Chapter 1: Was I Born A Step Behind You?
Hyde park was blanketed in a layer of pure, white snow, hiding the manicured lawns and weighing down the limbs of the elm trees lining the pathway, which were slick with a sheen of frost. Ryan had watched three people that morning alone deck it on the iced over pavement, but only one had actually fallen over. An important-looking man, maybe in his mid-to-late forties, donning a charcoal suit and a stoic face had been striding – almost marching – purposefully across the frosted pavers. He looked utterly certain of himself and his footing on the slippery terrain, but that quickly changed when he stepped onto a seemingly innocuous clump of snow. His calm mask had contorted into one of sheer panic his foot slid out from beneath him, arms windmilling madly to retain the balance he had been so sure of as his briefcase was sent flying from his grasp and into a snowdrift during his efforts to stay afoot. After thirty seconds of flustered flailing, the man landed squarely on his ass.
Ryan hadn’t been able to control the laughter that’d overcome him, and he would have joined the white-collar snob on the floor if Jamal hadn’t been there to support his body as involuntary guffaws escaped him. The affronted scowl on the man’s face only made the giggles worse, and it took him a good minute or two to put a lid on it. By then, the suited bloke had made his escape and Jamal and himself had slid an inch or two across the pavement.
“Didja- didja see ‘is face, Jamal? ‘E looked like ‘e was gonna go an’ ‘ave a brawl wif the snow!” Ryan gasped, clapping his hand on his friend’s shoulder and letting out a puff of laughter as he did. “Eggsy, you saw ‘im, right? Right?”
Eggsy, the sod, had opted to trudge through the solid foot of snowfall in his ratty trainers rather than risk an embarrassing topple on the icy pavement. Jamal and himself were not so cautious, citing that a graze or two was better than walking about in sopping wet socks during the peak of winter. He could see it on Eggsy’s face that he was inclined to agree with them, but Ryan knew the bastard was too proud to admit it. He wondered if the boy could even feel his toes at this stage, having been walking around aimlessly for a good hour already. So he asked.
“Aw, bugger off, yeah?” Eggsy ground out between clattering teeth, throwing up the two finger salute and curling his blue lips up into a snarl. “You’ll be joinin’ me an’ me wet socks over ‘ere when one youse s-stacks it.”
Ryan had to bite the inside of his cheek not to snicker when Eggsy sneezed probably one of the cutest fuckin’ sneezes he’d ever heard. It was like a baby or a cat had sneezed, all small and soft. Not his asshole of a friend Eggsy Unwin. He felt Jamal’s body shaking against his side, and Ryan swore he could taste blood.
“Eggsy,” Jamal breathed out, laughter bubbling up in his voice. “Mate, no ‘omo or nuffin’, but that was fuckin’ adorable.”
Ryan wasn’t sure if Eggsy’s face was red from windburn or embarrassment at this stage, but the boy’s mortified expression hinted strongly at the latter. He shoved his hands into his jacket pockets with a growl and turned his head away from them, and it was then that Ryan noticed the distinct purple of a bruise on the side of Eggsy’s neck.
He wouldn’t’ve seen it had Eggsy's scarf not slid down, the thing being as small as it was, but it made up for its size by sheer intensity of its colour. They hadn’t gone out and caused shit for a week or two now, and none of their fucking about had caused that sort of acute damage to his friend. Not so close to his head, anyways.
“Bruv, what is that?” He asked, tottering over to Eggsy to get a closer look at the offending mark behind his ear. It was even worse up close, almost black at it’s centre and red around the edges from the cold. Eggsy, the dumb bastard, just stared at him. “On your neck? You get laid of sumfin’?”
He gestured to where the bruise was on his own neck, and he heard Jamal’s soft, “oh, shit, mate,” from beside himself as he leaned heavy on Ryan’s shoulder to check a look.
Eggsy’s face fell when he mirrored Ryan’s gesture, his reddened fingertips stuttering as they pressed down onto the mark. Ryan winced sympathetically as his friend ground his teeth to stop himself from vocalising his pain, his green eyes looking oddly wet as he tugged the scarf back up to his ear. Ryan’s mouth opened to protest, but Eggsy’s clenched jaw and blank face had him stuttering.
“Ain’t nuffin’,” Eggsy hissed through his teeth, narrowed eyes tracking his and Jamal’s movements like a hawk. Or a scared animal. Maybe both.
“Bruv," Ryan found himself insisting, even with Eggsy looking close to drowning him in the lake behind them. He inched closer anyway, noting how his mate’s hands seemed to tremble a little as he did. It scared him. “Lemme see –“
When Ryan reached his hand out to grab Eggsy’s scarf, the boy did something he’d never seen before. He cowered. It was so unlike Eggsy, so very unnatural to see his friend, whom he had known to get into fisticuffs with men twice his size and triple his age, shy away from anyone, let alone him. Ryan caught his eye as Eggsy hastily lowered his gaze, and a weight, heavy and uncomfortable, settled on his chest when he saw genuine fear in his eyes.
“Don’t,” Eggsy warned, voice small and meek and so utterly un-Eggsy.
Ryan was frozen, not quite sure what to do with his hands or what to say to fix what he’d broken. He wanted Eggsy to scowl at him and tell him to fuck off, to stop looking at him like he was afraid Ryan was about to knock his block off. But he didn’t. Eggsy was just as frozen as Ryan was, shoulders hunched up to his ears and hands curled into trembling fists at his sides. Ryan wondered briefly if he was dreaming.
When he pinched himself, he was horrified to realise he was, indeed, wake.
Because that meant something was wrong with Eggsy.
“Eggsy,” he tried, his voice almost as weak as his friend’s. Shit. “’M not gonna hit ya, mate.”
Eggsy was silent.
“Y’know I’d never hit ya, right? Jamal neither,” he added, hopefully.
Ryan took a step closer, and he had to hide his disgusted scowl when he felt a wetness seep through his trainers and soak the toe of his sock. Eggsy wouldn’t even look at him, eyes locked on the patch of snow between his feet. He looked close to tears, and if that didn’t scare Ryan more than the threat of the coppers busting their asses, he didn’t know what did.
He took off running before Ryan could finish his name, vaulting over a park bench and almost landing face first into a snowbank in his haste to get away. Ryan couldn’t find it in himself to laugh at the wet squelching Eggsy’s shoes made with every step.
With summer just around the corner, it was starting to get hot in London again. People were breaking out fans and flip flops, forgoing their lined jackets for wife beaters and stockings for bare skin. It wasn’t as heated during the night, but it was uncomfortable enough that Jamal had set up his own oscillating fan in the main room of his apartment. For some reason, none of the units in the Estates were fitted with air conditioning, nor did they have insulation. It was the same temperature inside as it was out, and there was no reprieve from the weather.
To unwind and get his mind off of the stifling warmth encasing him, he popped a copy of Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back into his old VHS player. He was a good way through the film, and was happily munching on some popcorn, when he heard a knocking upon his door. It was well into the night, and no one in their right mind should be pounding on his door at – Jamal quickly looked down at his watch – quarter past eleven.
Nothing good ever came from answering your door past eight around the Estates; his neighbour had been stabbed six times in the stomach for opening up to a “pizza boy”. Jamal wasn’t going to take that risk, and he happily ignored his nighttime visitor until he heard an nigh inaudible, frantic whining of, “Jamal, please.”
The Londoner reached for his switchblade.
As quietly as he was able, he made his way towards the door. He knew he was being overly cautious now, especially since the person had used his name, but he’d prefer sneaking around his flat like a dumbass over becoming a spaghetti strainer.
Jamal grabbed the knob, silently twisted it open and shimmied the door open with the toe of his sock, watching through the slowly widening gap for movement. There were no thugs armed with shivs, or even a lone lout with a baseball bat. What he saw instead was a guy collapsed against the wall directly to his right, trembling hands leaving bloody prints on the concrete while he made this horrible, wheezing gasps. Decked out in a pair of threadbare jeans, varsity jacket and snapback, all of which were in some state of dishevelment and/or disrepair, Jamal guessed the guy was somewhere about his age, and had gotten himself into one hell of a brawl.
The guy was trying to pull himself onto his feet, but his white trainers – well, not so white, not anymore – kept slipping up on the steadily growing pool of blood. He let out a soft, yet frustrated string of slurs after he landed on his ass with a muted, wet thud, throwing his head back and groaning lowly from the back of his throat.
Jamal almost choked when he saw Eggsy’s face from underneath the crooked snapback.
“Jesus fuckin’ Christ,” was all he could manage before he dove onto the floor beside his friend, looking him up and down with wide, panicked eyes.
Eggsy looked absolutely fucked. Half of his face was covered by an angry, purple bruise that had swollen his right eye closed while the other half was coated in a thin layer of blood stemming from a deep gash that ran through his eyebrow. His nose was broken, seeming to visibly throb under Jamal’s scrutiny while blood spurted out from both his nostrils and dribbled down his chin. There were hand-shaped bruises on his throat and jaw, and Jamal found his own throat closing up when he looked down at his friend’s body.
He instantly spotted two knife wounds on his stomach, blood pumping out so fast that Jamal swore he could hear it. He threw his hands onto the gashes, pressing down and feeling a knot form in his chest when Eggsy released an involuntary yelp, sounding strangled. He muttered out an apology, and he felt his dread skyrocket when his friend’s blood started to soak into his t-shirt and sweatpants.
“Sorry,” Jamal repeated, voice trembling.
Eggsy smiled up at him with bloodied teeth peeking out behind his split lips, and Jamal’s nose screwed up in disgust when a glob of red spit dribbled out from his open mouth and made a wet splat against the concrete.
This wasn’t going to work. Jamal breathed as deeply as he could, trying to calm himself, before he removed his hands from his friend’s butchered torso. The blood oozed out with a vengeance, but he tried not to think about it as he moved to lift Eggsy into a carry hold.
Eggsy was a heavy bastard, but Jamal managed to stagger into his lounge room without dropping him. Sure, he smashed his head against the door jam on the way in and threw his friend onto his couch as soon as he was able, but at least they were inside now.
He sprinted to the bathroom to grab his first-aid kit and the designated blood towel stashed under the sink, mind running a mile a minute. What was he supposed to do if there was internal bleeding? What was he supposed to do if he needed an operation? What was he supposed to fucking do if Eggsy died on his couch?
His hands trembled around the kit at the thought.
When Jamal made his way made his way back into the main room, Eggsy looked two shades paler.
This wasn’t the first time he’d crashed at Jamal’s place after getting utterly thrashed, but he’d never turned up so late in the night or alone. Usually, Ryan would be with him, baring his own host of gnarly wounds and apologising for getting his blood everywhere. Eggsy wasn’t as apologetic about it, and Jamal could count on one hand how many times the guy had ever said sorry about leaving his lounge room looking nothing short of a crime scene. In fact, almost all the brown spots that marked his linens were on Eggsy, because Ryan wasn’t a prick enough to sprawl his sorry ass across his couch while he was still bleeding.
But, usually, Eggsy didn’t look like he was about to fucking cark it
Jamal kneeled down at his friend’s side, not quite sure where to start.
Stupid as it sounded, he couldn’t help but think back to that one episode of 24 Hours in A&E, where there was this dude that had gotten shot and the female nurse cut all of his clothes off before making a tourniquet. Jamal didn’t think Eggsy would enjoy having one of his only jackets scissored, so he started unbuttoning it, albeit with fevered fingers.
“Mate, ‘m goin’ t’ ‘ave to lift y’ up a little, OK?”
Eggsy slurred out a reply, and Jamal decided that, as long as his friend survived this, he could do anything he wanted. He still couldn’t help the guilt that burrowed into his heart when Eggsy whimpered while Jamal shimmied his jacket off of his shoulders.
His white polo was utterly destroyed. It couldn’t even be called white anymore; there was just so much blood. It was stuck to this friend’s torso like he’d just gone swimming, and Jamal could see the irregular rise and fall of his chest as if he were shirtless.
He didn’t think Eggsy would care if he sliced through it.
After having done so, Jamal pulled back the fabric, and he couldn’t help but cringe when it made a sound not unlike peeling a sticker off of a window. Eggsy’s skin was stained pink and red, but also with tones of purple, green, yellow and black.
Jamal let out a breath he didn’t know he was holding.
He counted nine bruises, six which were bigger than Jamal’s clenched fist and two that were shaped distinctly like knuckledusters. They were in varying stages of healing, but the worst was under Eggsy’s ribs. It was a livid, almost ebony shade of purple, the four impact points where the duster had caught him nary black. He could imagine how much that’d hurt, and how long it would have taken for Eggsy to catch his breath after the initial hit.
When Jamal looked back at the knife wounds on his friend’s abdomen, he had to stop himself from chucking up his dinner.
He was astounded Eggsy was still alive, seeing how deep one of the gashes were. Jamal could probably fit his whole pinkie finger into the incision without having to force it in, but he didn’t have the sadism nor the stomach to do such a thing, let alone think about it. He breathed out, trying to fight the nausea that overtook him. Him ralphing on Eggsy wasn’t going to help anyone, especially not the guy with the finger-deep knife wound in his side.
He forced himself to look at gash, and kept his eyes on it until the feeling had passed. He didn’t have time for this, Eggsy didn’t have time for this, and he needed to get a fucking grip. Breathing deeply, he started mopping up the blood with the towel.
“Y’ was watchin’ Star Wars before? Cool,” Eggsy slurred, voice high. He sounded plastered, and Jamal had no idea if that was because the guy had been drinking before he’d been jumped or if he’d lost too much blood, but the boy urged himself to move faster in fear of the latter. “Don’t fink I ‘ave watched any of ‘em. They good, Jammy?”
Eggsy never called him that unless he was stoned or drunk off of his face.
“Fuckin’ brilliant, they are,” Jamal forced out, trying to keep the dread out of his voice. He didn’t need to scare the guy. In fact, that was the last fucking thing he wanted. His friend was being oddly placid, and while he knew it was a completely subconscious action on Eggsy’s part, he didn’t want to frighten him. His friend didn’t even seem to be aware he was stabbed. In trouble, yes, but stabbed? Jamal needed to keep Eggsy distracted, and he was thankful that, as well as being so calm, his friend was quite talkative. “We can watch ‘em together when I get y’ all fixed up, yeah? We can eat buttered popcorn an’ have us a little marathon.”
“Sweet,” Eggsy replied, dopey smile on his face.
Jamal couldn’t help but grimace.
He scowled at the sight of the towel in his hands, already soaked through and through. Jamal, gulping past the lump in his throat, threw the sopping wet cloth over his shoulder before moving to root around his medkit for tape and padding. His bloodied hands left little red fingertips all over the white cotton, and Jamal tried to recall the last time he had a check up at the clinic downtown
Jamal smoothed the padding over the wounds, but when he started to unwind a strip of tape, the cotton piece had absorbed enough blood that, if he pressed down on it, it’d be a sight not unlike squeezing a soaked sponge. Hastily, he swapped over paddings and tapped it down, but he knew he’d just have to change over the dressing soon after.
Eggsy was becoming increasingly more agitated, shifting about and hissing through his teeth whenever Jamal so much as breathed on the stab wounds. His friend made a particularly loud whimper when he tore off the bandaging and reapplied another. Despite this, cotton padding was quickly becoming red underneath Jamal’s trembling hands.
With a renewed sickness bubbling up his throat, Jamal realised Eggsy wasn’t going to stop bleeding.
“Eggsy, just keep y’ eyes on the screen, yeah? Fink y’ could do tha’ for me?”
His friend moaned out a soft, “Alright,” and Jamal didn’t think he pitied the poor bastard more in his whole life
Jamal could deal with knife wounds. He could do that, and did so on a weekly basis. But when said wound kept spitting out blood like a geyser and his friend’s life was on the line? That’s something he hadn’t been forced into picking up over the years, and tonight wasn’t going to be the night he acquired that particular skill. He was taking Eggsy to the fucking hospital. He was not dealing with this shit on his own. Maybe if Ryan was beside him, he’d try a little harder before throwing it in, but alone like he was? No goddamn way.
Jamal’s decision was cemented when he noticed that his couch cushions were more red than grey.
Those were going to be a bitch to clean out.
“Sit tight, mate. ‘M callin’ 999,” he cooed down at Eggsy, who’d face took on an odd expression. Something like fear flashed across his face, but his mouth was all gritted teeth and pale lips. His hazy, green eyes seemed to almost sharpen with lucidity at Jamal’s statement, and the latter felt the familiar tug of dread on his heartstrings.
Eggsy, still laying down, muttered out a quiet, “’M not goin’ t’ die from a little cut. ‘Snot a big deal.”
Jamal knew he looked like an utter pleb, with his eyes were popping out of his head and mouth open in a dumb gape. Eggsy threw him a pained scowl and pulled himself onto his elbows, wincing all the while. Jamal had to stop himself from pushing the idiot back down.
“’M takin’ y’ t’ a fuckin’ ‘ospital, mate,” he replied, voice incredulous. How Eggsy was even breathing was a wonder in itself, but actively moving around? Just how much booze and raw adrenaline was this bastard wired on? “I ain’t riskin’ y’ carkin’ it on me couch ‘cause y’ are too scared t’ take y’ own arse t’ th’ A&E!”
Eggsy flinched at the volume his voice at hiked up to, but Jamal was too panicked to really take his friend’s minor discomfort of loud noises into account when he was damn near bleeding out. Jamal wiped his hand down his face, sighing in exhaustion and exasperation.
“We can do this on our own. No need t’ be ‘asty, Jamal,” Eggsy murmured, levering himself on the arm of the couch before forcing himself into a sitting position, hissing all the while. Blood seeped through the dressings and rolling down his stomach almost innocuously, dipping down into the hem of his threadbare jeans before soaking into the fabric. Jamal lost it a little after that.
“No, we fuckin’ can’t, Eggsy!” He yelled, hysteria and frustration making his voice pitch up an octave. Jamal didn’t have time to be embarrassed by his voice cracking, not when Eggsy was being so damn stupid, so naïve. “And stop fuckin’ movin’! Do y’ want t’ bleed out or sumfin’? Do y’ want to die?”
His friend shrunk back almost as soon as the words left Jamal’s mouth, looking smaller than anything.
“I trust y’.”
Jamal’s jaw snapped shut.
“What?” He uttered out, taken aback.
Despite Eggsy’s fierce loyalty to his friends, he had never explicit told them that he trusted them. It was like admitting it was worse than being punched in the schnoz, and his friend always had this awfully constipated look on his face whenever Ryan or him stated that they trusted him, highlighting the fact that the sentiment was entirely one-sided. So seeing Eggsy with pure desperation etched into his features as he said those three magical words both shocked and horrified Jamal.
“I trust y’,” Eggsy repeated, earnest.
Jamal spluttered. “Mate, ‘m not gonna –”
“Y’ ‘ave t’. Please, Jamal,” he begged. “Y’ ‘ave t’.”
“No, wha’ I ‘ave t’ do is take y’ t’ the ‘ospital!” He spat back, shaking off the last dregs of his stupor. He shoved his hand into his back pocket and grabbed his phone, flipping the lip open with his thumb. Eggsy lunged forward in an attempt to grab the cell from him, but his movement stiffened with a pained keen. Jamal watched cautiously as his friend settled back against the couch cushions, holding his phone close to his chest in stunned awe. “Y’ fuckin’ mad, y’ sob.”
“Jus’ stitch me up! ‘Ve seen y’ do it for Ryan, why can’t y’ do tha’ for me?”
Jamal punched the first nine in almost spitefully.
“Jamal, I can’t go t’ th’ hospital. I can’t.”
The second one felt even more cathartic.
“’E won’t miss this time, please.”
His thumb stuttered over the last nine.
“Who won’t miss, Eggsy?”
Eggsy instantly shrank back into himself, bloody hands rubbing nervously against his thighs and lips moving around muted words. Something like dread began to fester in the pit of Jamal’s stomach as he watched Eggsy’s face twist in fear while his adam’s apple bobbled madly in his throat. The guy looked like he was about to have an attack or something, and Jamal was fucking terrified at the idea.
After a few minutes of tense silence, Eggsy managed to murmur out a choked, “I can’t.”
“Y’ goin’ to die, mate,” Jamal replied, voice incredulous.
Jamal felt like he’d been slapped.
Eggsy cowered, and Jamal felt the floor fall out beneath him.
It had been six years since that incident in Hyde Park, but Jamal felt fourteen all over again, watching Eggsy crumble in front of him. His friend flinching away from him brought on a sick feeling of déjà vu, and he couldn’t help but see a younger Eggsy with that bruise behind his ear trembling on his couch.
“’Slong as ‘e doesn’t touch Daisy, I don’t care what ‘appens t’ me. ‘E can’t- I can’t let ‘im touch ‘er,” the boy whimpered, fragile and tight.
Dean. It was Dean. Jamal felt dumb for never thinking the scumbag was morally just enough to be above beating his kids, and be breathed out an equally dumb, “Oh.”
“Y’- y’ need t’ take me ‘ome. Can’t leave ‘er alone with ‘em. Jamal, take me ‘ome.” Eggsy’s voice had taken on a hysterical tone, and he tried to pull himself up off of the couch for a third time, but he couldn’t even brace his own weight for more than a few seconds before he collapsed back into the bloodstained cushions.
“Only if y’ let me take y’ t’ the ‘ospital. ‘M not lettin’ y’ kill y’self.”
“There’s no time!” He yelled shrilly, voice raw.
“Th’ faster we get t’ th’ ‘ospital, th’ faster y’ can get ‘ome, alright?”
“No, no, y’ need t’ take me ‘ome now,” Eggsy forced out between his bloodied teeth, eyes becoming wet with frustration.
“Look at ‘ow much blood y’ lost. Y’ ain’t protectin’ no one with all y’ blood on me fuckin’ couch,” Jamal stated grimly, pursing his lips when Eggsy averted his eyes in shame. Slowly, Jamal slid his hand on top of the other boy’s trembling one and squeezed it reassuringly. Eggsy exhaled shallowly. “Don’t fink Dais will like seein’ ‘er bruv with one foot in th’ grave, either.”
“Do it for ‘er.”
A conflicted expression crossed Eggsy’s face, lips curled back like he was about to tell Jamal to fuck off while his eyes expressed unadulterated guilt. His friend hung his head, defeated.
“Do it for ‘er,” he parroted.
Jamal pressed the last nine.
I apologise for the wait. End of the year was extremely hectic, and I had a massive writer's block for th second chapter. So I scrapped it. This is technically the third, but due to the formatting of this series, it can be read without. Don't worry, you weren't missing much.
Feel free to point out typos and errors, my best friend/beta is offline at the moment. :)
Chapter 3: Was I Only Made To Move Backwards?
Fuck it, have a double update. :)
The sun was high in the cloudless sky, pleasantly warm rays of sunshine colouring the lush lawns in shades of vibrant green and gold. It was in all aspects a gorgeous day, and Roxy relished in it. It had been weeks since she’d seen the sun, so she couldn’t help but stand before it and soak up as much of it’s glorious heat while it’s face wasn’t hidden behind a wall of clouds. She could feel the rays caressing her skin, and she smiled, content.
“Oi, Rox, y’gonna fall behind,” Eggsy called out, pulling the girl from her reverie.
She turned to look at him, watching as he jogged over with his irate puppy scampering behind him with an obvious reluctancy to do so. Eggsy looked absolutely radiant beneath the sun’s rays, his short, blonde hair dyed gold in the yellowed light and eyes taking on a vivid, green-yellow tone. His crooked smile, stretched so wide she could see his teeth, seemed to shine.
“I’m not going to fall behind. I was just taking a rest,” Roxy replied, smiling at the boy as he moved to stand beside her in the sun. His pug whimpered irritably at his side. “How’s the dog?”
The boy had been struggling to keep up during their morning runs ever since they’d all picked a dog. His stubborn pug – she couldn’t help but laugh at the memory of his face when she told him that his dog was not, in fact, a bulldog – had been causing him to lag behind, refusing to follow him or even trot behind him as he jogged. Merlin had prohibited them from carrying their pups, so Eggsy had been forced to try and trick his into completing the run each morning. Roxy was surprised the guy hadn’t just ignored Merlin and tucked the pug into the collar of his kevlar vest, but Eggsy was full of surprises.
“’E’s gettin’ better. Little guy makes it a mile then pikes out. ’Snot ‘is fault ‘e ‘as such tiny legs,” Eggsy said, looking down at the small puppy at his ankle with a soft expression. The pug looked up at his master, made a noise not unlike a chew toy and licked his own nose. Eggsy’s smile grew brighter. “’Is name’s JB, by th’ way.”
“JB, as in James Bond?”
Roxy couldn’t help but laugh. Eggsy, being the good sport he was, joined in.
“Nice day, innit?” Eggsy lifted his hand to his forehead to shield his eyes from the sun, surveying the landscape with this dopey little grin on his face. “Maybe we could ‘ave us a lil picnic later, yeah? ‘Ow’s tha’ sound, Rox?”
“Sounds delightful, Eggy. You going to have yourself a little tea party?”
Roxy sighed. Charlie and his goons were quickly approaching, chasing away whatever happiness the sunshine and Eggsy’s earnest smiles had coaxed out of her. She could see that very same one slide off of Eggsy’s face at the sight of Charlie in her peripheral vision, only to be replaced by the ugliest, most insincere smile she’d ever seen. Roxy pondered if it hurt, having that crude excuse for an expression contorting his face.
“Oh, yeah, mate. We’re gon’ wear those pretty frocks wif th’ fancy ass frills, too. An’ y’ain’t invited, so why don’t y’go an’ fuck off?” Eggsy barked back, grimace widening so far that it looked like he was baring his teeth.
“I’m hurt, Eggy!” Charlie exclaimed in mock hurt, hand over his heart as he tipped his head back and wiped his brow with the back of his knuckles. God, Charlie was such a melodramatic sod. “I thought we were closer than that!”
“Prolly could ‘ave been if y’weren’t a pompous arse,” Eggsy replied, voice hard.
Roxy saw the exact moment the playfulness drained from Charlie’s face, eyes going dark and mouth curling into an unkind smile.
“Like I could be friends with a low-class lout like yourself.”
“Your loss, bruv. ‘M told ‘m a fuckin’ delight t’ be ‘round.”
“You are. For when I want to feel good about myself.”
“Eggy, Eggy, Eggy,” Charlie tutted. He took a step closer, invading the other boy’s space. He towered over Eggsy by a full three inches, and the latter, mouth twisting into a cruel sneer and brows furrowing deeply, was visibly miffed by the fact. Amused by his agitation, Charlie smiled condescendingly and moved his hand to pat Eggsy’s cheek.
The hand never landed.
Eggsy, now standing a solid three feet away from them, had flinched away from Charlie. He’d been so violent in the act that his elbow had almost swung into Roxy’s nose, and if it hadn’t been for her fast reflexes, she’d be seeing stars. She looked over at Eggsy, eyes wide and mouth agape. Her jaw snapped shut at the sight of him.
His broad shoulders where curled inward, arms glued to his sides and hands pulled into loose fists, looking smaller than she’d ever seen him. His chin, usually held high in all his confidence, was pressed firmly to his collarbone, loose tresses of gold blonde hair falling into his face. He looked sick, skin clammy and pallor. His lips trembled between ragged gasps, and Roxy was half convinced he was about to start sobbing from the way the breaths hitched in his throat and came out wet. She couldn’t catch his eye; he wouldn’t let her.
Roxy felt like she’d stepped into a parallel universe. She’d never seen Eggsy look so vulnerable before. It was wrong, unnatural. The curve of his neck when his head was bowed, the furrow of his brow as he fought the horrified expression contorting on his pale face, the bone white of his knuckles as he forced his quivering fingers into a fist. That wasn’t the sort of body language Roxy was used to seeing on Eggsy, and she felt like a voyeur watching him perform them.
“Calm down, you pussy,” Ralph crowed, clearly finding the situation hilarious when it was anything but. “Charlie’s not going to hit you, not like your johns did. He’s a gentleman.”
That did nothing to calm Eggsy’s breathing. Rather, he seemed to breathe harder.
“Shut up, dickhead,” Roxy spat, voice wavering slightly. She wouldn’t admit it, but seeing Eggsy, someone so strong and confident, look like he was about to break down spooked her. “Just shut up.”
Charlie’s eyebrows had shot up, comically so, when Eggsy had cowered away from him, but, seeming to have recovered from his shock, started towards the Londoner again. Roxy was prepared to clock the bastard in the jaw if he got within a foot of Eggsy, but she froze, no, they all froze, when Eggsy finally broke his silence.
His voice was the softest she’d ever heard it.
“Don’t,” he whimpered out, sounding tiny and afraid. His skin became two shades lighter at the sound of his own voice, and Roxy could tell by the stupefied look on his face that he didn’t expect himself to sound like he did. To be fair, she didn’t expect his voice to be so wet and fragile, either. He gulped. “Just – don’t.”
He laughed long and loud, grabbing into Digby’s shoulder to steady himself and using his free hand to cover his mouth when he let out an involuntary snort. Roxy felt bile crawling up the back of her throat, nausea and disgust wrecking havoc in her stomach at the sound of Charlie’s raucous giggling. Eggsy was fucking trembling and he was laughing. She was certain he was a sociopath at this stage.
Eggsy’s white face erupted with colour at the sound, cheeks quickly becoming ruddy with mortification. He curled in even deeper into himself, shoulders hunched up to his reddening ears and elbows pressing into his ribs. The pink-red blush had started to crawl down his throat and collarbone when Charlie finally reined in his obnoxious laughter.
“What a fruit!” The taller boy hollered, pausing to allow Digby and Rufus to throw in their own, cruel barbs at Eggsy. The latter didn’t physically react to the slurs thrown at him by the two thugs. When Dibgy had hurled a rather mean comment that made Rufus chortle, Charlie joined in, obviously jealous of the attention his lackey got for his “joke”. Tosser.
Eggsy stood utterly still as the three showered him insults and malicious untruths, eyes refusing to stray up and look his tormentors in the face as they figuratively spat in his. Roxy refuted every little murmur and bark, but she could see that they were wearing down on Eggsy’s resolve. Some remarks were so cruel that they made Roxy’s very skin crawl.
It was Charlie who broke the camel’s back.
“You’re seriously scared of a little pat? What were you, abused?”
Eggsy made a strangled sound like he’d been stabbed. A cry or a keen, Roxy couldn’t determine, but it had been so painful to hear, especially from him. It was like someone had punching him in the solar plexus while he was exhaling, or kicked him in the kidney with a steel-capped boot. Whatever the hell it was that was ripped from the back of his throat, it made Roxy’s heart plummet. Eggsy, face red with embarrassment and body wound tight with tension, grew impossibly stiffer.
The boy’s reaction spoke in volumes, and Roxy, for all her perceptiveness, had never entertained the idea until Charlie had shoved it in her face. The very thought make Roxy’s stomach clench, but, for the first time, she finally understood some of Eggsy’s odder mannerisms. His knack for walking close to walls, the way he twisted knobs all the way before closing doors, the near compulsive need to have every exit in his vision, fuck, even the way he slept. He was constantly trying to make himself quieter, smaller, invisible, and she’d never seen it. How had she never seen it?
Eggsy’s mouth opened, snapped shut, and then face made a series of uncomfortable facial expressions before settling on one of pure resignation. His shoulders sagged with the weight of it, and Roxy knew exactly what that meant.
He couldn’t even deny it.
That wiped the smug look off of the prick’s face.
Roxy was surprised to see genuine remorse in Charlie’s eyes, seeing that he was perfectly fine with throwing the accusation in Eggsy’s face. The girl’s eyebrows hiked up when she saw Charlie take three large steps away, looking guiltier than anything. The guy’s mouth was hanging open, like he was waiting for an apology to tumble out on its own accord. When it didn’t, his face twisted, lips curling up like he’d just make out with a lemon, before he muttered out an uncharacteristically gentle, “I’m sorry.”
Roxy knew she looked like an utter idiot, slack jawed and eyes wide as saucers, but she just couldn’t believe it. Charlie had never said sorry before, not when he flung insults at Eggsy day in and day out, not when he laughed at them whenever the opportunity came up, not when he refused to offer Eggsy a puff of his loo-snorkle when they had almost all drowned on the first day. If she hadn’t been staring at Charlie like a moron, she would have missed the sympathetic look he offered Eggsy before he scuttled away, tugging his german shepard behind him. Rufus and Digby quickly followed suit, their own faces looking oddly pale.
After a beat of silence, Roxy turned to look at Eggsy, who had not moved an inch since she last saw him. JB was tugging at his master’s pant leg, urging him into action, and, while Eggsy usually would have smiled down at the pup at the display, he just seemed to grow more distressed. His teeth begun gouging into his lower lip, canines tearing into the soft fresh and causing blood to bead up from the wound.
“Eggsy?” She tried, voice pinched and high. For all her knowledge, she didn’t know what to do. Was she supposed to pull Eggsy into a hug and tell him it would get better? Was she meant to leave him alone? Was it acceptable to make a joke to break the tension in the air? “You alright?”
Eggsy didn’t reply.
“Eggsy,” she repeated, voice softer this time. Unsure, she reached her hand out to take his elbow, thinking that perhaps he needed a little reminder that he wasn’t alone, but her heart shot up her oesophagus when he cowered away from her. Her body seized up, instantly riddled with guilt and self-disgust.
“Sorry,” he forced out through his teeth, and Roxy found herself wishing Charlie had stuck around because she very dearly wanted to kick his teeth in. He’d done this. He was the one that’d pushed Eggsy this far, the one that had made him feel so unsafe that he’d been reduced to a cowering child, waiting to be hit, to be punished. He was the one who revealed this new, alien facet of Eggsy she never knew existed and, quiet frankly, wished she’d never encountered.
Roxy hadn’t seen the boy’s eyes for a good ten minutes now, and he pointedly continued to avoid her gaze as he shuffled past her.
JB followed Eggsy without any further coaxing.
Merlin pulled his seat back, falling into it heavily as he sighed.
This mission wasn’t going to be a fun one, and he could feel a headache building behind his eyes already.
Eggsy – Mordred, he had to remind himself, he was Mordred now – had made it into the nightclub without a hitch, wearing some of his own colourful, if not tacky adidas apparel to blend into the sea of dancing bodies. It was a blast from the past, seeing the young man donning his trainers, snapback and shiny, faux leather bomber jacket. Sure, Merlin was aware of the fact that the lad was wearing a full body kevlar compression suit beneath his gaudy civilian wear, but it was like he was looking at that unclothe lad from the first day of training.
Merlin sat, surveying the crowd through Mordred’s eyes.
The young man had been given a honey pot mission, but it was unlike any other honey pot Kingsman had assigned Mordred. Not only was his mark, Christof Hansen, the head honcho of Britain’s most successful child sex trafficking ring, but the mark was a man double Mordred’s age. Merlin screwed up his nose, disgusted. Arthur had given this honey pot to the Londoner specifically, citing that their youngest agent should be the one trying to seduce the probable pedophile. While it was the smartest thing to do, it didn’t mean Merlin had to condone using Mordred and his boyish features to lure out the freak.
Merlin was not looking forward to watching it, and he didn’t want to even think about how Mordred felt about it, him being the one who was going have a serial pedophile lusting over him.
The scotsman gulped down his coffee – black, no sugar, fucking cold – and looked back up at the screens. He groused, muttering bitterly.
"What crawled up y’arse an’ died, Merlin?" Mordred asked, voice light and bubbly. His voice would have been drowned out by the shrieking of the girl plastered to his side and the blaring of some horrid pop song if it hadn’t been for the sheer sensitivity of the Kingman spectacle’s microphones. “Not Bors, I ‘ope."
Merlin laughed dryly. “Focus, you cheeky git. You’ve got a mark to woo.”
Mordred made a dismayed noise from somewhere in the back of his throat. Merlin mourned his coffee.
“Don’t remind me, Merlin,” he sighed, exasperation clear in his voice despite the asinine screaming of the drunken party-goers surrounding him. “I better get a fuckin’ medal or sumfin’ after this. Christ.”
“I’ll think of something,” the scotsman replied, an amused smile pulling at his lips.
“I ‘ope fuckin’ so.”
Mordred weaved between the dancing bodies, sweeping the area for his mark. Hansen was easy to spot, seeing as though he had decades on almost everyone else at the club and a distinct unsightliness that separated him from the crowd. He looked not unlike a vulture, with his balding head and hooked nose. Merlin’s little smile turned into a grimace at the sight of him.
Time to get to work.
“Two o’clock. Your mark in the booth nearest the restrooms. There’s four, maybe five men with him,” Merlin reported, all revulsion he felt towards the target and fear for Mordred void from his voice. He was a gentleman, after all. “Be careful, Mordred.”
The agent made his way through the pulsating crowd of clubbers, slipping between hot bodies grinding against one another and shrugging off the hands of drunken girls trying pull him back into the pit. When he stumbled off of the dance floor, he righted his snapback, dusted off his jacket, and headed towards the restroom with a swagger in his step. Merlin watched as Hansen eyed Mordred as he passed by, filled with disgust when he saw the unadulterated desire in his loaded stare. If the young agent was uncomfortable, he didn’t show it.
Mordred nodded, and Merlin could imagine the scowl on his face.
As if on cue, two of Hansen’s men sauntered in after him, each giving Mordred a long, uneasy once-over that made the technician’s stomach knot up. Not for the first time that night, Merlin cursed Arthur for putting the boy in this situation.
“'Ello there, pretty boy,” the first goon drawled, leering at Mordred like he was a slab of meat. The scotsman shuddered at the compliment, and he could tell that the younger agent did, too. “Wot are you doin’ in a place like this so late a noight, ‘uh?”
“Chuckin’ a piss,” Mordred replied coolly, and Merlin couldn’t help the chuckle that wormed it way out of him. He could see the Londoner’s mouth curl into a smirk from in reflection in the mirror to his right. Cheeky bastard.
The second lout let out a harsh bark of laughter. “Witty an’ attractive! What a catch, Jimbo!”
“What a catch indeed, Kev,” the first, Jimbo, agreed.
“Y’ ‘aven’t caught me yet,” Mordred teased, voice airy and playful. He had this coy little smile on his face, looking not unlike one of those ditzy girls the agent had shoved past on his way to the bathroom. “Gonna ‘ave t’ try ‘arder than tha’, bruv."
This elicited an even louder laugh from Kev, but Jimbo didn’t look at all entertained. He looked pretty irked, actually, and that make something heavy settle in Merlin’s stomach. Shit.
“Mordred,” Merlin warned. “Careful now.”
The boy nodded minutely, and the scotsman could see his hand moving to rest innocuously on his wristwatch. He clicked it over once, twice, three times.
After a beat of silence, Jimbo’s face broke into a crooked grin and he chuckled, dispelling the thick tension in the air. “Tell me, boy, how d’ ya like drugs?"
So they drugged and kidnapped whoever was naïve enough to take them up on their offer, and they probably killed the ones smart enough to deny them. Delightful.
“Oh, y’know, I’ve tried weed,” Mordred replied, voice oddly level for someone who was about to get jumped by two thugs. Merlin commended him for his calmness, and the agent’s lazy smile widened into a grin. “What, y’ got some on ya?"
“We ‘ave somethin’ stronger than tha’, boy,” Kev growled lowly, mouth a jagged maw of whiskey-stained teeth. Merlin could smell the alcoholism through his monitor, and retched a little at the thought of getting a nose full of his soured breath. “Wanna sample?”
Before Mordred could open his mouth to reply, another thug, taller than the others, trudged into the restrooms. He wasn’t all that menacing, looking like your average drug-pedalling oaf, but Mordred’s whole demeanour faltered at the sight of him. The agent took a step back, backing up into one of the cubicles. Merlin heard the way the boy’s breath stuttered out of his lungs, and was deeply unnerved by the pure, earnest fear that flashed across his face.
The new thug knew Mordred. Shit. Shit.
“Mordred, you have to get out of there,” Merlin urged. The boy didn’t move, didn’t speak, didn’t breathe. He was paralysed, and the Scotsman couldn’t do anything to fix it. Fuck, he need to get Lancelot down there, and fast.
While Merlin pulled up a text window and typed up a run down of the mission to send off to the other agent, Mordred became exceedingly unhinged. The three thugs had started towards the agent, and the latter was becoming more distressed than Merlin had ever seen him. His breathing was so loud it was almost deafening, but the technician had no idea why.
“Mordred, snap out of it!” He yelled, his anxiousness bleeding into his voice in spite of himself. This wasn’t supposed to happen. Mordred wasn’t meant to know or have been in contact with any of these men, and he most certainly wasn’t meant to be afraid of them. Merlin wracked his brain, trying to figure out where it all went wrong, where he’d fucked up and gotten the boy stuck. He ran a facial recognition on the newest thug, and just as his details flooded onto his screens, Mordred let out a bona fide whimper.
“Dean,” he eked out, feeble and weak. Merlin didn’t have time to be taken aback by the uncharacteristic tremor and tone of Mordred’s voice, but his fingers stuttered over the keyboard anyway. Lancelot was going to have to decipher whatever sentence he’d just butchered, and he let out a harsh sigh as he sent the message off.
He looked back up at the Dean Baker's personal data on his screens, eyes flicking over arrest warrants, speeding tickets, marriage records – oh, shit. Merlin ran a hand over his shaved scalp, letting out a slew of particularly strong curses as he read over the record again.
Married to Michelle Unwin, née Womack.
He was Morded's stepfather.
So why did he sound so scared?
“Wot th’ bloody ‘ell are y’ doin’ ‘ere?” Dean yelled, equal parts incredulous and furious. Merlin would be angry if his stepson in a seedy club and at the mercy of two thugs under Britain’s most esteemed pedophile, too. But, more importantly, what was Baker doing there? And why was Mordred so goddamn terrified of him?
“N-nuffin’," Mordred’s voice trembled, coming out as little more than a whisper. Feet scuffled against the tile floor as he scrambled to stay upright, knees buckling beneath his weight. “Look, I'll just –”
“You’ll what, Muggsy?" Dean spat, unkindly. He was right up in Mordred’s personal space, filling Merlin’s screens with nothing but his blotchy, alcohol-ruddy face. The young man tilted his head to the side, and Merlin got a look at the scene unravelling from the reflection in the mirror.
Mordred was pressed firmly against the cubicle door in his attempts to put as much space between Dean and himself, and Merlin couldn’t help but notice the way the kid bore his throat in submission. It was such a small gesture, but, when performed by someone as independent and rebellious as Mordred, it spoke volumes about how scared he was. Scared of Dean, who towered over the boy with the two inches he had on him. Merlin spotted a small pistol tucked into the back of the man’s blue jeans, but he didn’t warn the boy; he didn’t think stressing him further with the presence of a firearm would help any one, especially not Mordred.
Jimbo and Kev had moved to guard the door, realising they wouldn’t be needed to apprehend the youth seeing as Dean had scared him into subservience by presence alone.
“You’llwhat, Muggsy?" Dean repeated, emphasising his threat with an open palm strike against the door besides Mordred’s head. The latter released a terrified yelp and cowered away, only for him to be forced back into place with a fist grasping the front of his polo. The young agent’s breath came out in a shuttering keen, and Merlin didn’t think he’d ever heard anything so soft come out of the lad before. “Run away again? Y’ mom’s been worried sick, an’ y’ sister ‘asn’t stopped cryin’ since y’ made a run for it. Thinks y’ finally abandoned ‘er, y’ mom ‘as.”
The Scotsman was reeling. Mordred's stepfather was abusive in all aspects of the word, Mordred had run away from home to join Kingsman, Mordred had a sister. How much hadn't Galahad – the previous Galahad – told them about the younger agent? Just how much deceit was he willing to perform to get Mordred into Kingsman?
Mordred’s next words came out high and fast, sounding not unlike he was being choked. Merlin dialled Lancelot’s phone number, fingers frantic as the punched in the young woman’s digits.
“'Snot wha’ ‘appened, Dean! Y-y’ was gonna fuckin’ kill me in front of mom!"
“Don’t raise y’ voice at me, y’ little bitch!"
“M sorry, ‘m sorry –”
“Shut the fuck up!”
“Hello, you’ve reached Roxanne Morton’s voice mail –”
Dean’s fist slammed into Mordred’s face with a sickening crunch that was followed by a loud, resounding thud as his head bounced off of the cubicle door. The left lens of Mordred’s glasses shattered, and Merlin lost one screen to a sea of white noise.
“Eggsy, get the fuck out of there!” Merlin cried out desperately. “Eggsy, now!"
Mordred shrieked in reply.
Dean dug his fingers into the agent’s throat and lifted him up off of the floor, smirking maliciously at the sound of the lad wheezing for air. Blindly, the lad batted his hands against his stepfather’s face in an attempt to free himself, but the man caught his fingers with his tobacco-yellowed teeth and bit down. Mordred’s shrill, strangled cries of pain echoed off of the tile walls, growing hysterical when he pulled his hand back only to see red.
Merlin very dearly wanted to break something.
Mordred was in deep shit, Lancelot wasn’t answering her phone, and he was utterly useless.
Dean spat Mordred’s own blood back into his face, covering a good portion of the right glasses lens in his red spittle. The obstruction didn’t stop Merlin from seeing the feral sneer on the man’s face, teeth tinged red with his stepson’s blood. Mordred’s hitched moan of disgust and pain was cut short by a swift slap to the cheek. The agent’s spectacles were perched precariously on his nose now, and the Scotsman’s live streaming of the events was tilted into it’s side.
Hansen’s lackeys muttered lowly to one another from their stead at the door, one loud enough that Merlin, despite the damage done to the glasses, picked up his, “mate, y’ are damagin’ th’ goods. Lay off ‘im a bit, yeah?”
Dean dropped Mordred at that, and the agent took the opportunity to catch his breath with short, panicked gulps of air. The Londoner's head lulled forward as he spluttered, body too heavy to hold upright. The young man's white polo was covered in spots of blood, and Merlin knew it was the kid's. The technician watched on in horror as Mordred, sitting up with his back pressed against the door behind him, went to probe the damage done to his left eye with trembling fingers and whimpered when they came back dripping red. The lad sounded just as terrified as Merlin felt, if his choked whine that turned into a hiccupping sob was anything to go by.
“'E’ll get better,” was all Dean snarled before he grabbed Mordred by the front of his shirt once more. The agent groaned in exhaustion as he was hauled to his feet, and he did nothing to protect himself when Baker took another swing at him, this time sucker punching him in the stomach. The sound of Mordred gasping shallowly between retches made Merlin wince, even more so when the kid started crying. “'E always does."
The Scotsman was seconds away from hopping into a cab to go and save Mordred himself when Kev came flying into the frame. The oaf’s limp body slid across the tiles floor and came to a stop somewhere near Dean’s feet, nudging the backs of his calves. The man turned, presumably to hurl some abuse at the guards, when something – a shoe, Merlin noted – clocked the bastard in the head. Dean’s grip on Mordred’s shirt loosened upon impact, and, too weak to hold himself up, he slid down the cubicle door and folded in on himself, nearly unconscious.
Just before Mordred’s head lulled down to give Merlin a spectacular view of his crotch, the technician caught a glimpse of Lancelot, dressed to the nines in a red cocktail dress and a pair of shiny, black pumps. Well, one pump. The other had skittered off across the floor and into one of the stalls.
Merlin didn’t think he’d ever been so glad to see Lancelot in his whole life.
“Who th’ fuck are y’?” Dean demanded, unbridled rage clear in his tone.
“Get away from Eggsy, and you’ll never have to know," Lancelot replied, and if Merlin could see her, he knew he would have seen a smug sneer pulling at her painted lips.
There was the scuffling of sneakers against the tiles, a grunt and a loud exclamation of the Lord’s name before the Scotsman heard the familiar sound of a body hitting the floor.
Less familiar was Lancelot's scream, the slapping of her bare foot against tile, and her voice pitching up in fear as she spoke.
“Eggsy? Oh, God, Eggsy," the agent moaned in despair, her face suddenly coming into view as she cupped Mordred's face in her hands and brought her face to his. The boy managed a soft moan of his own and a throaty whimper before he went limp in her arms, dead to the world. Lancelot's face fell, and all of the make up in the world wouldn't conceal the brazen hurt that coloured her features. Merlin was taken aback by the pure emotion she displayed. The agent was usually so stoic, so in control, so seeing her look down at Mordred with such worry was, well, worrying.
Just how bad did Dean hurt him to garner that sort of reaction from Lancelot?
The girl let Mordred's head lull against the stall door, and Merlin's view was wrenched away from Lancelot's face. All the Scotsman was privy to was the off-white ceiling for a solid five minutes, and while he knew the younger agent was smart enough to know he was watching them through Mordred's spectacles, he also knew how confronting it was to see a fellow agent, a friend, in trouble. So he waited. Clothes rustled, zippers were pulled, and Lancelot gasped quietly between soft, little sobs every so often. Merlin tried to block out the latter, feeling his own anxiousness hike up at the feeble hiccups that bubbled out of her, but his efforts were in vain.
He was vibrating out of his skin by the time Lancelot pulled the glasses off of Mordred's face and placed them on hers.
Surprisingly, Mordred's broken body wasn't the first thing he saw. No, the girl had turned around and was staring at the exit. Merlin wasn't sure if he was thankful that he was spared from seeing the lad's bloodied face or not.
"I can't stand seeing him like this," was the first thing Lancelot said, voice miserable. The technician was certain she was about to burst into tears again, but they didn't have time for that. No, they had to get out of there, and quick.
"Lancelot, what's the status of the mark?"
"Gone. I triggered the sprinklers of the main floor so I could enter undetected."
Merlin smiled. "Good girl. Now, do you think you could carry eleven stone?"
Lancelot laughed, soft and wet.
I promise the next chapter is happier. Promise.
Quick note, I forgot about the post-credits scene when I wrote this, so, apologies on that front.
If you spot any typos or grammatical errors, feel free to point them out to me. :)
Chapter 5: Avert Your Eyes
I finally did it, guys. I finally fucking did it. Sorry for making you wait, and sorry if this isn't worth the wait. Ha ha. Hope you enjoy!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
The infirmary was white, but not unbearably so. It was a sort of pale, creamy-yellow tone, like the flesh of a banana. It was a moderately sized room, fitted with twelve beds dressed in sheets the same colour as the walls and an open space at the front for examinations. Almost everything in the room was that banana-flesh colour, and it was a pleasant change from the stark whiteness Eggsy was so used to seeing in all the hospital rooms he’d waken up in throughout his life.
Eggsy didn’t think he’d wake up to stare at another white ceiling again.
His whole body was heavy and thrummed with the familiar warm, throbbing ache that came after a thorough thrashing. He attempted to sit himself up in his bed, but the ache became a searing hot burn under his skin at the movement and he fell back against the pillows with a muted grunt. He breathed out harshly through his nose, fidgeting in his place when the pull of his skin across his diaphragm sparked an uncomfortable tingling sensation in his abdomen. His head was filled with cement, thick with pain and sleep, but the sharp pain emanating from his left eye was not unlike a jack being thrusted through his eye socket, harshly chipping away at his dazed state. Eggsy lifted a hand to feel for the source of his discomfort when his fingers bumped into a gauze eyepatch. How he hadn’t noticed that half of his field of vision was missing was beyond his sluggish brain, but he wasn’t all that worried. Maybe it was because he was still disorientated, or maybe it was because of whatever they’d put him on, but the possibility of a missing eye didn’t quite scare him like it should have.
Then again, Dean had done worse. Maybe not physically, but the cunt had done worse.
He pulled back his hand – also gauzed, he noted – and stared back up at the ceiling.
Eggsy had been counting the number of ceiling panels when he heard the latch of the door – to the left, ten metres from his bed, no lock – click over, and he watched vigilantly from his bed as it was pushed open.
Eggsy let out a breath he didn’t know he was holding when Roxy appeared, looking a little ruffled, a little bloodied, but every bit as gorgeous as she always did. She was still wearing her killer red mini dress from last night, and something in his stomach revolted when he saw patches of his own blood splattered across the fabric.
He’d have to remind himself to replace the dress she’d ruined saving his ass.
“’Ey, Rox,” Eggsy called, his voice a little husky and sounding far quieter than he’d intended. Despite this, Roxy perked up and appeared at his side almost instantly, her face breaking out in an earnest smile. He reciprocated, but it fell when he felt his lip tear open. He hissed sharply and took his bleeding lip into his mouth, tongue prodding at the wound instinctively.
“Hey, be careful!” Roxy scolded, and Eggsy tensed when he heard her solemn tone. She sounded pissed, and her voice very distinctly lacked its underlying streak of impudence, but he didn’t know why. He didn’t ask.
“’As anyone told ya y’ look hot covered in blood? ‘Cause y’ do,” he teased, trying to coax the fun back into her voice. Her jaw tensed and her eyes darkened, but Eggsy tried to ignore it, tried to pretend she wasn’t about to chew him the fuck out.
He didn’t want to be serious right now, and he didn’t want to know just how badly he’d fucked up the mission. He didn’t want to be told how many months of reconnaissance he’d wasted, or how many more months they’d have to wait for their next chance to nab the ponce. He didn’t want to think about all the lives he’d jeopardised by not completing his assignment, and all the people whose lives would be ruined because of him. Selfish as it was, he didn’t want to deal with it; he just wanted to fool around with Roxy and pretend he hadn’t singlehandedly ruined one of the most important missions he’d ever been given.
He swallowed thickly, guilt bubbling up inside his throat like vomit.
“Rox, y’ think Kingsman’ll make y’ some tactical make up or sumfin’? Like, ‘eated lasers tha’ can cut through shit ‘idden in lipstick or- or a paralysin’ powder disguised as foundation?” He tried, keeping the chipper lilt in his voice despite the dark expression on Roxy’s face and the mortified flush on his own. He licked his lips, nervous, and added a quick, “Tha’d be sick.”
“A necklace tha’ doubles as a ‘eated garrotte.”
“Rings tha’ can connect an’ become knuckle dusters.”
“Is it mascara, or is it a lock-pick?”
“Drug detectin’ nail polish?” He asked, desperate. She’d been staring at him for a while now, and it made his skin crawl. He shifted in spot, careful not to jostle himself or the IV sticking out the back of his hand.
There was a brief moment of utter silence, loaded and tense, and Eggsy wished Roxy would break it already. All his attempts at dispelling the anxiety in the air fell flat. In fact, it only seemed to grow thicker and all the more cloying the harder he tried to bring a smile onto Roxy’s face. He was choking on it at this stage, and Roxy was pressing down on his windpipe with her thumbs.
“How can you pretend that everything is alright after last night?”
There it was.
Eggsy gulped down the growing lump in his throat, his voice coming out tight and high. “’M sorry ‘e got away, alright? Won’t ‘appen again, promise.”
Roxy’s face became something ugly and full of disgusted rage. He’d never seen her face so twisted, the soft curve of her brow wrinkled in a scowl and her full lips thinned as they curled back from her teeth to form a horrid snarl. Eggsy averted his eyes when her stare became too heavy for him to hold.
“Eggsy,” she muttered, low and hateful and it was all directed at him. Never had he been the target of her rage, but god did it make him feel small. “You’re a fucking dickhead, you know that?”
Roxy sighed, frustrated, and grabbed his uninjured hand to give it an apologetic squeeze, but he couldn’t help but flinch at the contact. She quickly pulled her hand back and gave him a flustered look. Roxy still looked pissed, but not so much as she did before. She was sad, he realised. Over what, he hadn’t the foggiest clue.
“I’m not here to bite your head off about the honey pot. Yes, it was an utter wreck, but this is about you. I’m here for you, and because I care about you. We all do.”
His breath caught in his throat.
He couldn’t keep the tremor out of his voice. “’Scuse me?”
“I said that we care about you, Eggsy.”
Something akin to a laugh wormed its way between his pursed lips and boomed out of his aching chest like gunshots, loud and painful. It bubbled up in his throat as if it were bile, but he couldn’t swallow it down. It was a horrible sound, like a sickly dog barking or an animal yapping while being repeatedly kicked in the stomach. It burnt his tongue and the insides of his cheeks, it’s taste not unlike blood.
Roxy was staring at him, looking afraid.
It was like he was looking at himself. He could imagine her expression on his own face, and he couldn’t help but be reminded of the time he’d first been beaten by Dean. Small, weak, pathetic. He had been twelve at the time, and the fucker had come home stinking drunk. This wasn’t unusual. He’d be at the bar for god knows how long, come home whenever he had found the bottom of his wallet, and then go straight to the bedroom. He’d sometimes hear his mother make muted noises of pain and protest through the thin walls. What was unusual was that he’d stumbled into Eggsy’s room–whether this was his intention or not was unknown to Eggsy, even a decade later. When he’d woken up to Dean standing over him, he had screamed. Who wouldn’t have? He’d been terrified. To shut Eggsy up, Dean had started to punch him until he stopped. He found himself making the same muted sounds his mother did until Dean forced him to stop making those, too.
He laughed harder, if not with a certain wetness.
“Tha’- tha’ was pretty funny, Rox. Did Merlin come up with tha’ one? Percival?”
“What’s wrong with you? Who did this to you?”
Eggsy almost punched himself in the face when he felt the familiar burn of tears in his eyes. That’s what Dean would have done. And he had, back on this fifteenth birthday. His mother hadn’t been able to come because Dean had sent her to the hospital with a broken wrist, and Eggsy would have followed her there if he hadn’t stopped his whimpering after the first punch.
“Was it your stepfather?”
He breathed out, revolted when it came out as a sob.
He refused to nod, biting down on his split lip so hard that blood filled his mouth.
That’d be admitting it.
“Why didn’t you tell anyone?”
Because he would’ve hurt mom and Daisy, he wanted to say, but his tongue was thick in his mouth. He couldn’t tell her. Dean would find out. He always did, and then they’d pay for it. He didn’t want to come home to see Daisy with a black eye, he didn’t want to come home to see his mom with a plaster cast around her leg, he didn’t want to come home to see them both gone because Dean had given them a one-way ticket to the hospital because Eggsy couldn’t keep his fucking mouth shut.
What if they were already there?
He hadn’t gone home in months, so who knew how many times Dean had had an off day and taken it out on them? How many times he hadn’t been there to protect them?
Panic seized him faster than Roxy could stop him from trying to get up. He’d managed to prop himself up against the headboard before she grabbed him by the shoulders and forced him to stop moving.
“Hey, hey, it’s OK! I’m not going to hurt you. Just stay still before you hurt yourself,” Roxy soothed, but he was too ruffled for her cooing to calm him down. He had to go home. He had to see if they were OK. He had to see if they were still alive.
Kingsman hadn’t let him go straight home after the whole Valentine disaster. He’d been tasked with a constant flow of missions to make up for the damage caused by the mass culling. The catastrophe had allowed the wrong sort of people to get into powerful positions, to manipulate those affected to get themselves better off. Kingsman had refused his request to go home and check on his own family. Roxy had assured him that his mother had not killed Daisy during V-Day, but what about now? Valentine’s attack had been weeks ago, and the new Arthur had still refused him. Over, and over, and over.
He needed to go home.
“I need t’ go ‘ome,” Eggsy muttered out. “They need me.”
“Eggsy, calm down,” Roxy said, voice tight. “You’re hurt. You can’t go anywhere in your condition.”
“’Ow can I be calm when- when they’re at ‘ome with ‘im and I’m ‘ere?” He whimpered, sounding not unlike a child. From the look on Roxy’s face, she also hadn’t expected for such a weak, weepy tone to leave his mouth. A flush bloomed on his cheeks, embarrassed.
He didn’t have time for this.
“Rox, I need t’ go ‘home, please,” he pleaded again. The girl had started to look awfully blurry, and he rubbed at his eye violently with the heel of his hand to rid of the tears that had started to build. Why was he crying? He wasn’t a fucking child, he shouldn’t be crying. He needed to get home and protect them, not sit in some bed and have a wank over it.
That didn’t stop the hot tears that rolled down his cheek or the lump from forming in his throat, thick and suffocating.
Gasping, he reached for the IV in his hand and tried to yank in out, but his other hand was shaking too hard and it was getting increasingly more difficult to see. He choked out a weak sob, tears falling onto the back of his trembling fingers.
“’E’s gonna ‘urt Dais if ‘m not there,” Eggsy managed between wet pants. “’E’s gonna ‘urt ‘er, please.”
Roxy was quiet after that.
He didn't know how it had been since they'd exchanged words, but it felt like too long. He could hear nothing but the tattoo of his heartbeat pounding against the side of his head and his own labored breathing. If he closed his eye, he could have easily fool himself into believing that he was alone if it had not been for the incessant pressure of Roxy's gaze bearing down on him. He didn’t dare look up at her.
He didn’t want to look up and see how disgusted she was in him. Didn’t want her to look at him like he was less, like he was revolting.
Didn’t want her to look at him like Dean did.
Eggsy’s hands curled into fists, fingernails biting into his skin.
Any second now, and the tension would be cut with a shrill scream. His own or hers, it didn't matter, but that's the only way this encounter could end. She would either yell at him for being a pitiful crybaby or he'd be left breathless after a switch right hook. She couldn't be looking at him with anything other than contempt, anything other than utter abhorrence. He braced himself for the inevitable violence, shaking shoulders hunched up to his ears and jaw clenched. He sat, waiting in agonizing suspense, for his friend's fist to connect with his cheekbone, for the force of her punch to knock his head against the wall with a mind-blanking crack, for the familiar sensation of blood soaking into his hair and heating his scalp as it rolled down the back of his skull.
He was expecting a yell, a shout, hell, a slap. He was not expecting a soft, warm hand on top of his.
Eggsy flinched as soon as her hand was on him. No amount of bracing could ever prepare him for physical contact, no matter how many years he'd been doing it. His forearms instantly shot up to shield his face, even though he was utterly aware that Dean would snatch his wrists and break them. His legs had drawn up until his knees were almost flush with his chest, although he knew Dean would yank at his ankles and drag him across the floorboards. His head ducked down until his chin was pressing against his collarbone, despite the fact that the last time he'd done so, Dean had grabbed a handful of his hair and smashed his face into the wall.
Roxy did none of those things.
"Eggsy," she said, voice so incredibly soft and warm he almost couldn't believe he thought she'd ever hit him. Almost. "Hey, look at me."
She wasn't grabbing at the closest thing that could be used as a weapon against him. She didn't look like she was seconds away from glassing him. She didn't even look angry. It occurred to him then that Roxy looked a hell of a lot like his mother. It wasn't the fact that they were both blonde and British, no, it was more the expression on her face when she looked at him. She was concerned and scared. She was staring at him like she wanted to hug him and hold him close to her. She looked at him like he meant something to her.
"They're safe, OK? Merlin made sure to call the police and supply them with all the evidence they'd ever need and then some to convict that prick."
"Oh," was all Eggsy could manage, shocked.
They were safe? They were finally and completely safe from him? It couldn't be true. It wasn't possible.
"Eggsy, I promise you it is. I can get Merlin in here and show you the police report. He's gone, I promise."
He hadn't even realised he'd said anything, but that wasn't worth dwelling on because Dean was gone. He was finally gone from their lives. No longer would he be scared to leave Daisy home with him and his mother. No longer would he be forced to keep quiet and do as he wanted in fear of a beating. No longer were they trapped, was he trapped.
Eggsy couldn't help but smile despite the fact that there were tears still rolling down his face.
He was free.
"Thank you," he said, voice a whisper.
Roxy smiled at him warmly, and Eggsy felt himself relax for the first time in what felt like years.
She grabbed his hand, fingers interlacing with his before she squeezed it tightly.
He smiled back.