

Merlin laughed and held her close. “Probably, but please be mindful of my blood pressure.” They share a sleepy goodnight kiss and then Merlin says “Goodnight, love. Sweet dreams.”

 

Tucked into Merlin’s warm embrace, feeling full of happiness and comfort and love , Roxy falls asleep.

 

***

 

The mission should have been a piece of cake.

 

Posing as newlyweds with Eggsy? A bit awkward but completely doable once they got over how ridiculous it felt. They just turned up the cheesiness and it turned into a game of ‘lovey-dovey chicken’, or who could dial up the affection the most, thus grossing out the other on the inside. After a week on this godforsaken island, Roxy could almost say that it was fun.

 

It was supposed to be a simple recon, checking out potential smuggling traffic on a Mediterranean island. There had been rumors of antiquities being stolen and hidden there, and Arthur wanted more intel before making the next move.

 

The plan was to get there, pretend to be on their honeymoon, gross everyone out with their cuteness for a week or two, and then use that distraction to get the information they needed. Like Roxy said, should have been a piece of cake.

 

She’s still not quite sure how she ended up in this underground grotto, or why she felt so groggy. There was a bright fluorescent light above her, and she could see many entrances leading into where she was now. She would have no idea which way to get out, not without potentially putting herself at more risk.

 

And she had no idea where Eggsy was either. One minute she and Eggsy had been cruising along the island’s perimeter, trying to get a better idea of where the smuggler’s kept their loot, and the next she tied up with rope, and was in the process of being interrogated. It was hard to keep her focus, but she was Kingsman trained and she wasn’t giving in, no matter what they did.

 

Granted, she’d probably feel more confident if she was wearing her suit instead of a skimpy sundress, or if she was armed besides a handful of tranquilizer darts in her watch. She had her glasses still, but there was radio silence where Merlin or Morgan normally would be in a situation like this.

 

Roxy was grimy and not just a little bloody, from the blows her captor had dealt her. She was also fucking pissed off.

 

“We can make you talk,” he assured her. “There is no use in protecting your friend.”

 

What was this, cheesy villain auditions?

 

“There’s no talking because I don’t know anything.” Roxy spat out. “And neither does my husband.”

 

“He is not your husband,” the man told her, in a condescending manner, running his hand up her arm and all the way to her neck. “We have been watching you since you arrived on the island. Pretty woman like you, and he has not had you once. Your sweet kisses are a con, you are not newlyweds.”

 

Fuck, did they bug the hotel room? How did she and Eggsy miss that? They had swept the room for bugs every day.

 

Not that it mattered in the moment, Roxy told herself. What she needed was a distraction, so she could get out. She had most of the rope untied, moving slowly behind her back. He had never noticed, he was too fixated on being a jackass.

 

Luckily, she got what she needed in the form of a phone call.  His phone rang and he turned away to answer it, giving Roxy the time and cover she needed to strike.

 

She waited for just the right time; it would do not good for her to attack while he was on the phone. Whoever else was on the line could send back up.

 

“The boy? Yes, he is on the other side,” he was saying into the phone, sneering as he did so. “He is not doing so well, but never fear. We will get the information we need. Fiducia in noi padre, noi non mancheremo di nuovo.”

 

Huh, that was interesting. But no time to figure out the details in the moment, Roxy needed to find Eggsy and they needed to get out.

 

By the time her captor hung up the phone and turned back around, Roxy was ready with a quick and dirty punch to knock him out, and then swung her body to take him down. The rope came in handy to tie him up, as she had been, and she grabbed his phone and shoved it in her bra. The battery was low, but you never knew if it could be handy and she’d never not risk the chance of her captor using it.

 

She searched his body and came up with two knives and a small caliber pistol.

 

Now to find Eggsy and get the fuck out of here, right?.

 

She tapped her glasses, trying to get in contact with Merlin or Eggsy. “Merlin, do you copy? I’ve been detained, any word on Bors?”

 

No answer.

 

That was ...unusual, to say the least. “Merlin?” She said again, for good measure. What was going on?

 

There was nothing to it, she supposed. She’d have to take this one on her own. While her normal priorities in this instance would be to check out the location as much she could, without knowledge of Eggsy’s activities she was put in a bind. Scrap the mission, find her partner, and get out.

 

She picked up the gun and in doing so, saw the familiar tiny scrawl on her wrist.

 

She nearly dropped it in shock.

 

Comms malfunctioning. I can hear you, but you cannot seem to hear me. Do you copy?

 

“What the fuck do I copy, what the fuck what the fuck what the fuck?” was the only response Roxy could manage.

 

She watched as the writing was removed and then slowly replaced.

 

Understood. Bors is approximately 30 meters to your left, based on tracking data.

 

And then, as Roxy’s heart stopped and she felt like she couldn’t breathe, Merlin continued writing.

 

He is in bad shape; sending an extraction team to your location.

 

It was Merlin, right? There was no feasible way she could see it being anyone else.

 

No explosives, unless absolutely necessary was the last thing added.

 

“Fuck that fucking motherfucker” Roxy breathed out, nearly trembling.

 

She braced her body against the wall, resting her head on the cool damp texture. God, she didn’t have time for this shit. Her attacker was due to regain consciousness any minute, and now was not the time to have a freaking mental breakdown.

 

Above all else, Roxy had a job to do. Get a hold of yourself, Lancelot, she thought, blinking back tears.

 

Well. He could still hear her, right?

 

“Merlin,” she started. “No. Andrew. Or whatever the fuck your real name is...I don’t care. When I get back, I am going to fucking murder you.”

 

She didn’t look down for an answer. It would keep; it wasn’t important at the moment, or at least that’s what she needed to believe.

 

Roxy exited and turned left, heading towards what was hopefully Eggsy’s location.

 

Save her partner, get out, go home.

 

Even if she wasn’t quite sure where home was anymore.




















Chapter Text

Roxy sat inside the jet, numb, watching the medic attend to Eggsy. Two broken fingers, a stab wound in his thigh, and possibly fractured ribs. They would know more when they got back to the medical wing of HQ. And yet, she couldn’t even focus on her friend or the amount of pain he was in.

 

MerlinismysoulmateMerlinismysoulmateMerlinismysoulmate

 

This newfound knowledge kept rushing through her mind. She never would have expected it, she never could have guessed.

 

She thought Andrew had died in the V-Day onslaught. Now, to discover that it was Merlin all along and … he knew .

 

Of course he knew. How else would he have known to write on his skin, to send her the message, when the comms were malfunctioning?

 

“I am not interested in soulmates. They are a liability in my line of work.”

 

She had never been able to forget those words from Andrew....Merlin.

 

How long had he known, was the question? How did he find out? Why hadn’t he told her? Was he ever planning on letting her know? Would she have been told if the comms hadn’t malfunctioned and he needed to communicate with her?

 

She didn’t have an answer. Only more unhappy questions that kept circling in her head.

 

They were due back to HQ within the next hour. Merlin, no doubt, would be waiting at the hangar. Did she even want to see him? Did she have a choice?

 

What the fuck was she going to do now? How could she look him in the eye and not freak out?

 

There goes all of her heavily guarded professionalism, in the blink of an eye.

 

Merlin is Andrew and this is all too fucking much. She leaned forward in her seat, and put her forehead in her hands, trying desperately not to burst into tears.

 

Why hadn’t he told her? That was the most pressing thought in Roxy’s head. She thought they had been good together, so far, and if he knew ...well, it should have been easy enough to say something, right? If he really cared about her, wouldn’t he want her to know as well?

 

So they could be happy, together?

 

Instead, he let her believe he, Andrew, was dead while she carried on and had sex with him as Merlin. For months.

 

Which one of them was real? Maybe neither of them are, maybe it’s all just a stupid game for him and he’s laughing at my expense. Maybe he never cared at all, and I’ve just been a stupid delusional child chasing after him, thinking what we had could mean something.

 

This was not helping.

 

“I am not interested in soulmates.”

 

Roxy sighed, grabbed her cell phone and headed to the bathroom. When the other line picked up, she spoke. “Arthur? This is Lancelot. I need a favor.”

 

***

 

She had been on the phone with Archie for nearly forty-five minutes. It had been helpful; he now had the whole story ...or at least, the pertinent details. With his soothing voice in her ear, it was ridiculously easy to spill everything. Roxy didn’t remember either of her grandfathers, but she liked to think of Archie as their replacement. Albeit, a slightly more dangerous version.

 

He didn’t have any helpful advice that Roxy wanted to hear, but what he had was discretion and the ability to send Roxy out on a solo mission right away.

 

She tried to tell herself she wasn’t running away, but it was a hard pill to swallow. Still, needs must and she couldn’t find it in herself to face Merlin.

 

“I feel like I am being a coward,” she had told Archie.

 

“Perhaps, but I don’t think anyone could blame you in this instance. Think of it as a tactical retreat.”

 

“Take a step back to regroup and come to a decision?,” Roxy ventured.

 

“Exactly. You’ll be gone a week, blackout mission in Germany. No contact with HQ. Focus on the job, get your bearings, and sort everything out when you come back. Come see me when you get in and I’ll get you sorted myself.”

 

She had agreed readily. Roxy always felt better when she had work to focus on.

 

Coming out of the bathroom, she was gratified to see Eggsy propped up in his seat and awake, although he was glaring at the wall, in a bit of a sulk.

 

“Feeling better?,” she asked.

 

“I’ve been put through the ringer, Rox. I’m dying,”  Eggsy responded with a flair of dramatics. It eased Roxy right away; if the boy could still be ridiculous, he would be alright.

 

“You’ll be getting some great pain meds,” she reassured him.

 

He chuckled and gave her a cheeky grin. “That’s something to be said for, I’ve been given a dose already.”

 

Roxy curled up next to him, careful not to exacerbate either of their injuries. Hers were mostly superficial, nothing that wouldn’t heal up in a matter of days. Nothing that needed further medical follow up, at least. If she hadn’t been given the all clear, there’s no way Archie would have agreed to send her out again.

 

Lucky me , she thought.

 

“They’re gonna put me on medical leave,” Eggsy grumbled.

 

“Of course they will, ribs are a serious issue, Eggsy.”

 

He rolled his eyes and heaved a large sigh. “I’ll go bonkers just sitting around, doing nothing.”

 

“You can help Harry with the recruits,” Roxy suggested. He responded by merely giving her a look.

 

“And open myself up for more criticism? I love the man, really, but he’s been off his rocker for the past month and I can’t figure out why.” Eggsy kicked the seat across from where they were sitting. “It’s like nothing will make him happy, I can’t win with him.” He leaned his head over to the side and rested it on Roxy’s shoulder as she threw an arm around him. They cuddled in close.

 

“Merlin is Andrew,” Roxy admitted softly.

 

“What?” Eggsy said, surprised.

 

She rolled up the sleeve of her jacket to show him the writing. “My comms went out in the caves,” she told him. “I couldn’t hear him, but he could hear me.”

 

“That’s fucking sick,” Eggsy said. “Bloody hell, Rox. What are you gonna do?”

“I have no idea,” she sighed. “Arthur’s sending me out right away, anyway.”

 

“Yeah, because avoidance solves anything,” he grumbled.

 

“Shut up, you’re one to talk.”

 

The pilot announced over the intercom that they would be touching down in a few moments, and that Galahad was waiting for them. Eggsy grimaced slightly, but did not comment about that as he and Roxy got up and started packing their things up. Roxy was just relieved it wasn’t Merlin; Archie had come through.

 

“Hey, if I knew who my soulmate was, I’d do something about it. I wouldn’t run away from it just because it was difficult.”

 

Roxy narrowed her eyes at him. “Oh really,” she questioned. “It wouldn’t matter what your history was or if you already knew them?”

 

He looked up at her, eyes earnest and shining with an open expression. “Rox, it’s soulmates . That shit means something, more than anything else.”

 

“You’re a fucking romantic, you are.”

 

“Too fucking right.”

 

They touched down and began the deboarding process. Roxy picked up her bag, but it wasn’t fully zipped and a few items fell out.

 

Including a pen.

 

“Eggsy,” she started slowly. “Do you trust me?”

 

“Hmm? What kind of question is that? Of course I do.”

 

“Good.” She grabbed the pen and walked towards him, lifting it up to his face. He looked at her, confused, but allowed it.

 

She drew a simple heart on his cheek, bold and hard to miss. When she pulled back, he brought out his phone to see what she had drawn in his camera view.

 

“What was that for?” he asked

 

“You’ll see,” is all she said as they walked out.

 

The look on Eggsy’s face when he saw Harry with corresponding heart on his cheek was priceless. In a matter of seconds, the grumpy attitude was replaced with an awed countenance, one that seemed to spread through his entire body.

 

“Harry,” he breathed out, dropping his bag and moving quickly into the older man’s personal space.

 

“Eggsy, what is that on your cheek?” Harry said, frowning. Eggsy reached his hand up to cup Harry’s face, and Roxy felt like an intruder but couldn’t bring herself to step away.

 

“Same that’s on yours,” Eggsy said softly, as he moved his thumb up to gently caress at the heart, as if it was a priceless gem.

 

Harry’s eyes widened in surprise, but he didn’t get a chance to respond before Eggsy leaned in and gave him a soft kiss. After a few moments, Eggsy pulled back.

 

“That alright?” he said, softly and wrapping his arms around Harry’s waist. He looked up at Harry with a defiant expression, as if daring the older man to object.

 

But he didn’t, not at all. Harry leaned forward into Eggsy’s arms and rested his forehead against Eggsy’s before giving him another soft kiss.

 

“Darling boy, it’s utterly perfect.” Eggsy’s face broke open into a brilliant smile, echoed by Harry a moment later.

 

The gentle and tender moment she was witnessing tore at Roxy’s heart.

 

This is how it’s supposed to go when you find out, her mind whispered at her in fury. She couldn’t watch anymore, and spun on her heel to walk away.

 

She was happy for Eggsy and Harry, she really was. She didn’t begrudge them of what they had, or how they felt about each other, how quickly they came to terms with the truth.

 

But she had to get out of there. I have a job to do, she kept telling herself as if that would somehow ease the turmoil going on inside of her.

 

It didn’t, not even slightly, but she pressed on anyway.

 

***

Germany went off without a hitch, not that Roxy had a doubt in her abilities.

 

Since V-Day, it was tempting for intelligence agents to put their loyalties aside and go for the big payday. After all, who would find out in the mess of everything? By the time it came to light, the agent could be well underground or on a different side.

 

Roxy had heard rumors that the Statesman agents had a hell of a time cleaning up the mess left by a double-crossing CIA agent. Harry had confessed that was one reason why Archie was brought back into the fold as Arthur; having been gone so long, he would not feel an unquestioning loyalty to the Kingsman agents and could be counted on to be merciless in watching for any signs of wrongdoing.

 

Which was why Roxy had been sent to Germany. There were whispers of one of the handlers in the German branch switching sides and giving out information for a large payday. Under the guise of delivering equipment and then taking a vacation, Roxy had been able to watch the handler, confirm the misdeeds, and handle the situation. Not having contact with HQ went with her vacation cover, and it was a blessing to get away from the reminder of her heartbreak for even a short while.

 

Until she saw Amelia, strolling the streets at night.

 

She turned away immediately, walking quickly away. It’s not that she didn’t know, because she certainly did (Eggsy had spilled the beans during one of his drunken rants about Harry being difficult), but there was still a huge shock in seeing a dead person walking about.

 

Not to mention, she really wasn’t up for an awkward ‘so how have you been, you know, with the being alive stuff?’ conversation. Besides, Amelia was clearly busy, arm in arm with a very lovely looking woman and Roxy didn’t want to interrupt.

 

Right. Coward, she thought bitterly to herself as she ducked into Rum Trader, the closest bar to her.

 

She grabbed a seat at the near empty bar, blinking owlishly as she took in the bartender. Dressed in a fine waistcoat and bow tie, he reminded her a lot of Galahad.

 

“Was möchtest du trinken?” he asked, gesturing to the bottles of spirits behind him. There did not seem to be any drink menu.

 

“Scotch,” she said, replying back in German. “Je älter desto besser. Pur.”

 

The older the better. Just how I like my men. Or. I did. Stop that, Rox.

 

A voice called over to her. Speaking in German, yes, but his accent was definitely British. He wasn’t as good at hiding it as Roxy. “That’s a surprising choice, for a woman like you.”

 

Her hackles rose at the vague presumption. Turning around, she saw the older blonde haired man, and stared him down. “What do you mean by that?”

 

He stood up and sauntered over to her, like a languid cat. He was tall, muscular, and dressed in an impeccably tailored suit and glasses. He looked familiar to her, but she couldn’t place it. One face amongst the numerous files she had, and no Kingsman glasses on to communicate with HQ.

 

Damn, where was Morgan when she needed her.

 

“Only admiring your boldness.” He held out his hand. “Bond, James Bond.”

 

Ah, there it was. She knew that name from the list of MI 6 agents Kingsman was currently working with, as both agencies got back on their feet after V Day. That explained the glasses; she would have noticed him immediately without them.

 

She smirked and put her own hand out, shaking him firmly.

 

“Roxanne Morton. Pleasure to meet you, Mr. Bond. Your reputation is ...compelling.” She said, giving him a once over, slowly dragging her eyes over his frame.

 

He gave her a surprised look, and she bit on the inside of her cheek to stop from laughing. Turning away, she got her drink from the bartender and thanked him.

 

“Cheers” she said in English, toasting her tumbler with his martini glass.

 

“Cheers, yes.” He sipped slowly, keeping his eyes on hers. Ah, classic NLP technique. It was like getting drinks with Eggsy. As if Roxy would be taken in by something so basic. “Roxanne, you said?”

 

“Mhmm,” she confirmed, taking another sip of the delicious smoky scotch. “But perhaps you would know me better as Lancelot.”

 

Understanding dawned on his face and he gave a short laugh. “I had heard a woman finally made the table, but no one mentioned how gorgeous she was.”

 

“As they shouldn’t,” Roxy snapped back, all humor gone. “Some of us prefer to be known for our skills, not for our bedroom behavior.”

 

Bond put his hands up in a placating gesture. “You’ve got me beat there, yes. Still ...to make up for my appalling behavior, allow a gentleman to buy you a drink?”

 

“He could if I saw one nearby.”

 

Instead of being offended, Bond burst out into laughter. “Well then. If not a gentleman, how about a debonair scoundrel?”

 

Putting aside her better judgement, Roxy acquiesced. Bond ordered them two rounds of the bartender’s best scotch, and they toasted to ‘missions accomplished’ as they moved to a secluded corner of the room.

 

“And what brings you to Berlin?” he asked her.

 

“It’s over,” Roxy replied, not wanting to give any information away. “I’ve checked in and am waiting my next assignment. Arthur gave me the night off.”

 

“Ah, lucky,” Bond replied. “M never lets me have a moment’s peace. Even now, I’m waiting for the next bit of intel before I make my move. Thought I’d take in one of the local pubs and the pretty faces,” he said winking at her.

 

She rolled her eyes, not willing herself to be charmed. The man was handsome, there was no denying that, but she’d rather fight him than fuck him. Or, at least fight with him. “Any takers willing to lower themselves to spend the night in your arms?” she asked.

 

He tilted his head at her and gave her a cheeky grin. “The night is still young.”

 

Roxy couldn’t deny that she was enjoying herself, but mostly it was that Bond made her feel a little bit homesick for Eggsy, Tristan, and George. And yeah, okay. There was a part of her that did want to say ‘to hell with it’ and just go ahead and sleep with him, just to see what it was like and what would happen after.

 

She and Bond had been in the bar for little over an hour. He had taken his suit jacket off, and was looking devilishly handsome. Like a perfect mistake, if she was willing to go there.

 

If she had met him a week ago, when she was at her angriest, she might have done it. Right now, though? Roxy was just tired and heartsick, wanting to hear Merlin’s voice and feel his arms around her. Wanting to rewind and go back in time to when everything felt simple and easy, and there weren’t any difficult decisions to make or conversations to have. When there wasn’t anything she was avoiding, except saying “I love you.”

 

As it was, Roxy wasn’t doing anything but treating this as an opportunity to test her NLP skills. If she was judging accurately, and she really thought she was, Bond was working himself up to kissing her. It was the way he scooted in closer to her, the small touches on her back and shoulder, the smoldering look in his eyes. It did nothing for her, but she played it up and responded in kind. What the hell , she thought. What else was I going to do tonight, except feel sorry for myself?

 

It was still nice to feel wanted, even if it was by the wrong man.

 

Bond had his arm around her, and she had placed her hand teasingly on his thigh, when his glasses beep. “Ah,” he said morosely. “Duty calls.” He tapped the side of the glasses, saying “Hello, Merlin.”

In an instant, Roxy felt the ground come out from under her feet and her stomach tied itself in knots. She looked away from Bond, but she knew the damage was done. There was no way Merlin wouldn’t notice how close she was sitting to Bond, or think of the worst of her once he took everything in.

 

I didn’t do anything wrong , she reassured herself peevishly.

 

“Right then, darling,” Bond said after a moment. “Very sorry, going to have to dash.” He threw his suit jacket back on and smiled at her. “It was a pleasure to meet you.”

 

Roxy smiled faintly, but couldn’t seem to put any feeling behind it. “The pleasure was all mine,” she lied. Bond gave her a slight bow and held out his hand. She moved to shake it, but then he was pulling her hand in closer to him, giving it a soft kiss.

 

“It’s a shame we have to call it an early night and cancel our plans, but feel free to look me up when you return to London,” he said, his eyes twinkling at her. “I’ll have Q send you my number. We can ...compare notes.” There was no confusing the meaning in his last words, and Roxy felt dread creeping up inside of her.

 

Still. Whether it was a good idea or not ... in for a penny, in for a pound. Roxy reached up and kissed Bond on the cheek, close to his mouth. She looked him (and thus, Merlin) in the eye and gave her best winning smile.

 

“I would love that. I’m sure it would be a revelation,” She purred, putting an extra emphasis on the last word.

 

Serves him right, her mind whispered. It’s not like he even cares. It’s not as if he loved me.

 

***

 

The scotch had settled uneasily on her mostly empty stomach; in all the excitement of the night, Roxy barely remembered to grab a bite to eat before sleep.

 

Her dreams that night were muddled and unfocused, but there was a sense of danger and turmoil. Faces hovering over her, her body trapped and unable to move. As if it were in surround sound, Tristan’s disembodied voice turned twisted and angry.

Kingsman don’t have soulmates , it said. We protect and we serve.

 

Merlin coming out of the shadows, then dropping to the ground. Red spilling over his chest, a shot to the heart. Roxy couldn’t move, couldn’t even yell out for help.

 

Forced to watch him die.

 

Tristan laughed, dark and cold. Ding dong, the wizard is dead. You couldn’t keep him safe.

 

Roxy bolted awake in her safehouse bed, gasping for air and covered in a sheen of sweat. She stumbled into the bathroom, heaving her dinner into the toilet.

 

After, she fell back onto the tiled floor as her body shook and tears welled up in her eyes.

 

Fuck , she thought. What am I supposed to do?

 

She was unable to fall back asleep. When the morning sun rose, there was an incoming message from Arthur.

 

Meet Percival in Russia , it said. He’s requested back up for his mission.

 

Ugh. Why did it always have to be Russia?

 

***

 

Now that Roxy could turn back on her personal phone, she was flooded with texts, voicemails, and snapchats from Eggsy. It had only been a week, but it looked like things with him and Harry were moving serious, and fast.

 

Holy shit, Harry is an amazing kisser I think I’m gonna die of sexual frustration over here

 

Roxy, Harry just keeps LOOKING AT ME I can’t handle it when are you coming home

 

Remember how we got drunk and rated the Kingsman knights in order how snuggly we thought they’d be? We were wrong about Harry. He should definitely be at the top. Fucker is handsy as all get out.

 

Shit he’s insisting on taking things slow, he wants to “wine and dine me” who fucking does that anymore I’m in fucking love so much it hurts

 

Simon says if I send him any more snapchats of Harry he’s gonna steal my phone, but Morgan is on my side cuz she’s the best

 

Watching Harry train the recruits is a fucking nightmare, he’s so fucking hot when he’s in teacher mode ROxy HELP ME I’m stuck at HQ for three more weeeeeeeeeks how will I survive

 

Fuck yeah it was Sir Bors in the Conservatory with Sir Galahad and a lead pipe if you know what I meaaaan

 

The last one chimed in while Roxy was catching up and she texted back with “Shit Eggsy, you know there are cameras everywhere, right?”

 

A few minutes later, she received a response.

 

Ha, you know Merlin likes to watch ;)

 

Roxy swallowed hard and put her phone away, blushing.

 

It wasn’t something she and Merlin had actually done yet, but they had talked about it: Merlin, watching Roxy getting herself off while away on a mission, setting up a video feed to route back to Merlin, and Merlin in her ear, telling her what to do and what he wanted to see.

 

The thought of it alone caused her heartbeat to speed up and she felt flushed. Fuck. How could she still be affected by him, after everything?

 

Fuck fuck fuckity fuck was the song in her head, all the way to Russia.

 

Turns out Percival needed back up because he sprained his leg badly, and wasn’t able to complete the mission on his own. Harder to blend in and be invisible if you needed crutches just to get around.

 

“Seriously?” Roxy had exclaimed. “You used to be a professional dancer, you’re the most graceful person I have ever known, how did you do that?”

 

George just grumbled something about a cat, but wouldn’t give out any more information. Roxy just rolled her eyes and got to work.

 

Between the two of them, however, they were able to get the mission completed in half the time. They spent the rest of the week that had been allotted for the mission ring shopping.

 

“So you’re ready to pop the question?” Roxy asked, as a salesman took out some exquisite looking rings. She thought George’s nervousness was ridiculous; it’s not like Simon was going to say no.

 

“I’ve been ready for a long time,” George admitted. “What do you think about this one?”

 

“I think Simon will shoot you if you try to give him that many diamonds.”

 

“Hm, best to save that for our anniversary.”

 

“The first anniversary is paper, not bullets.”

 

“We’ll start our own tradition,” George said, dismissively.

 

In the end, they settled on a simple, but expensive, platinum ring with six small diamonds spaced evenly out over the band.

 

They ordered room service at the hotel and watched badly dubbed episodes of Friends. George got Roxy drunk and wine and then went for the kill.

 

“Are you going to tell me what’s wrong?” he implored, looking at her with sad eyes.

 

“What do you mean?” Roxy tried to deny it. Normally, George would be the first person she would go to in this situation, but she was trying to repress that anything was happening at all. Helping George on a mission had been a relief, almost comforting.

 

“You’re not yourself; you’re normally far more spunky and talkative, and yet we haven’t had a good bantering session the entire time you’ve been here. Where’d my Roxelot go?”

 

That’s all it takes; Roxy spills everything , in between drunken hiccups.

 

“And he just knew, this whole time! How could he know and not tell me?”

 

She looks up at George, and he has a horrible guilty expression on his face.

 

“No” she cries out in anguish. “Not you too?” She falls back on the bed, burying her face in a pillow. She hears George take a deep breath, and he’s petting her hair and rubbing her back.

 

“I’m sorry, darling. I found out when you were fourteen. You remember the flower you drew, and the violin teacher?”

 

There’s a muffled sound of agreement coming from the pillows.

 

“I had been in meetings with Merlin and Galahad that afternoon,” George continued. “We were all in a state of shock when Merlin reached over to pick up his cup of tea and there it was. He broke the teacup, he was so surprised he dropped it.”

 

“Why would he be surprised? That wasn’t the first time I had said anything to him.”

 

“You’d have to ask him that, love. I only know what I saw.”

 

“So he knew then, since I was fourteen?” She turns over to look at George.

 

George shook his head. “No, I never told him. I didn’t want to get involved, not like that. Not to mention,” he stressed, “ you were only fourteen. Merlin is a good twenty years older than you. I know you like older men, and I support you in all your oddities” he paused there to kiss her on the head “but there is a huge difference between a 25 year old and 45 year old versus 14 and 34.”  He paused again. “I think. Anyway, it’s your life and I’ve never doubted your ability to be an equal where Merlin was concerned, once you were old enough.”

 

He reaches over to the table, and picks up a glass of water. Handing it to her, he continued “Besides, the age difference didn’t bother me since I knew you were soulmates. You can’t fight something like that.”

 

Roxy gulps the water down. “Soulmates doesn’t seem to make a difference to him.”

 

George gave her a hug. “Honey, you don’t know that’s true. He might not have known for long. I did try to invite him over for a dinner a few times when you were home from uni, so the two of you could at least meet, but there was a while when he thought I was trying to ask him out. Now that was an awkward summer. I can’t imagine Merlin knowing about you and being able to stay away.”

 

That could be true … except. Now that Roxy thinks about it, she’s starting to put the pieces together, albeit in a sort of drunken haze. She frowns into her water glass as she goes through all her interactions with Merlin and the times she wrote to Andrew. Andrew, whose tune seemed to change significantly after she actually met Merlin for the very first time.

 

“When I got shot!” she yells out. George jumps back a bit where he is sitting, surprised.

 

“Come again?”

 

She flails a little, trying to keep her balance. “Merlin could see everything! I wrote a message to Andrew. He must have seen me do it and put the pieces together when he saw the message on his own arm. God damn the fucking bastard, he knew! He’s known for over a year! I’m going to kill him.”

 

“Right then.” George is clearly out of his element, not exactly used to a furious Roxy in this context. “This calls for more wine,” he says and opens up another bottle.

 

“You’re the best,” Roxy murmurs into his shoulder. “Don’t know what I’d do without you.”

 

“No worries, darling. If it’s up to me, you’ll never have to find out.”

 

***

 

Between the stress, the angst, the not sleeping well, and the getting all out plastered, Roxy’s immune system took a heavy hit and she had the worst cold of her life by the time she got back to London.

 

She kept sneezing so bad while debriefing with Arthur that he sent her away and told her not to come back until she was cured.

 

“I can’t be sick, I never get sick,” she grumbled as she entered her flat and then promptly collapsed onto the sofa.

 

“Rox? You home?” Eggsy called out, as he left his bedroom, dressed in a dark blue suit and wearing his Kingsman glasses. He stopped suddenly and took a good look at her. “Wow. You look horrible.”

 

“Sod off, fucker. This is your fault.”

 

“What? How is it my fault?”

 

“I don’t know? It just is? Stop talking to me, I need to die.”

 

Roxy curled her body up under a blanket and buried her face into a throw pillow.

 

A moment of silence from Eggsy and then he interrupted her peace, “Yeah, okay so I’m going to make you some tea and soup, and I think we have some cold meds around here somewhere, but then I have to go into the office. You just ...stay alive, okay?”

 

She moved to throw a ‘thumbs up’ in his direction, but that was all the moving she was willing to do for the next several days. She sneezed into her pillow and the decided she would just wait there until she died.

 

She drank the tea, ate the soup, and then took a nap for several hours. When she woke up, her throat was itchy and it hurt to swallow. She made more tea, puttered around the flat and then played some video games until Eggsy came back home later that night. Somehow random acts of violence, even if it was simulated, seemed to make her feel better.

 

“Rox? I’ve got Indian take away for you.”

 

“You’re a fucking lifesaver,” she croaked out.

 

They settled down to eat and watch Black Books on Netflix.

 

“Simon reminds me of Manny sometimes,” Eggsy observed.

 

Roxy hummed in agreement, focused on eating her food. She swallowed and said, “George is going to propose.”

 

Eggsy looked at her surprised, and then a huge smile took over his face. “Yeah? That’s fucking awesome.” He looked down and bit his lip. “Man, they’re so happy together. Wish I had that.”

 

Roxy frowned. “Trouble with Harry?”

 

Eggsy gave a small shrug and then leaned back into the couch, propping his feet up on the coffee table. “You know Harry’s got the highest success rate in honeypot missions, yeah?”

 

Uh oh. “Yeah?” Roxy said, thinking it was best to play dumb right then.

 

Eggsy gives her a flat look. “How the fuck am I supposed to compete with that? Man’s got loads of experience, and here I am just trying to measure up.”

 

Roxy put her arm around him and he leaned into her touch. “Eggsy, I don’t think you have anything to worry about. Anyway, I thought that was what you liked about him anyway, the appeal of the older experienced man.”

 

“Yeah, of course. It’s fucking hot when it’s just a fling, cuz then it’s all about having a good time. S’different like this. We’ve fooled around a bit so far, but he’s serious about the whole ‘taking it slow’ and treating me right. Ain’t used to it.”

 

Roxy nodded, threading her fingers through Eggsy’s hair and giving his head a soft scratch. He hummed in approval. “And it makes you worried about whether you can treat him right?”

 

“Uh huh. I just want it to be good for him, too. I think a part of me is worried that one of the reasons we’re going slow is cuz he doesn’t want a quick fumble with someone who ain’t got a clue what he’s doing.”

 

“That’s ridiculous,” Roxy scolded. “Have you talked to him about it? I’m sure he’d understand where you’re coming from.”

 

Eggsy shook his head. “Guess I’ve been scared.”

 

“But if you don’t say anything, you’ll never be able to fix this. Harry’s not a mindreader, Eggs. He can’t address your concerns if he doesn’t know what they are.”

 

Eggsy looked up at her and smirked. “You’re right, Rox. I guess good communication is the key to solving problems. Ain’t no sense in avoiding the issues or running away from my problems.”

 

Roxy’s jaw dropped. “You little shit.” She poked him hard in retribution, but Eggsy just howled with laughter and ducked away.

 

“Come off it, Rox. You know you deserved it. The least you could do is give Merlin a chance to explain, the man’s been walking around HQ like a zombie for the past week. All he does is work, I haven’t even seen him crack a smile.”

 

Roxy glared at him. “I don’t have to do anything. He had plenty of chances to tell me.” So what if her insides twisted horribly at the thought of Merlin upset; clearly that was just the sickness.

 

“I’m sure he had his reasons, just hear him out.” Eggsy put an hand on her shoulder and pouted at her. “At least then you could be mad at him for what he actually did, and not just all the reasons I know you’ve been coming up with on your own.”

 

“When the hell did you start becoming the reasonable one?” Roxy asked, sulking on the couch. Eggsy laughed at and got up to put the kettle on, making her more tea with lemon and honey.

 

“I’d joke and say it was Harry’s influence, but we both know that’s not true. He’s the craziest fucker I’ve ever met,” Eggsy said proudly.

 

***

 

Another night where Roxy had a hard time sleeping, and by the time Eggsy bid her farewell she could barely speak.

 

He had kissed her on the forehead, saying “I’m not going to come home tonight cuz like, I’m afraid of catching what you have and then Harry and I will never get moving on it since I’ll be dead.” She attempted to growl at him, but even that made her throat hurt terribly. He gave her a quick hug and then stepped away.

 

“Keep yourself hydrated and I’ll see about sending Morgan or someone over with some medicine. We’re just about out and I’m not having you wander the streets when you should be in bed, resting.” He said the last bit as he pointed in the direction of her room, and she flipped him off but went back to bed.

 

It was difficult to sleep when you could barely breathe out of your nostrils, and Roxy existed in a hazy state of awareness. She had never felt more gross or weak before in her entire life, and she couldn’t seem to focus on anything. It was incredibly vexing; nothing held her interest for longer than about ten minutes, and she couldn’t even fall asleep to combat the drudgery.

 

Someone please kill me now , Roxy thought. Death would be preferable.

 

She had never imagined she could be so dramatic, but apparently that’s who she was when she was sick. Amazing, that she could still learn new things about herself.

 

About 1 p.m. in the afternoon, there was a knock on the door. Roxy looked up from her bed in confusion, and walked unsteadily to open it.

 

There stood Merlin, holding several bags and with Eowyn at his side.

 

Roxy’s first impulse was to slam the door shut. She wished she could claim it was out of anger or righteous indignation, but in reality it was more that she knew she looked horrible.

 

Fuck, I can’t believe he’s seeing me like this.

 

Merlin stopped the door from closing with his arm, bracing himself against the impact.

 

“Listen, lass. I know you’re angry with me. You have every right to be ,” he quickly added. “But I have your medicine, and I have soup, and I will give you these things but only if you let me take care of you.”

 

Roxy stands there for a few moments, just staring at him. She wished her throat worked. Here he was, and she couldn’t even yell at him. She was too tired, all the time.

 

And then she just sneezed on him. Several times.

 

“Ugh,” she croaked and leaned her head against the door jamb. I change my mind, she thought. This is when I’d like to die.

 

Hesitantly, as if unsure of his welcome, he reached over and gently caressed her cheek. “Come now,” he fussed at her. “I’ll run you a bath and then warm up the soup for you. Shouldn’t take medicine on an empty stomach anyway. And then, if you’re up to it, we can talk. How does that sound?”

 

Roxy looked up at him, bleary eyed and skeptical.


She wanted to turn him away. She wanted to slam the door in his face, to slit his tires open, to set something important of his on fire, all those horribly cliche things that she had seen in movies.

 

But he smelled so good , and he was there, and dear God Roxy had missed him. Even when she didn’t want to.

 

It took her an embarrassingly short time to come to a decision.

 

She let him in.

 

Chapter Text

Roxy felt clean and pampered. Merlin had brought over bath bombs and scented bath oils which she had used to soak for over an hour in the tub, and now she was wearing her cozy fleece space pajamas and sitting on the sofa with Eowyn. They cuddled up together, waiting for Merlin to bring the soup over. While she had been in the bath, he had tidied up the flat, clearing away the mess that Roxy and Eggsy had made last night.

 

He hummed as he worked and Roxy tried her best not to find that endearing, but failed miserably. All she wanted to do was pull him onto the sofa and curl up in his lap, like a kitten seeking cuddles. It’s definitely the cold, she argued with herself. It had nothing to do with the way Merlin looked in casual slacks and a light blue knit jumper, or the way his presence in her flat - he had never been there before - seemed to set off all her senses. There was a difference between fancying the man and knowing, now, that he was her soulmate. All anger aside, that information only made him more appealing to her.

 

She was fucked.

 

He belongs to me , she thought, bewildered. Even if he is a bit of a bastard.   It was hard to reconcile the hard and distant Andrew with the soft, domestic way Merlin was when he was with Roxy behind closed doors, away from the eyes of Kingsman. But here the man was, seemingly capable of both these personas. He had been a part of both her greatest pains and her greatest joys.

 

He brought over the soup to her, and ordered her to eat it. He sat down on the other end of the sofa, Eowyn immediately moving closer to curl up next to him and put her head in his lap. Roxy spooned the soup into her mouth, watching as Merlin spoiled Eowyn with petting and scritches. Traitor, she thought. You’re supposed to be on my side.

 

Merlin looked up at her, a little sheepish after telling Eowyn what a ‘very good girl’ she was. “She’s been staying with me since you went to the island,” he told her. “I’m afraid I might have been overly indulgent.”

 

Roxy spoke softly, though it still pained her. “I thought you weren’t a dog person.” It was true, or so she had thought. Though Eowyn often stayed at Merlin’s when Roxy stayed over there, Roxy was the one who did all the work for her. She had never expected that Merlin would take over Eowyn’s care when she went away for missions. Roxy had assumed it would be George, or Morgan, or that Eowyn would stay in the Kingsman kennels. She felt like an awful dog mom for not paying more attention, though there was a part of her that was comforted by knowing that it was Merlin who looked in after her pup.

 

Merlin frowned at Roxy’s voice, and then went to make her more tea. “I brought tea with licorice root in it; it’s supposed to be good for sore throats. It’s not the most pleasant flavors, but the honey should help. It’s going to be a rather one-sided conversation, if you keep sounding like that.”

 

Roxy gave him the finger. “I’m not the one who has to explain myself,” she mumbled. Merlin sighed, looking down at the kettle. “Aye, you’re right.” He took a mug down from the cabinet, and went about fixing the cupaa. “On a scale of one to ten, one being the least, how mad are you with me, right now?”

 

Roxy paused, thinking it over. It was very tempting to say ten, but….he hadn’t killed anyone, hadn’t hurt anyone she loved, hadn’t interfered with her job, and she had to admit that although he had lied and she was very angry about that ...he hadn’t put her at risk to keep it a secret even longer. She would have prefered being told a lot sooner, obviously, but the second the comms were down, Merlin did not seem to hesitate to use the bond to his advantage. Their advantage. It was quite possible that she could have found Eggsy and gotten out of the caves without Merlin ever writing to her at all, but he hadn’t kept her in the dark when she needed him then. He hadn’t taken that chance, never even thought about risking her safety. What she needed to know is why he had kept her away in the first place, and why he had continued to do so later on.

 

Eventually, she said “Seven. Could be taken down as low as five. Maybe. Depending on your explanation. Could go up to ten.”

 

He nodded, as if it was an acceptable answer. He brought over the tea and she took a sip; somehow Merlin always made it at the exact right temperature.

 

Merlin sat down next to Roxy, after gesturing to Eowyn to get off the sofa. The pup curled up on her doggy bed by the fireplace, staring at both of them sadly. Eowyn always got a little pouty when she couldn’t have their attention, it made Roxy smile a bit. She looked back over to Merlin, seeing him with a frown on his face as he looked down at his hands. “I don’t know where to start,” he admitted.

 

“I want to know everything,” she commanded. The tea was actually helping; though it did taste awful, it was very soothing. “Start at the beginning, when I first wrote to you.”

 

He nodded, and started to speak. “You must know, it was a shock. I was 28, and had spent my entire life up to that point thinking I didn’t have a soulmate. People insist that there is one out there for everyone, but I had spent a good portion of my teenage years writing messages on my skin and never receiving an answer. I had thought of the numerous possibilities why no one ever responded, and came to the conclusion that either I was not wanted or perhaps my soulmate had already died. I hadn’t imagined that she hadn’t even been born yet.”

 

He made a small, jerking movement with his hand, as if tempted to reach out to her but stopped himself. Roxy slowly put the mug down, and then took his hand. It was warm and just holding it seemed to warm her up, in a way that no medication could. Merlin let out a deep sigh, and looked down at their intertwined fingers.  “Go on,” she encouraged, needing him to continue.

 

“I joined MI 6 and then Kingsman because I thought I had no one to risk. So imagine my shock one day when, in the midst of a field mission when I’m readying my gun, I see writing on my wrist. I was so stunned, I couldn’t focus and I had to abandon my post. Harry had to take point.”

 

“But you wrote back later,” Roxy pointed out. It was something that had confused her, over the years. If Andrew truly didn’t want her, why say anything at all? Roxy would have spent her life thinking she didn’t have a soulmate, and never tried again.

 

“Yes. Because I wasn’t willing to ignore it completely.” He looked at her, eyes bright. “I need you to understand. If I had truly never desired a soulmate, I wouldn’t have responded at all. But I wasn’t thinking about that at the time. All I could pay attention to was your handwriting.”

“What about it?”

Merlin gave a broken laugh. “It was obviously that of a child’s. I didn’t know how old you were, but I definitely knew you weren’t even close to my age. I can’t even begin to tell you how that made me feel.”

 

“Is that why you told me you weren’t interested in soulmates?” It was something that had always bothered Roxy, she need to know why .

 

Merlin gave a small nod. “Partly. Though …” he trailed off, as if unwilling to go deeper.  Roxy kicked him with her foot. “Uh uh,” she said. “No more secrets.”

 

Merlin tensed up momentarily, but then let out a deep breath and it seemed all the tension went with it. “Right,” he agreed. “No more,” squeezing her hand.

 

“You don’t know anything about Harry’s parents, do you? George never said anything?” Roxy shook her head. “Alright. Harry and I grew up together, our parents had been very good friends. When he was twelve, Harry’s father died. Both of our fathers were Kingsman agents; I was lucky that my father lived to see his retirement. Harry was not so fortunate.”

 

“Who was he?”

 

Merlin gave a small smirk. “He was Bors. I think Harry is rather gratified to see Eggsy with that name, now.”

 

“Does Eggsy know?” Merlin shrugged, but said “I doubt it. Harry doesn’t like talking about his parents.”

 

“Why not?”

“The reason that Harry and I spent so much time together growing up is that his mother could not bear the loss of her soulmate. She became a shell of a person, no longer the lively woman we had known. She couldn’t bear the sight of Harry any longer, as he looked just like his father. We both went away to boarding school, and then Harry ended up spending all his summers with my family, up until university.”

 

“That must have been devastating for Harry.”

 

Merlin hummed a sound of agreement. “He tried to act as if it didn’t matter, but Harry has never been able to fool me. Seeing the difference in his mother, how losing her soulmate changed her, it made us both rethink the whole thing. I know that Harry never wrote on his skin; he didn’t want to know.”

 

“He didn’t want to risk the hurt,” Roxy ventured and Merlin nodded. “And you?”

 

“It was a part of it, yes. I was curious was a teenager, of course, but I won’t lie and say there wasn’t a part of me that was relieved when I didn’t get an answer back.”

 

Roxy couldn’t hide the hurt from her face, or the way that her body tensed up at that admission. She looked away and dropped his hand, but he was quick to take it back and squeezed it hard. “It doesn’t mean that I am not very happy to know you now. Never doubt that.”

 

“How can I believe you?,” Roxy argued. “Everything up until now, it seems orchestrated as if you wanted to keep me at a distance. Waiting in the wings in case you decided you wanted me, but when you were Andrew …” She choked up, unable to continue.

 

“When I was Andrew, I was a complete ass. I wanted to know about you, but I was terrified of you learning about me, about Kingsman, or anyone at Kingsman learning about you.” Merlin declared. “That is another reason I didn’t tell you, once I knew. I didn’t want you to know me as Andrew, I wanted you to know me as me .”

 

“Is Andrew even your real name?”

Merlin grimaced. “God dammit, I knew it,” Roxy ground out, angrily.

 

“No, it’s not another lie,” he hurried to reassure her. “It’s just … I’m not fond of my name.”

 

“Why not?”

“It’s ridiculous.”

 

“Explain.” Roxy commanded, her tone of voice serious and indicating that she would not accept any deviations from this topic.

 

“I have two older sisters,” Merlin said.  “I am hoping that you will meet them someday. Margaret and Lucy. Lovely, ordinary names. My mother picked them out. My parents ...well. They had a tradition of deciding who got to pick out the names, based on who won a game of chess.”

 

“Chess.” Roxy said, dumbfounded.

 

“Aye,” Merlin said, sounding aggrieved. “My mother won when the girls were born, but my father won when it was my turn. And apparently he disliked the names Mother picked for my sisters so much, that he decided to seek his revenge with me.”

Briefly, Roxy recalled the initials she found inscribed in the books in Merlin’s library. “G. F.A, those are your initials. What do they stand for.”

“You cannot laugh.”

 

“How bad could it be, of course I won’t laugh.”

 

He stared at her, looking worn out. “Do you know why Harry calls me ‘wizard’?”

Roxy looked confused. “I thought that was because of your codename.”

 

“I wish. My full name is Gandalf Fitzwilliam Andrew Agnew,” he said bitterly.

 

“No,” she exclaimed, completely stunned.

 

“Unfortunately, it is the truth.” He narrowed his eyes at her. “You tell anyone that, and you won’t like the consequences.”

 

Roxy’s first instinct was to immediately lunge for her phone and call Eggsy, but she fought it down. “So, you prefer Andrew?”

 

Merlin shrugged. “It seemed as good a name as any to give you. I couldn’t give you Gandalf; if you had believed that it was my real name, it still would have identified me immediately, and I couldn’t have that. Not much point in having a secret identity as a Kingsman with a name as obvious as that one.”

 

“No, I suppose not,” Roxy said, trying her best not to laugh. She wasn’t very successful, if she went by Merlin’s face, but he also seemed content that she wasn’t as angry with him in that moment. “So, what do I call you?”

“I prefer Merlin,” he said firmly. “Or, if you must , my family calls me Fitz. Da may have won the naming, but it was never going to stick. He tried, often, when I was growing up but it was a losing battle between Mother and my sisters.”

 

“Fitz,” Roxy drawled slowly, as if tasting the name on her tongue. “I like it,” she admitted. She didn’t think she would be able to ever call him Andrew, not after everything, and well. Obviously Gandalf was out.

 

“Not at the office,” he declared. She nodded, and drank more of her tea.

 

“Is there more to your story?” Roxy asked. “I mean, you did start writing more to me when I was in uni. Was it because you figured I was old enough?”

“You were still too young,” Merlin argued. “I didn’t want to be some asshole who swept into your life and impacted the person you were going to be. I’ve seen people in those types of relationships,” and here the bitterness in his voice took a startling dive; there was definitely a story there that Roxy would have to pry from him later, though she suspected now wasn’t the time. “But I did start thinking about meeting you, yes. It was then I put in my request to stop field assignments and take over the role of quartermaster. I didn’t want to put my life in any unnecessary risk.”

 

Roxy couldn’t help it; she leaned over and kissed him softly. When she pulled away, he looked stunned and blinked several times, fast. “Um,” he tried to say “I’m not quite sure what I did to deserve that.”

 

Roxy just shrugged, not really wanting to explain. Would she ever be willing to step down from the field? Highly unlikely. Merlin did seem happy as a quartermaster, true, but knowing that he made that kind of sacrifice for her, before even meeting her? “You’re down to a five, now” she simply said. Merlin smiled, bright and shining and it tugged at her heart.

 

But it was not over yet. “What do you mean,” she said, taking her time to parse it out right “about not wanting anyone at Kingsman to know about me?”

Once again Merlin hesitated. It was becoming a habit in this conversation, but this time Roxy let him get his bearings.

 

“George said that you knew about Tristan's wife?”

 

Oh. Of course, how could she forget?

 

Roxy gave a short, uncomfortable nod. What was there to say?

 

“What happened there?”

Merlin let go of her hand. Roxy immediately missed the feeling of it.

 

“I don’t suppose it will come at any surprise when I tell you that I have had many lovers before you,” He drawled, with some humor.

 

Roxy shook her head. “I had assumed as much. First, you’re older,” she gave a small shrug there, “and secondly, you’re more than capable in the bedroom. Figured someone along the way taught you what to do.” That was an understatement, really, but she wasn’t going to give him any information which would benefit him, not right then.

 

He gave her a small nod. “Some of them I am still very good friends with; most of my relationships have been short. Spying isn’t really conducive to more permanent arrangements.”

 

Roxy nodded, but curled up a bit in herself. She looked down at her feet, refusing to meet his eye, as she said “But it could be.”

 

Looking down, she missed the way that a significant amount of tension left Merlin’s body, or the way his eyes went soft as he glanced over at her. “Yes,” he agreed softly. “My parents met that way.”

 

She looked up, surprised. “Really?”

He gave a noise of affirmation. “It’s an interesting and long story, but a good one I will tell you sometime. Growing up, they weren’t encouraged to write to each other,” just like how Roxy’s mother raised her, “but they ended up both working for Kingsman. Mother was in the tech department at the time, and Da was Merlin” he said proudly.

 

“But,” he continued, “not all agency relationships have a happy ending. It’s harder to trust someone when you sift through lies for a living.”

 

“But you did trust someone,” Roxy guessed.

 

“Aye.” His hands curled in, and made fists. “She was a Statesman agent, we had been on and off for seven years. It was ...someone to pass the time with,” he concluded. Roxy’s stomach clenched slightly, hearing the heavy implication in his words. Someone that Merlin had been with, yes, but had kept himself distant with because he was only waiting for Roxy to grow up.

 

He had been waiting for her.

 

“So what happened? How did it go bad?”

“There’s a lot of details, but suffice to say, she betrayed us all in the end. She had been selling information, little bits at first. Then she claimed she got in over her head, and she was being blackmailed. Not,” he said scornfully “that we ever found evidence of such.”

 

Realization dawned on Roxy’s face. “She found out about Tristan’s soulmate and sold the information away. He was our most effective agent at the time, and had gained a lot of enemies.” Merlin nodded. “That was what was disturbing. She didn’t go for the sensitive intelligence data, she went for what would hurt Kingsman most, emotionally. But she underestimated us, and Tristan.”

 

“What happened to her?” Inwardly, Roxy was wondering about who this person was, what was her name, and how she and Merlin had met. But she wasn’t ready to ask.

 

“I took care of it.”

 

Simple, vague words and yet Roxy knew exactly what they meant. “You killed her?”

 

Merlin nodded, his face a stoic mask. “She couldn’t be trusted anymore,  and you and I had been writing more frequently. She had seen some of your writing on me. I didn’t know who you were then, and I was determined to keep it that way. I always knew that if I found out who you were, it would be harder for me to stay away from you. It would have been a simple action, looking up your name or finding your university file, or seeing you on CCTV. But it could put you at great risk, if someone found out. We knew there was a mole for a while, but we couldn’t figure out where. We had been looking in house, not at other agencies who might have access to our information. I never dreamed it would have been her, until I had the evidence in my hand.”

 

Roxy didn’t know what to say. She had felt heartbreak and betrayal before, but she had no experience for this. “I’m sorry,” she said plainly.

 

“It happens,” Merlin said, casually. “It’s a risky business, and Kingsman is stronger now because of it.”

 

“But you stopped writing to me,” Roxy said. “Until I got shot.”

 

“I was willing to put you aside for your safety, but once I knew who you were,” Merlin cleared his throat, as if he was nervous, “I couldn’t convince myself to stay away. Of course, knowing that you were George’s goddaughter, and my dead friend’s daughter …” he trailed off and Roxy felt the need to say something, anything.

 

“Apparently George has known since I was 14.”

 

Merlin’s mouth twisted in a smile. “Did he now? He never said.”

 

Roxy blushed, thinking of the story. “I fancied myself in love with my violin teacher.” She ignored the amused look Merlin gave her. “I wanted to know if he could be my soulmate, so I drew a flower on my hand. George saw it when he came home that night.”

 

“Ah, yes. The harebell.”

Roxy looked at him in confusion, before she remembered that harebell was another word for bluebell. Weird Scottish bloke. “George admitted he knew last week...he said you were so startled when you saw the flower, you dropped your teacup.”

 

Roxy was surprised to see Merlin blush at that. “It’s one of my favorite flowers, I was shocked when I saw it from my soulmate. It’s my mother’s favorite as well; Da used to take me into the woods and we would go pick them for her.”

 

“That’s lovely,” Roxy said.

 

He looked at her, deep into her eyes. “They represent constancy, gratitude, and everlasting love.” Roxy swallowed, nervous of all sudden, and was reminded by her body that her throat was still in pain. Merlin mistook her nervous expression for the pain, and went to the kettle, fixing more tea for her.

 

She had to admit, she wasn’t really feeling angry anymore. She certainly wasn’t happy, but now that she knew Merlin’s point of view and his reasonings for Andrew’s difficult behavior, it was easier to understand. Except …

 

“So why didn’t you tell me, once you knew who I was?”

 

Merlin gave a guilty shrug. “I was tempted, but I didn’t feel like it was a good idea. I was going back in the field, even for a short while, and you were now one of my minions.”

 

Roxy rolled her eyes. “Never refer to me as your minion again.”

 

Merlin looked up and gave her a brief smile. “Noted. But still, knowing Chester’s opinion on co-worker relationships, which he did have good reasons for even if he was an asshole in how he went about enforcing it, I didn’t want to put you in a difficult position. And soulmate or not, I don’t date support staff.”

 

“But you were going to,” Roxy pointed out. “In Venice, you asked me out to dinner.”

 

“Yes well. You’re actually very difficult to stay away from, in person.”

 

“Hmm,” Roxy started as she accepted the tea from him. “And you couldn’t date me when I was a recruit, either.”

 

He gave her  an incredulous look. “Of course not. That would have been ridiculous.”

 

“It would have been hot,” she argued even though she privately agreed with him. He just rolled his eyes, and put an arm around her. Roxy happily allowed it; she wasn’t completely done with him, but she was feeling much better now, after all the medicine and doting Merlin had been doing. She felt she could even go for a nap. “But still, you could have said something after. We’ve been dating for months .”

 

“Yes. You’re completely right, there. I could argue and say that I was busy, or I didn’t know how to tell you, but the truth is that I was afraid.”

 

“Afraid? Of me?” It was a bit flattering, but this was Merlin . How could he be afraid of Roxy?

 

He looked over at her, and she was overwhelmed by his expression. She had never seen so much love on someone’s face before, not even Merlin looking at her. “I knew the second I told you, everything could be over. I just wanted to keep what happiness I had, just a little longer before I told you and you would be angry at me. And,” he said bitterly, “rightfully so.”

 

“Merlin,” Roxy breathed out, but didn’t know what to say. The moment between them felt so powerful, she could barely breathe.

 

She was about to move closer to him, when the last thing popped in her head.

 

“Wait a fucking minute! You let me think you were dead!” It was hard to yell with her throat still hurting, so she punched him in the arm instead.

 

“Wait, what? When did this happen?” He said, surprised and rubbing his arm.

 

“I emailed you, Andrew, after V-Day. You never responded!”

 

“Oh.” He had the decency to look guilty. “I didn’t know.”

 

“You didn’t know,” she said slowly, staring at him. “You didn’t know that for months I thought my soulmate was dead.”

 

He leaned forward and cupped her face in his hands. “Darling, I was so busy I completely forgot about that email account. It doesn’t go to my Kingsman email; I have so many safeguards set up so no one at the agency could ever trace it back to me. I’m very sorry, but I suppose having you around in person was all I needed.”

 

She trembled in his hands. “You’re such a fucking idiot.”

 

“When it comes to you? Apparently I am.”

 

“What now?”

 

Merlin simply stared at her, and then kissed her forehead.

 

“You get better, think about what I have told you, and decide if you think I am worth keeping.”

 

“But,” she started and he shook his head. “This isn’t something you decide in a moment, when you haven’t been sleeping and your body is warring against you. This is big, life altering news, and it doesn’t matter what I think or the reasons I have given you. You need to make this decision for yourself, away from my influence.”

 

“And what about you?” She asked, desperately.

 

He smiled. “I know how I feel. I’ve known for ages. And when you tell me you’re ready, we’ll talk more. Does that sound okay?”

She nodded, knowing that it wouldn’t take her very long to think things through. She could wait, she assured herself, until the moment was perfect and she was no longer feeling like death. It had been a lot to take in, and she was still very tired.

 

On a whim, Roxy moved into his side of the sofa, curling up next to him. He didn’t seem to mind, by the way his arms went around her and he held her tight. “Movie?” he asked.

 

“Mmhmm,” she agreed. “You pick.”

Chapter Text

It was another day before Roxy felt well enough to get out of bed besides trips to the toilet; before he had left that night, Merlin had tucked her in, bought groceries, and stocked up on medication for her. He had taken Eowyn back with him, something Roxy was very thankful for. As much as she wanted her lovely poodle around, there was no way she was well enough to take care of Eowyn in her present condition. By the second day after Merlin had visited, Roxy’s voice was back and so was most of her clarity. Her cold was nearly gone, though she knew neither Merlin or Arthur would be a granting her a mission unless she was back to 100%. In the meantime, she was spending most of her days thinking over what Merlin had said and wondering what her next step would be.

 

True to his word, Merlin had kept his distance, letting Roxy sort everything out in her head. Eggsy had no such qualms, though, as the younger man had been sending Roxy texts on nearly every hour, checking in with her and asking her how things had gone with Merlin. It was mostly a one-sided conversation, as Roxy didn’t have a lot of energy to explain everything she had learned; it was all so much .

 

It’s not that she doubted her feelings for Merlin, and after his confession she certainly did not doubt his. Yet she still felt on the verge of floundering, not sure what step to take next. Roxy felt awkward and unsettled, and she wasn’t completely sure that was the residue illness in her system.

 

As much as Roxy appreciated Merlin giving her space, she was going absolute mental waiting . She wasn’t sure what she was waiting for. A sign, perhaps, that she should quickly forgive Merlin all he had put her through? What sign could be more obvious than knowing they were soulmates? What did she want?

 

From that spark of frustration, and knowing she was still constrained to her apartment, Roxy’s only current outlet was to go through every item she owned, assessing and sorting, reorganizing and tossing things out.

 

I am not meant to sit home on my arse , Roxy thought bitterly. I’m a fucking secret agent, for heaven’s sakes. This is ridiculous. She had no idea how Harry had been coping with months of physical therapy and retraining, when she herself could barely handle a week without wanting to claw someone’s eyes out or go on a stakeout. Anything, really, to shake off the monotony and give her some sense of firm ground under her feet.

 

It was during the midst of this reorganization that her eyes fell once more on her mother’s jewelry box, the one she had saved the night before the dog test. In all the excitement of the aftermath, and not having been home that often, she had completely forgotten about it.

 

But now, the thought of finding out what was locked inside the top drawer was the most excitement she had in days. Eggsy’s turning me into an adrenaline junkie, she thought wryly. I’ll never be satisfied with a life outside of Kingsman, not anymore .

 

Crap. What if that was what Merlin wanted for her? She hadn’t given the long term of their relationship much thought, not really. It was one thing when it still felt casual; they had been dating less than six months, after all. Plenty of time to worry about the future and what it might hold.

 

But now, with the knowledge that Merlin was her soulmate sitting firmly in her belly, everything felt different. Roxy wasn’t used to thinking this far in advance; it was always about the next mission, the next target. Merlin had retired from the field, mostly, when he realized Roxy was old enough to start university. He took himself out of harm’s way, thinking of a future they could possibly have.

 

Would he expect her to do the same?

 

She didn’t think she could.

 

Roxy put that dangerous, horrible thought aside as she dug out her lockpicking kit and fiddled with the lock.

 

When it clicked open, Roxy found an old photograph of her mother and a gentleman who seemed many years older than her.

 

Is that my father?

 

She flipped the picture over. There was no date on the back, but Roxy could guess her mother’s age easily; she looked exactly the way Roxy had when she was seventeen. The back of the picture held a small scrawl that Roxy could only assume was her mother’s.

 

Diana and Sam, destined forever.

 

Oh, how it broke her heart. Roxy wouldn’t lie and say she hadn’t given any thought to who her biological father was. However, until this moment, all she had to go on was a first name. This, this was something more.

 

She quickly showered and got dressed. Sickness or not, she needed to get into the Kingsman databases, now .

 

An hour later, she was getting off the Kingsman train and sneaking into her office. She knew there was no chance in hell that Merlin wouldn’t spot her from security footage, but hopefully he was too busy at the moment to question why she was there. Mostly, though, she didn’t want to be interrupted by anyone else.

 

Which of course is why she runs straight into Morgan.



“Darling! What are you doing here? I thought you were recovering from the plague. Quick, hug me and then get away.” Giving Morgan the fastest hug ever, Roxy pulled away grimacing. “Morgan, did your boobs get bigger since I’ve been gone? Or at any rate, they certainly feel different.”

 

Morgan just rolled her eyes. “I’m testing out a bulletproof bra. Still has some kinks to the fabric and style; you try explaining pushup bras to the tailors.”

 

“I’d really rather not, thanks.” Roxy took Morgan’s arm and they walked down in the direction of Roxy’s office.

 

“Of course you wouldn’t. That’s why I’m doing it.” Roxy paused and looked at Morgan. “Wait, is this for me?”

 

“Obviously. I don’t go out in the field. After your mission to the island, Merlin has been hounding R&D and the tailors to come up with more than just bulletproof suits. He’s not wrong; with you and Eggsy going undercover so often, it makes more sense. You won’t be wearing suits all the time, and I think Merlin freaked out when he realized the sundress you were wearing wasn’t going to protect you at all.”

 

That warmed Roxy up in a way she couldn’t even describe. Knowing that Merlin always put her safety first ...well. She couldn’t help the dopey grin that threatened to take over her face.

 

Morgan saw, and narrowed her eyes at it. “You two are ridiculous. Positively gross. I’m just waiting for you to come out and be open about it, instead of sneaking around like you think no one knows. Maybe if you did, Agent Monroe would stop her little visits this week.”

 

Roxy stopped in her tracks. “What are you talking about?”

 

“She’s in town, as a Statesman liaison meeting up with Arthur and going over expenditures and plans for the next few years. Or at least, that’s what she’s supposed to be doing, when she’s not coming up with every excuse to come visit Merlin. She cottoned on fast that Eggsy and Harry are an item now, considering they can’t stop making cow eyes at each other from across the room. And they call themselves spies.” She shook her head, forlornly.

 

“And Merlin?” Roxy asked, testing the waters.

 

“You know him. He’s far too polite to call her out, even though I can guarantee that he’s done nothing to encourage her. I’d almost feel sorry for her, if it wasn’t so annoying.”

 

That helped a little bit to ease the unsettled feeling flowing through Roxy’s body, but she couldn’t ignore the surge of possessive that flared up. “Where are they now?” she asked, a dozen different ideas forming in her head,

 

“They’re both meeting with Arthur and Galahad in the small conference room. Why?”

 

Hm, okay. So the idea of busting into Merlin’s office and settling herself in his lap was out, and so was kissing him in front of Agent Monroe. As much slack as Arthur gave her, she highly doubted he would excuse such a lack of decorum.

 

Roxy opened the door to her office, Morgan following in after her. “Can you pull up the security feed from the conference room,” Roxy asked, as she got her own computer up and running.

 

Morgan pulled out her tablet and fiddled with it for a bit. “Here you go. What are you going to do?” This is why Morgan was one of her best friends; there was no wariness in her voice, only curiosity and a bit of excitement.

 

“It’s not like there is much I can do, not right now” Roxy groused, irritated as she took in the four agents, and the way that Monroe’s focus never deviated from Merlin for long. She could tell from the tense way Merlin was holding himself that it hadn’t escaped his notice, and it helped to see him avoid making eye contact with Agent Monroe unless completely necessary. He focused primarily on his tablet and the data in front of him. Ever the professional, that was her Merlin. Next to him, Harry’s body language was at ease and he seemed amused with the way things were playing out. From what she could tell, Arthur had no idea what was going on.

 

She resolved to have someone flirt with Eggsy the next time Harry stepped in as their handler when they were out on a mission together. See if he would be so amused by flirting then, she thought.

 

Roxy sighed. “It’s not like I can blame her,” she pointed out to Morgan. Merlin was a catch, after all.

 

Morgan rolled her eyes and sat in the chair across from Roxy’s desk. “I guess not, but it’s annoying me so do something about it already.”

“Of course, love. I forever live to serve you, naturally.” Roxy snarked back, still watching the camera feed, paying attention to Merlin’s body language and the way he began to roll up his shirtsleeves. He only did that when he was getting restless.

 

A smirk formed at Roxy’s mouth as she came up with a new idea. Rolling up her own shirt, she grabbed a pen from her desk drawer.

 

She’s half tempted to write “I love you,” but it seemed inappropriate and too soon after everything that happened in the last week. Not to mention, she’d prefer to see the look on his face, up close, when she finally admitted it.

 

After all, she surmised, it’s not like it wasn’t true. It just … wasn’t the right time.

 

Would it be, soon? She could only guess.

 

In the end, she writes “I miss you” in medium size, looping letters and a small ‘x’ at the end, indicating a kiss. Morgan’s jaw drops a little at that, and she leans forward. “You have some explaining to do, missy.”

 

“And I will, but first ... watch .”

 

It’s breathtaking to behold, watching it play out. Merlin is the first to notice, obviously, and he gives a small, shocked start as if he wasn’t ever expecting to see handwriting on his skin again. The camera isn’t close enough that she can pick out all the details of his face, but she does get to see a small blush form on his cheeks, and she’s making a guess here but ...it does seem like he’s biting back a smile. Roxy’s heart clenches at the sight, and she finds that butterflies have begun to form in her stomach. Luckily for her, there’s no one to fight a smile from except Morgan and Morgan’s not exactly paying attention to Roxy at the moment.

 

“Ooo, look at Monroe’s face! This is awesome.” The older female agent has a slightly pinched expression on her face, her body language clearly indicating annoyance. From the slight trembling of Harry’s posture, it seems like he is fighting off laughter. Arthur is still oblivious; something that Roxy is currently grateful for.

 

Roxy shoos Morgan out of her office, with a promise to catch up and explain everything later, and gets to work. She’s got a photo to scan and see if she can identify, and paperwork to catch up on.

 

A half an hour later, when she’s in the middle of pouring herself a cup of tea, she notices Merlin’s small scrawl on her arm, underneath her own words.

 

I miss you too.

 

Well, she thought with a stupid smile, it’s a start.

 

***

 

It was nearly an hour after Roxy started the photo search that she got a result from the database. She had been surprised it was taking that long in the first place, after all Kingsman had an excellent file system, but when she got the results it finally became clear. It was an old MI6 file, from the 00 program.

 

Samuel Kensington , the file read. December 12th, 1960 - June 15th, 1990.

 

I was born in September, Roxy thought. He died when mum was pregnant with me. I wonder if he ever knew.

 

From the looks of the file, Samuel Kensington had been stationed in the Navy, like George had told her, but he had been recruited by MI6 in his early 20s. He had a successful career in espionage - like father, like daughter Roxy thought with a hint of a smile - before putting in for a transfer into the Q branch in early 1990.

 

After he had met Roxy’s mother, she supposed. She couldn’t help but see the parallels in her parents relationship and what Merlin had told her the other day; that once he realized she was old enough, he had asked to transfer to the Merlin branch of Kingsman and opt out of field work unless necessary.

 

And here was Roxy’s biological father, essentially doing the same thing. Perhaps he would have successful, too, if it wasn’t for one last mission where he was placed out into the field and never came home.

 

Died in action, according to the file. Last known contact, see Bond, James. Next of kin, unknown.

 

Except it wasn’t unknown. It was Roxy.

 

Where did she go from here?

 

She tapped her pen on the desk, weaving a nervous and chaotic pattern of sound. George was out of town, on a recon mission and she couldn’t call him. Merlin was out, as he was in meetings all day and besides, she had never mentioned this to him. Eggsy and Tristan were pulling a two man job in Morocco, the details of which Roxy did not know. She could talk to Morgan about this but ...confiding in someone wasn’t going to get her answers.

 

She needed someone who had been there.

 

Last known contact ...well, then. He had told her to look him up, after all. She’d see if he could make good on that promise.

 

One stop to the conservatory before she headed out - bluebells, placed on Merlin’s desk, an action that absolutely did not make her insides tingle, shut up - and then she was off. From what she could tell, Bond was currently in between missions and while the addresses of M16 agents were above her security clearance, she was going to play a hunch.

 

True to his word, Bond did have Q send Roxy his phone number, but she hadn’t been interested. Still, it was definitely something she could work with.

 

Whipping out her phone, she sent him a text.

 

If a scoundrel could be arsed to buy a lady a drink, come to the The Luggage Room, 8 o’clock.

 

***

 

After a long phone conversation with Morgan, in which she and Roxy argued over which dress would be just appealing enough to tease Bond a little but not so overt that he would mistake it for anything more, Roxy finally found herself dressed to kill and in the cab heading over to The Luggage Room. Since her socialite cover was firmly in place, it was easy enough to gain entry.

 

She was a bit early, but Bond was already there when she arrived, wearing a gorgeous suit and nursing a martini.

 

“Darling,” he murmured in her ear as he kissed her cheek. “This is a definite surprise.”

 

“Is it really?” Roxy cocked her head in his direction. “And I thought we hit it off in Berlin.”

 

He nodded his agreement. “We did, naturally, but the way Merlin threatened to hack my bollocks off after, I assumed the man had made his move by now.”

 

That brought a natural laugh drawn out from Roxy and she smiled at Bond while waving the bartender down.

 

“He has,” she agreed, happily. “And I’m firmly taken. I’m afraid this is not a pleasure meeting, Mr. Bond.”

 

“That’s a shame for me,” he mock sighed in despair. “Still, good news is good news. To the happy couple,” he toasted. Once they both had drinks in tow, Bond escorted her to a corner table so that they might converse in private.

 

“How can I be of service to such a lovely lady, if not for my charm and wit?” His eyes twinkled at her over his drink.

 

“Trust me, Bond, your charm and wit are still appreciated, even from afar,” Roxy teased at him. It wasn’t exactly true, but she couldn’t help how fun it was, bantering with him like this.

 

She got to the point, however. “I need to know about Sam Kensington.”

 

He arched an eyebrow at her. “Now that’s a name I haven’t heard in a very long time. What is it about my predecessor that peaks your interest?”

“Your predecessor?” This was curious, and Roxy was intrigued. “He was 007 before you?”

 

Bond nodded. “He was responsible for most of my training as well.” He leaned back in his chair, his eyes dropping low and assessing her. “How did you come across his name?”

Roxy pulled out the photograph and placed it on the table. Bond picked it up and looked at it with interest, no doubt recognizing the familial similarities between Roxy and her mother.

 

She decided to stop beating around the bush. “Sam Kensington is my biological father,” she told him. “I’m afraid I don’t know anything about him other than this picture and what my security clearance could get me from MI6 files.”

 

Bond nodded slowly. “That would not be much,” he said, softly.

 

“It really wasn’t,” Roxy agreed. “I’d appreciate anything you could tell me.”

 

For the first time, Roxy saw a real smile adorn Bond’s face. Not one that was teasing or flirting; there was no agenda here, only open pleasure to talk about a man he held with great importance.

 

He waved down the bartender and ordered a bottle of champagne. At Roxy’s questioning look, he said “I would like to have a toast to Sam’s life, with the daughter of the most amazing man I have ever met.”

 

Over the next hour, Bond told Roxy a story that captivated her; of a man born in Belfast to an Irish mother and a British father, and how he was sent to a British boarding school in his teens and his parents were killed by rebels. Sam joined the Navy, and then was recruited by MI6 to infiltrate the IRA. He went went deep undercover, risking his life numerous times and bringing back important intel to MI6.

 

“By the late 80s, however, he was mostly out of the field and teaching new agents such as myself,” Bond said as he threw back another glass of champagne. “I owe my continued survival to him; I don’t think I would have lasted this long if anyone else had trained me.”

 

It’s incredibly gratifying for Roxy to hear, and she’s desperate to know more about her father’s missions and things he had done. But first, there’s a more pressing question.

 

“How did he die?”

Bond grimaces, as if he has a bad taste in his mouth. “There were rumors of more car bombings, and they wanted him back in the field to find and detonate. It was one of his specialities; there would have been so many more casualties if it wasn’t for your father.”

 

“So that’s why he left,” Roxy put forth. Bond nodded, confirming. “He was killed by a dirty bomb he couldn’t diffuse in time, though he was able to get it away from any civilians. A true hero,” he declared. It’s a lot for Roxy to take in, and yet she has a hunger for more. As if he can sense it, Bond offers, “There’s a storage unit of some of his things near the outside of the city. I can take you there sometime,” he says with a small shrug. It’s standard procedure in the death of an agent with no apparent next of kin; items stored and boxed up until it is determined whether or not they contain anything of value to the agency. Yet this is many years past the expiration date for that. When Roxy voices this, Bond gives her a sheepish smile. It’s an odd look on him. “I couldn’t bear to toss any of it away.”

 

Roxy gives a small laugh at this. “It appears that James Bond does have a heart, after all.”

 

He looks stricken. “Keep that to yourself, please. I have a reputation to uphold.”

 

Bond orders another bottle of champagne and regales her with more stories of her father’s escapades, and some of Merlin’s as well. They’re both more that a little drunk on champagne and laughter when Roxy notices a familiar body in the corner of her eye.

 

Merlin. Settling in at the bar, giving no indication that he has seen Bond nor Roxy, but clearly he must have.

He looks damn good , Roxy thought as she eyed him up and down. He was dressed in a dark gray suit and a burgundy tie that just happened to match the print on Roxy’s dress.

 

Bond looked over at her, and simply says “You’re drooling.”

 

“Hush,” she commanded. “Can you blame me? He’s gorgeous.” And mine , her brain whispered.

 

“Not really my type, love, but again, I’m happy for you ...though, I must wonder at what he is doing all the way over there. Fitz!” He yelled in Merlin’s direction. Roxy saw the way the Merlin’s shoulders tensed briefly before giving up in resignation and he looked over at the two of him. Bond beckoned him over, eagerly. Roxy was simply happy enough to to appreciate the image of Merlin walking over towards them, his gait was essentially a mouth watering strut that made it difficult for Roxy to keep still in her seat, and not go over and jump into his arms.

 

She was positively too drunk to play it cool, at this point.

 

“Hello,” She all but giggled at him, as he sat down. He looked over at her, eyes serious but fond, and he wrapped an arm around her. She happily cuddled up next to him.

 

“James, have you been getting Roxy drunk?” The tone was both amused and dangerous, as if implying that Bond better have a very good reason for Roxy’s current state.

 

The other man protested. “She got herself drunk!” Roxy showed her agreement of this by sliding a hand up Merlin’s thigh, though keeping at an appropriate place, and pressing a small kiss to his lower neck just above the collar. “Champagne is delicious,” she informed Merlin. The bubbling drink had worked its way into her system, making it easy for Roxy to throw off her worries of earlier, and stop all the overthinking her brain was normally capable off. Instead, she felt a pleasant, happy buzz and she wanted to share that feeling with Merlin.

 

“Is it really?” Merlin drawled, taking one of her hands in his. “And what’s the occasion?”

 

"Reminiscing over old friends," Bond supplies. “And toasting of new relationships,” he continued as he held up a glass in Merlin’s direction. “I hear congratulations are in order.”

 

“Thank you,” Merlin says politely, as Roxy hands him her glass so that he may fill it up and join Bond in the toast. She notices that his eyes linger down at the photograph on the table, but he doesn’t ask any questions. “You’re feeling better then?” he asked Roxy.

 

She nodded happily, content in both the buzz of the champagne and the feeling of being in Merlin’s arms again. “I am feeling excellent,” she crowed, causing both Merlin and Bond to laugh.

 

“I think you should take her home, mate” Bond says with a mocking serious undertone. “She’s clearly had enough.” He’s not wrong; though Roxy prides herself on her tolerance and her ability to drink with the best of men, champagne isn’t a drink she’s used to, and it’s been awhile since she had this much. And the thought of going home with Merlin instead of her empty flat ..well. It’s more than a little appealing.

 

“Yes please,” she hums into his chest, trying to get closer. “Do what the good man says, and take me home.” Merlin laughs again, and she thrills to hear the happy sound.

 

“I do think this is the first time anyone has ever referred to James as a good man,” he teases.


“Oh, you wound me, you heartless man!” James cries out, mock-wounded. “Get out of here, and take your pretty lass with you. Or,” he winks at Roxy for good measure. “Leave her behind, if you must, and I’ll show her a good time.”

 

“You certainly will not,” Merlin counters, and it’s a joking tone to be sure, but there’s definitely a hint of malice underneath that sends shivers up Roxy’s spine. In a very, very good way. She decides it’s time to go, and go now.

 

She stands up, makes her goodbye to James, and all but yanks Merlin out of his seat. He follows, his hand in hers, laughing softly as she practically drags him out of the bar.

 

“I see you still need to learn patience,” he teases her once they are out in the street, alone.

 

“Patience is overrated,” she mutters. “It’s been weeks since I’ve been in your bed.”

 

“True, lass, and that has been very devastating indeed.” He crowds up next to her, so close that she can feel his breath on her skin and it makes her shiver.

 

“Cold?” he teases, making her think back to Venice when they were in a similar situation. Only this time, Roxy’s not afraid to go after what she wants..

 

“Not on your life,” she hisses and pulls on his tie, dragging his head down to hers to meet in a filthy kiss. No daintiness for them, not if she has anything to say about it. Roxy wants Merlin hot and wild against her, and she gets her wish when he backs her up against a building in the small alley, pressing her against the wall and devouring her mouth.

 

She yanks at his belt buckle to bring him in closer, and arches her hips in against the front of his pants. He lets out a deep moan, before reaching down and cupping at her breasts. She had forgone a bra tonight, as it wasn’t necessary with her dress, and now she was reaping her reward with Merlin’s discovery of this.

 

“Devilish wench,” he ground out, and she decided to take things a bit further and unbutton his trousers. He looked down at her in surprise. “Here?” he asked. “Are you sure?”

 

“There’s no one around,” she said, smirking at him as she moved her hand to unzip his trousers all the way.

 

“We could still get caught,” he cautioned her, but not moving away. Instead, he leaned in closer and pressed small, worshipping kisses to her neck.

 

“Stay quiet, then, if you care so much.”  She reached into his back pocket for the condom she knew she would find; in some ways Merlin was delightfully predictable. She wasn’t worried about pregnancy, since she was on a good birth control, but the condom would take care of the mess.

 

But , she thought, first things first and then she dropped down into a small squat, taking care to steady herself on the back of her heels. It would have to be quick, a tease to get him ready; not just because they didn’t have time to waste in case of discovery, but also because she wasn’t sure how long she could keep this position and she wasn’t about to ruin her knees.

 

Never was she happier that her throat felt better than in this moment, as she pulled him out of his pants and went at it. She teased him at first, with small flicks of her tongue, and reveled in his low groan.

 

“Quiet,” she admonished, but in all reality she loved the sounds she could bring forth from him. She took him in her mouth, little by little, but Roxy was a champ at blow jobs and it wasn’t long before his hips were bucking and his hands were tightening in her hair. “Nuh uh,” she chided. “You’re coming inside of me, or you’re not coming at all.”

 

“Yes ma’am,” he gasped and her heart felt happy to hear that from him again.

 

She steadied herself and pulled herself back to full height, removing her panties as she did so and tucking them into her purse.

 

“How do you want it,” she asked, suddenly feeling a bit shy. It wasn’t like her, and she bit her lip as she looked up at him. He muttered a curse under his breath, and pulled her in by her arse. “Legs around me,” he ordered, helping to pull her up and get adjusted so he could slide right in, after putting on the condom.

 

She had to fight back a deep moan when he was fully inside of her, and he whispered shakily in her ear “Quiet, darling.”

 

“Fuck you,” she bit back and he huffed out a laugh before hitting an angle with his hips that sent Rox wild. She had to bite down at his shoulder to keep from mewling loudly, and urged him to go faster. Roxy clenched her thighs around him tightly, as Merlin used one arm to hold her tight and the other to cup her head so it wouldn’t hit the wall.

 

It didn’t take long for either of them, having spent weeks apart at this point. Roxy reveled in the feel of Merlin holding her tight, as he pounded into her; she snaked a finger in between to her clitoris, getting herself off in a few quick strokes. As he realized what she was doing, Merlin let out a deep, loud groan and picked up his speed, resulting in a happy yelp from Roxy. He reached his climax and Roxy pulled him into a hungry kiss, biting as his lower lip and murmuring happy words and ‘fuck yeahs.’

 

“God, you’re so fucking hot,” she gasped as he pulled out of her, quickly discarding the condom in a nearby dumpster and putting his clothing back together.

 

He heaved a deep breath, and let out a small laugh. “I could say the same about you; I have no idea what I did in this life to deserve you.”

 

Giddy from the sex and the champagne,  and knees weak from the glorious feel of Merlin’s body against hers once more, Roxy laughed from where she was bracing herself against the wall.

 

“Take me home,” she commanded, her hair a mess and her mouth red from kissing. “And I’ll show you what you can do.”



***

 

Several hours and several intensely satisfying orgasms later, and Roxy and Merlin are sitting on Merlin's sofa, eating Chinese food and basking in the warmth of the fireplace. Merlin was bare chested and clad only in a pair of pajama bottoms, while Roxy wore the top and nothing else.

 

“How did you know where I was?” Roxy asked, now that she was more sober and less giggly.

 

“Morgan,” Merlin supplied, fishing out a tempura shrimp with his chopsticks and feeding it to Roxy. “I didn’t mean to butt in, but when she mentioned you were meeting up with Bond,” he gave a small, sheepish shrug.

 

Roxy took pity on him. “I was just prodding him for information,” she admitted. “Never fear, darling. Bond holds no interest for me.”

 

Merlin arched an eyebrow at her. “Oh really? And what was Berlin about then?”

 

She laughed, happily nibbling on a crab rangoon. “ That was me practicing my NLP technique.” She turned serious for a moment, looking up at him. “That’s all it was, promise.” True, it had also been anger and frustration, and a small bit of boredom, but he didn’t have to know that. That time was over; everything was settling into something so much better .

 

“It’s good to know I’m not the only possessive person in this relationship,” she added, still irritated about Agent Monroe.

 

“I’ve never been possessive before,” Merlin complained. “And here I was, so irritated that I didn’t know what to do. I was at the Luggage Room before I really slowed down to think about what I was doing.”

 

“As long as you don’t follow me on my honeypots, I think we’ll be okay,” Roxy joked. Merlin stuck out his tongue at her, provoking a squeal of delight from Roxy. Sometimes it was still hard to wrap her head around the fact that the man who drove her so hard during recruitment had a silly side.

 

“I’m a professional,” he said as he nipped at her neck. “I don’t interrupt, I just provide amusing critiques in your ear.”

 

She reached over to give him a long kiss. “From now on, Morgan’s my handler on honeypots.”

 

“Agreed,” he said happily. “She’d get more amusement from it than anyone else, anyway. Except,” he paused thoughtfully “Eggsy. Now I’d pay money to see that.”

“You’re incorrigible,” Roxy complained.

 

“You love it,” he defended.

 

Roxy just laughed and shook her head. “You’re right. I do.” She paused, her heart beating wildly in her chest. She looked up at him and softly said “I love you .”

 

He immediately stilled, his body going as tense as a wire.

 

“Merlin?” Roxy asked, cautiously.

 

He blinked fast and then looked down at her softly, bringing her into a slow deep kiss. “I didn’t think to hear that from you, not anytime soon.” He confessed. “Oh darling, I do love you so.”

 

“Good,” she murmured between kisses. “Because I’d have such a punishment for you if you didn’t.”

 

“Hmm,” he hummed, wrapping his arm around her and pulling her over to sit in his lap. “You could still demonstrate. It might be fun,” he suggested as he cupped her breast and teased her nipple.

 

Roxy laughed, light and carefree. “Like I was saying,” she said as she bit at his neck, “Incorrigible.”