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Priceless

 

 

Harry relaxes - or does his best to start to - into the leather seat at the side of the hotel’s bar lounge. He tips his head back and rolls his shoulders a little. There are no contacts to try to woo now, his work is done not only for the day, but for the week; there’s soft piano music playing and there is a distractingly gorgeous boy at the bar.

Harry’s weary with himself for even noticing, because the lad must be half his age and it would be some quirk of luck indeed if he were even available and the right way inclined, but then, he suposes, there’s no harm in looking. He drinks his regrettable middle shelf whiskey and drinks the young man in, too, whilst he’s busy chatting to the barmaid: strong jaw but delicate features; pretty, even; blue eyes and a pink mouth that's suggestively wet from either his glass or licking his lips. His hair is a soft looking dark blonde, dented at the back from the cap that's sitting beside his pint on the bar, and he's wearing a horrifically loud black and gold hooded jacket which pesters corners of Harry’s brain because it’s very definitely reminding him of a particular fashion house but he cannot remember which.  It's not at all to his taste - to any taste at all, the bitch in the back of Harry’s mind notes - but he knows full well it's designer: something so hideous had to cost a ridiculous amount of money.

Regardless, he's beautifully out of place here: a fledgeling bird of paradise amongst the drab, snobby pigeons. Harry's initial thought is that perhaps he's a drug dealer, which is horribly assumptive, but his bearing screams working class in spite of the flashy clothes, the hardened, challenging set of his shoulders which is in no way matched by his slight pout.   His back and forth with the bartender is neither solicitous nor consolatory so it follows perhaps that he isn't on a failed date but awaiting a different sort of hook up altogether. Harry hasn't really dabbled since the eighties but he'd be tempted if it meant taking the edge off spending another night in a hotel room by himself feeling a bit naughty for reading an Andy McNabb rather than supplier catalogues, such is the mile per minute excitement of his life.

That said, this isn't really the sort of place Harry can imagine a dealer either picking up casual trade or arranging to meet people, considering how well observed marbled lobby is. And he may be considerably out of the loop but no more so than most of the patrons here: well off couples making a weekend of a theatre trip; similarly disenchanted middle aged businessmen drinking overpriced wine on the company tab and grateful for an evening’s comparative silence. He can't really imagine they're a prime customer group for recreational drugs. Besides, there’s not a hint of guard over the rucksack by his feet - his blinding white trainers have little wings on them, Harry notices, and finds himself smiling even though they’re hideous - and despite it all Harry’s enjoying thinking there’s altogether something too wholesome about him for all that business.

The young man takes his jacket off to reveal a mouthwateringly  tight-fitting polo shirt stretched out by thick, muscular biceps. No marks on his arms, which is to Harry's mind the final nail in the coffin of the drug dealer theory, and he doesn’t look maudlin enough to have been stood up. He chats fleetingly, familiarly with the barmaid, though not a bit flirtatiously and she's easy in his company, as though he sits and props her bar up many an evening although he hasn't the look of a drinker either.

Well, what on earth else would a boy like that doing in a place like this enough to be a regular, just sitting around looking pretty and nursing a drink by himself?

Oh.

Harry clears his throat and hides what he fears might be a blush in his drink.

He's a hooker.

Harry's not judgemental, not at all. There's plenty of reasons a man might take to escort work and there's nothing wrong with it; the boy looks healthy enough and the fact he's scouting or perhaps waiting for a customer here rather than on a corner or in an alleyway or something speaks volumes. The choice of establishment, combined with the labels, say he's got a nice little hussle running, and good for him. Harry can all too well imagine that men more or less exactly like himself would be only too happy to hand over a pretty penny for his company.

It makes something flutter in his stomach that Harry deduces with near certainty that the clients the boy's there to appeal to would be male. Harry's instincts on such matters are pretty reliable on the whole, and a woman daring enough to book an escort - good for them, too, Harry's not some sort of sexist for goodness' sake - would be looking for someone bigger, older, with a bit more of the world about them; a modern cut suit, probably without socks - perish the bloody thought - whose hint at manly roughness came in the form of a designer five o'clock shadow, if at all.  This boy - man, let's not infantilise, he's obviously the proper side of twenty if not by quite enough to stop Harry feeling like a wizened old lech - is a calculated opposite, his cheeky charm walking the line where it might be street smarts or naivety, or some bewitching combination of the two just crafted to allow you to think that you might have something to show him that he’d enjoy, but to know full well he’d blow your mind. There's something very Pretty Woman about it. Very clever.

Of course it’s all conjecture, but the whiskey makes that an enjoyable daydream. Perhaps it's a hangover from ‘accidentally’ binge watching the entirety of Secret Diaries of a Call Girl in one weekend but Harry fancies the lad might have a fully stocked roster of well paying regulars, doubtless with a few favourites and a couple that make him really think hard on whether the money is worth it.

Harry hopes he's got a nice one lined up tonight. Someone with whom there's easy laughter and good sex and perhaps the odd present brought back from a business trip or bottle of something expensive on top of his hourly rate. Someone who pays to worship that body rather than use it; who gives like a lover would and spends the time they've bought learning to make him moan, or scream, or whatever pretty noises come out of that gorgeous mouth.

So perhaps he is staring when the young man turns round and immediately fixes him with a glare which turns appraising, taking in the obvious tells that are the delicate little touches to Harry’s suit, and where he might have been prepared to ask him what the fuck he thought he was looking at he softens, and gives him an inviting smile instead. 

If his thoughtful pout was attractive, his smile is devastating. And his eyes are not in fact blue but an utterly bewitching seaglass green, and Harry is completely and totally lost. Done for. That is without doubt the most attractive man Harry has set eyes on in the flesh in a decade, perhaps more.

He wonders if that's a selling point, whether whatever highly euphemistic agency takes a cut of the young man’s earnings plays heaviest on the green eyes, or the sandy hair, or that heart wrenchingly cheeky grin, or the body he's only just sketching out from the muscular arms and the tiny flash of boxer and hip when he reached over to conspiratorially tap the barmaid on the arm and whisper something to her that has her laughing, pursing her lips and shrugging.

Do they show photographs, or just describe their wares? Harry has been looking longingly across the bar for the space of a double measure of whiskey and feels he could write them a dissertation on the topic, if they needed one. A soliloquy, perhaps. An ode: to the stunning rent boy I spotted in a hotel one dreary March evening.

A penny sinks very heavily, loudly into place. If anyone could potentially rent this man’s company for the night, anyone in theory includes Harry.

He won't, of course, but it's a pretty thought that makes the back of his neck warm in a curl down into his chest. The thought that he, as well as anyone else, would be able to have him. Would be able to do whatever took their fancy, presumably, because doesn’t being reasonably open minded come with the territory? All sorts of things could be on the cards, accepted with a coquettish smile, a finger under the collar, a price tag. He's pleasantly, warmly scandalised. Imagine that power, that certainty.  All of Harry’s relatively tame fantasies could be dealt with in one comprehensive, exhausting, sweaty evening.

They won't, of course, because he has never even considered paying for sex in his life, and he's on a business trip for goodness sake, so he’s not about to start now. Even if there is no reason not to, and the odd chewing sensation that there’s no moral high ground to gain because if he doesn’t it will only be someone else who isn’t so preoccupied with the idea of the of giving the lad pleasure as well as taking it. Or a wasted night, with the oor thing going home tired and disappointed, just fractionally less secure than when he'd left the house, to sleep fitfully, alone.

Harry is just not the sort of person that does that kind of thing, even if it’s a source of private pride that he’s pretty sure it’s not because he can’t afford whatever he wants, thank you.

What even is the going rate? He's sure it varies enormously depending on, not to put too fine a point on it, the class of the… merchandise, and the expectations of the customer. He's lucky, on that score, if he were contemplating it - which he isn’t - in that his tastes aren't too elaborate, certainly not with a stranger. But isn't the gist that those used to more well heeled clientele tended to charge by the hour, rather than by the act? That makes sense, far less gauche on the negotiation, leaving the specifics to come more naturally or be discussed in a manner more befitting the mood. His education via Secret Diaries was remiss on any actual figure, although Harry has a vague memory of a night’s company with the number five thousand attached, which simultaneously seems like a horrendous amount of money and not, at all. Besides, that was all glass walled penthouses and expensive though this hotel may be by virtue of its location, it’s hardly on that scale, which may lower the expectation on all fronts. Not that he’d begrudge a theoretical penny. Theoretically.

As is his wont when he is fussing, Harry does some maths. He has a memory of Richard Gere offering Julia Roberts 300 dollars for a night, which  if his estimations are correct worked out at about £170 in the nineties exchange rate and frankly seemed a bargain even at the time. And that was, what, say twenty years ago for the sake of easy maths, during which inflation had been a complicated business, boom and bust, then the financial crisis… even working it out at a generous five percent per annum brings him to about five hundred for a night, which seems unreasonably… reasonable.  Harry looks at those laughing green eyes staring thoughtfully into the remaining third of a pint of lager and finds that, having estimated with every real possibility that he could be off by a factor of potentially anything, a night with this boy could set him back anything between five hundred and five thousand pounds. He sees that tongue press against those teeth as he flips another offhand joke for the bartender to catch, and thinks it would be worth it.

Harry’s not exactly well off enough to throw that sort of money around regularly without missing it, but there's enough stashed for a rainy day that he doubts he'd be priced out of a one off, if he had the courage to make such an enquiry.  He never does anything fun with his money. He even managed to talk himself out of the sportscar his mid life crisis had begged him for, so there’s an amount just sitting around, waiting for extravagances. Like if Harry were to suddenly decide he had the gall to hire a prostitute.

Just once. Could he really…? Nobody would ever know, although he can imagine it's the sort of thing he'd find himself blurting at a bartender too many drinks in ten years down the line, so the secret would stop burning a hole through him. I paid for sex once. Is that him? Could it be? What’s stopping him, exactly?   I spent one, savoured night in a four star hotel making love to the most beautiful boy I'd ever set eyes on, who I picked up in a bar and paid for the privilege. It could be just a naughty secret, something so un-Harry-like that nobody would ever think to suspect until he feels compelled to blurt it out.   But until that day, nobody will know and nobody will ask. Harry could easily brush off any polite inquires about this weekend with the usual unspecifics, because nobody has ever once cared about his hotel dinners and his minibar and his shitty crime novels, and never will.

It occurs to him quite soberly that he has a room, a wad of cash and nowhere to be in the morning. He’s already prepared to stay, so there will be no walk of shame in today's clothes; presumably those in the trade must account for such things and Harry supposes the polo shirt and jeans combo is reasonably inconspicuous, and who knows what’s in the rucksack. He couldn't have orchestrated a better opportunity if hiring a night’s company to soothe his loneliness were something he’d ever considered planning for.

Well, he’d say he was habitually single, rather than lonely, but the libido is usually the first party to disagree with that decision, and it does mean that the only person who will need to forgive harry for this indiscretion is himself. More to the point, would he ever forgive himself if he doesn't? When the next time he is... enjoying his own company, the memories he might have to sustain him are instead simply more frustrated fantasy, worse for how very close he came? When instead of reliving whatever pleasures might await him, he has to remember watching some buff but balding perma-tanned hotshot in an off the peg suit waltz in and sweep him off those absurd winged trainers? His money, at least, is as good as theirs. And Harry is far too sober to excuse that he comes to this conclusion, puts his empty tumbler down, crosses the floor and is standing at the bar next to him in one unbroken flow of movement, like a dream.

“Are you… waiting for anyone in particular?”

“Nah, seeing who turns up I guess.” They boy casts a surprised, if openly appreciative, glance once over Harry, which is only fair. He knows he can cut a dash when he’s trying, impeccably turned out as he is, even if his approach was a little abrupt. “You wanna sit down?”

“I- Oh, I'd love to. May I buy you a drink?”

“Uh. Yeah, cheers.” He necks the last of his pint in one long, tempting swallow.  “Another Carlsberg‘d do me.”

Harry can't tell if that's an innuendo, or a gambit, or the way he always speaks. Christ, the boy is going to have to be patient if there's some etiquette to this, some playbook Harry has never read. He wasn’t exactly prepared, and already his heart is thumping at the underneath of his sternum, threatening to make his hands shake, and he wonders if the young man gets that all the time; wonders if he gets a lot of first timers. Not-  not virgins, but people who have never been to a professional. The practical experience of his clientele is another question mark, but Harry likes to hope that his age speaks favourably of his own experience, that he might even have something in his repertoire to delight him with. Can there be anything that he hasn’t tried, or some thing that he guiltily enjoys more than others if anybody pauses to ask? What makes him a fit for the job? Some prodigious talent, or just beauty and willing? God, he looks too innocent, too sweet to have nearly the breadth of experience he must have, in his trade.

They make inquisitive, silent eye contact once or twice whilst their drinks are poured.  The boy's is set in front of him with a knowing press of lips from the bar tender, who obviously spots that he's reeling in the night’s catch. Harry has an absurd urge to reassure her that his intentions towards her friend here are the entirely wholesome sort involving hopefully mutual orgasms which he will pay the going rate for without quibble. Nothing weird .

The young man  holds up his pint glass to clink against Harry’s - Guinness, he'd better pace himself now - in a wordless  toast of thanks. Harry makes sure to flash his watch, with the idea of giving some indication that he's good for the money he'll be offering, or at the very least worth robbing if the boy has any doubts. Surely he has his own security protocols.

“Alright? I'm Eggsy.”

“Harry.” Is he supposed to make something up? It's probably not the done thing, to give your real name, but it's not like he's got a wife at home to disappoint and just in case he makes it as far as throes of passion , he'd rather the credit not be given to an alias in the heat of the moment: Harry is very much the name he'd like to hear him moaning later. He extends a hand which Eggsy shakes with an amused raised eyebrow, and doesn't bother trying to work out where the nickname came from. His voice is soft, chalky: a smoker, no doubt, but it takes any harsh edges off the brashness of his accent. He is even more beautiful up close.

“I hope it's not unwelcome for me to say, you are quite stunning.”

“Eh? Oh.” He blushes. Good lord, please don't tell Harry he's used to being belittled and sneered at, although he can bet he gets the denial crowd amongst his customers. “Well, thanks. You ain't so bad yourself.” His body language perks up, then, opening up and out towards Harry who can't help the drop of his eyes to the boy’s chest and the quick, hungry trace over the rest of him. It's cleverly mutual.

The external door swooshes and yet another generic middle aged couple bustle in, wringing wet and grumbling.

"Still pissing it down out," observes Eggsy tamely, with a little shiver. Harry is sure it would be a grave insult to imply he sent any deal of his time on street corners but now he's looking, the hair at the nape of Eggsy's neck where his hat wouldn't have covered is a little damp.

"It's nice and cosy in here though," agrees Harry, and a smile passes both ways between them: slow, considering, like the whole wry conversation about how much cosier they could get in Harry's room takes place without anybody saying a word.

 Eggsy's eyes flash down to Harry's lips, and it makes a little shudder of anticiation go through Harry. Really, the boy's an excellent salesman. Harry'd consider having an antirely different sort of job to offer him if this one weren't so compelling.

“You staying here?”

“Only tonight. I've been at a textiles exhibition since Wednesday.” He winces and they share a little chuckle at the obvious truth that that is every bit as dull as it sounds.

“Yeah, all got to make a living, ain't we.”

Oh of course. He can't ask. Smart boy; Harry could be a policeman. The letter of the law regarding solicitation, as Harry recalls, Is that it is illegal to offer someone sex in return for money. It is not illegal to accept if they offer, so Harry must be the one to bite the bullet. He orders another whiskey and knocks it back immediately in one go, with Eggsy eyeing him quizzically and Harry thinks come off it, as if I'm the first man to need the extra courage to ask for you.

Yes we have. And on that note I wouldn't want you to think I was wasting your valuable time. I have… I have the means to pay you, if you'd let me know the specifics, and a room, so we can… ” he trails off and just hopes he's crossed the line enough for Eggsy to read his intentions clear and fill in the gaps.

“You what?” No such luck. Harry lowers his voice to an intimate rumble.

“Well, I'd rather hire you for the night than a couple of hours, unless that's entirely out of the question for some reason, in which case I und-”

Eggsy bends almost double over the bar suddenly, clearly fighting the reflex that would spout lager out of his nose.

"HOLY FUCKING SHIT!"

Oh holy fucking shit.

“You thought I was a prostitute? !”

Holy fucking shit, indeed. Harry freezes and burns, Like someone's poured boiling oil down his back and stabbed him through the guts with ice all at once. This is not happening. “Oh god. Shit. No, I, well perhaps I-” T his is not happening.

“Oh my god.”

It is happening. Harry's life as he knows it is over. He's going to get arrested. Hes going to get fired. He's going to get stabbed, when this perfectly respectable as far as not being a sex worker is concerned, but distinctly rough around the edges lad calls down a gang of less appealing friends and Harry may be a bit handy with his umbrella but he's going to get done in, and more to the point it's going to be over propositioning a beautiful young man in a hotel bar. He hopes, absently, that they print a picture of Eggsy when his disgrace and perhaps his murder make the papers, because at least then people might understand why he'd lost his mind. He's frozen awaiting his fate, with those green-grey eyes piercing him to the guilty depths of his perverted soul, and the horrid thing is Eggsy doesn't look any less appealing for it.

The stony glare of disbelief shatters like stormclouds breaking and Eggsy throws his head back in a peal of laughter.

It's worse, for a second, because two thirds of the bar turns round to look at them but Jesus, the line of his throat is still a beautiful thing and somehow, amidst the searing shame and remorse, Harry has room for a pang of regret that he won't get to run his tongue over that beauty spot he has just above the collar. Really, Harry's self preservation instincts are complete shit. He lets his forehead drop forward on to the bar, and closes his eyes.

This is typical. Very very typical. At least Eggsy is laughing; and he can tell it's real laughter which makes the immediate threat of bodily harm or arrest dwindle, but doesn't do anything for the mortification.

“I am so absolutely, unreservedly sorry." It’s a gentleman’s apology: make no excuses, only amends. But what can he do to put this right, other than make himself scarce and let the poor boy forget it entirely? “I'll leave you to your evening, and please don’t-”

“What even - what the fuck gave you that idea?”

He suspects the truth - wishful thinking; fifteen minutes of wild, smutty fantasy  - will not help his cause.

“I don't - honestly, I can't apologise enough. Are you staying here? I'll leave, so we-”

But then a firm hand on Harry's forearm stops him in his tracks. “Fucks sake, look, sit down. buy me another pint - absolutely not in exchange for goods or services thank you…”  he elbows him and grins - he's teasing - and Harry treats him to a wry smile, “and we’ll forget it ever happened. Yeah?”

Harry seizes the opportunity for absolution, although he suspects it may not be that easy because life never is, and slaps his card on the bar before it can slip away from him.  Eggsy is still hiccoughing around laughter, and a moment of strange, silly hope quivers: that this may not in fact turn out to be an unmitigated disaster, somehow. Or… not more of one than it already is. Harry feels sick, though a bit of that may be relief.

Absurdly, the boy’s hand slips up Harry’s arm and brushes onto his back, as if to comfort him.  “Mate, do you know what, I've had the longest, shittest week and if I don't laugh I’ll cry. At least you thought I was worth paying for.” He smiles at him again, then shakes his head at his pint glass as though he's consiring with it - have you got a load of this idiot -  and to hell with the rest of it: Harry would bankrupt himself just for that smile.

“Oh, laugh away by all means, as I seem so intent on making a complete tit of myself.”

“No shit bruv, that's one hell of a strike out. Ouch.”

Harry cringes but all the time the boy isn't calling the police on him, he supposes he'll take his punishment. “I am sorry you've had a tough time of it, though. Anything you’d like to talk about? The drinks are on me, obviously.”

“Nah, just run into a bit of trouble with some lads at ‘ome.” He gestures to a touch of bruising under the other side of his jaw which Harry had dismissed as shadow, and he notes the swelling of his knuckles too.  “Plus me baby sister’s hit the terrible twos and her dad’s a wanker, and she put rusks in my shoes yesterday. Bus drove through a puddle next to me earlier and did the full head to toe soak, like somethin’ out a fuckin’ film…” Eggsy stops for a breath and shakes his head. “And ‘ere’s me, thinking maybe my luck’s changed and I've pulled a fit silver fox, someone a bit out of my usual league - and it turns out he thinks I'm a hooker. I'd say that's about typical of my life right now, yeah.”

“Really, I am so terribly sorry.” A glimmer, at the edge of his mind, that perhaps the inviting glances had not been a fiction after all, even if they weren't for the reason he thought. If only he had waited for that to play out, rather than being so bloody stupid. He can’t help the rueful murmur. “You thought I was fit?”

Eggsy goes quiet, and looks at Harry with a different smile altogether. Closed, smirking.

“Yeah, I do.”

“Would you…” Harry steels himself for potentially the second stupidest thing he'll have said this evening, but nothing ventured. “Would you like to join me for dinner?”

Eggsy keeps the same amused purse to his lips and holds the eye contact whilst he either considers it or leaves Harry in suspense.

“Yeah, I would."

 Of course, the path of apologising to a bewitching young man you've just inappropriately propositioned and insulted never doth run smooth, because it has just gone ten and the hotel’s restaurant is closed.

“The full room service menu is available until midnight, and some are available twenty four hours, ” points out the waiter who has to turn them away, with a bit of a look between them and Harry simultaneously shrivels, because of course, and has to resist the urge to crow “ see, he thinks you're an escort too.”  He may be going completely mad.

“That works for me.”

He is going completely mad. He looks at Eggsy in sheer disbelief, but Eggsy just shrugs.

“Missed my train anyway. There's night buses every hour or so, makes no odds what time I leave now.Plus it's 'orrible out.”

Harry wonders whether there is any possibility that was intended the way it sounded: to solicit an invitation to stay the night, but he really must stop letting fantasy get away with him and he really must stop thinking words like solicit . Eggsy is simply making the point that there is no immediate need for him to dash off, as against all odds they're getting along so well, this easy current of vaguely flirtatious banter between them, a strange comfort to their silences which turns into talking about everything and nothing like they've done so for years, despite the noteable gap in their pop culture and, in fact, their entire frames of reference. It seems to make no odds. What are the chances?

Before long they're settled in Harry’s corner room - he's immensely relieved he'd already mostly repacked his bags and housekeeping have made the rest perfectly presentable- sharing a bottle of red wine over steak ciabattas and two disproportionately generous bowls of chips. Eggsy initially pulled up the desk chair to the side of the bed but soon bounced over to settle cross legged opposite Harry on the bed, with their room service picnic between them and the wine bottle balanced on the chair in his stead.

It's a blessing, really, that Harry's conversational  attempts to dig his way out of the hole of his own making only seem to make Eggsy laugh, because he seems incapable of saying the right thing. Or even avoiding the totally wrong one.

“So, Eggsy. What did bring you here this evening?”

“What's a chav like me doing lowering the tone in a nice place like this, you mean?”  Harry winces but finds he can't defend himself and doesn't need to, because Eggsy has surely earned the right to rib him a bit. “Rox is a mate, and I got myself in a bit of trouble down my local so I thought I'd stay in town for a drink, and I needed to get warm and dry off and then some posh prick thought I was hiring out my arse and now here we are.” He shrugs and waves a chip at the room on the whole; takes a sip of wine.

“If it's any consolation, I thought you might be a drug dealer first.”

For the second time, Eggsy almost chokes on his drink before he can swallow it.  “Fuck’s sake Harry!“ And then he's laughing again, creases appearing under his eyes, hand covering his mouth until he can swipe up the dribble of merlot that Harry's inetitude caused him to almost spit out.  “You’re hopeless. Actually hopeless.”

He knows it, too, but he’ll allow his awkwardness to be played for a punchline all the time it keeps Eggsy grinning at him like that. They forgo cutlery and eat with their hands, and whilst they’re on relatively steady footing Harry makes an absolute hash of telling Eggsy that despite, well, everything, he is in fact welcome to stay the night as it’s horrid out and getting late, but rather than the barrage of mocking or the wary dismissal he expects, Eggsy thanks him and says he might just.  The sense of trust between them already is surreal considering they’re virtual strangers but perhaps that’s what happens when you make a complete arse of yourself within five minutes of meeting someone. After all, how much worse can it get?

Harry stops that thought in its tracks. His luck does not need tempting.

“What do you do, Eggsy?

“Eh, nothing solid since I dropped out the marines. Cash in hand work mostly, bit of this, bit of that.” His eyes go wide. “None of that .”

Harry raises an eyebrow.

“Well a bit of that, yeah, not for money though.” And they both laugh, easy, sweet. Harry’s guiltily buoyed by the tone of the suggestion, like Eggsy may not in fact be a stickler for the third date rule although considering their first date, if it is such,  has consisted of Harry calling Eggsy a whore and then eating sandwiches in bed. Awfully, he's actually had worse. “You?”

“I'm a tailor.”

“Ahh, figures. I couldn't pull off a suit like that.” Eggsy sweeps his eyes dramatically over Harry’s body and as such his suit, crumpled though it is from sitting on the bed, and winks.  “I wouldn't mind pulling that one off though.”

Harry has to fight to swallow a too-hot mouthful of chip before he can laugh.  “That's appalling.”

“Can't blame a guy for trying, yeah?”

Inauspicious start notwithstanding, Harry cannot remember when he last enjoyed someone’s company so much. And that at the very least is reciprocated, because Eggsy beams at his humour and compliments him freely and eventually, having stared at Harry for the duration of some miniature rant about something or other, uts his wine down in clear visual preparation to be serious.

“You know what I don't get?” Harry sips his wine and shakes his head, inviting Eggsy to continue. “How a bloke like you would end up desperate enough to want to pay me for it.”

Harry doesn't like that tone at all. He gets the sense he's not just fishing for compliments.

“It was the other way round, if anything. I'd never even considered it, but uh.” It's too raw a confession for his sobriety and their hesitant connection, but he feels he owes him the honesty.  A hush has dropped, befitting the late hour, and Harry sets their empty plates on the writing table to diffuse it, and only ends up giving his words more gravity, but so be it. “But I wanted you very badly, and once I'd got the idea in my head that I might be able to have you, I got carried away.”

“How much were you going to offer me?” Eggsy is quiet, hesitant in a way that makes Harry want his answer to be welcome, and it’s the truth.

“I suspect I'd have rustled up whatever you asked for.”

Eggsy lets him off the hook after a moment’s heady, thoughtful silence, refills their wine glasses and hops up to sit by Harry’s side and show him some videos in answer to an earlier question: parkour turns out to be some ghastly energetic, dangerous thing with a lot of swinging one’s self off civil engineering. The press of his arm, shoulder to elbow, is hot against Harry’s and he smells of sharp citrus and spearmint: unsubtle, but delicious. The appeal is not at all hindered by his impassioned gesturing explaining particular moves and how his gymnastics training had given him the proverbial springboard, because of course he’d have been a gymnast.

“What do you do for fun, Harry?” Eggsy’s breath ghosts on the underside of Harry’s jaw when he speaks, so casually close is he resting, and the cheeky quirk of his lips means he doesn’t need to actually say other than pick up trade in bars and fortunately Harry is frightfully boring.

“I collect butterflies.”

“Dead ones?!”

“Well it would be hard to get them to stay still alive…”

“Alright, that's not creepy at all.” And Eggsy makes a big comical deal of shuffling away from him on the bed, which only results in him settling back closer, with more of his body touching Harry’s side, and it would be so easy just to slip an arm around him and pull him close.Is that want he wants? It feels like he does, but Harry's already made such a fool of himself he daren't risk it.

"It's something to keep my hands busy," He starts to explain, aiming for flipant and belatedly realising he's made himself sound like a lech and a serial killer. He flusters. "I mean, well, I part own the shop so I seem to do more management than the hands on stuff these days.”

“Missing it, are you? The hands on stuff?”

“Well, quite.” Why bother. Everything he says only seems to make it worse, but then oh, Eggsy’s hand is on Harry’s thigh and it's warm and real and making its way ever higher, dangerously edging towards the impolite erection he's not quite managed to subdue since Eggsy had first repositioned himself on the bed, always a little too close.

Eggsy cocks an eyebrow at him.  “You can get up close and personal with my inside leg measurement if you want.”

“Honestly, there's no need to -”

“Harry.” Eggsy looks him right in the eyes: serious, but that green has warmed to the lazy shimmer of summer grass. “For someone who was willing to offer a stranger cash for sex you are really, really fucking oblivious when someone fancies you.”

The kiss is unexpected, although perhaps only because Harry has been forcing himself not to believe the signs, lest his imagination be getting away with him again. It's good, though, pressing and wet and rawly sexual in a way Harry is surprised by so he knows it's not coming from him, and it makes such a desperate thrill shoot through him that he has to pull back to get a grip on his senses.

“Oh, what now?!

“I just can't abide the idea that this is out of pity, or because you feel obliged-”

“Nah, see…” Eggsy swings around to straddle Harry’s lap, kisses from his lips to his ear, and Harry feels teeth against his jawbone, hot breath on his neck. “You were gonna get it anyway. I've just done myself out of a couple of hundred quid, so make it worth it, yeah?

The huskiness of Eggsy’s voice lights an indulgent sparkle of pleasure that glitters right through him. Harry kisses him properly, then, smug when he feels Eggsy’s breath hitch.

“I will do my level best.”

And he does.

They lay together after, panting absently at the ceiling, having kissed for so long, so intently, that the only reasonable conclusion was sex even if Harry might have wanted to wait under other circumstances.

It takes the shape of a humiliatingly short lived handjob for Eggsy, which comforts Harry both with self satisfaction and in that it seems to even the playing field to some extent because he's bright pink and defensive about it until Harry gamely says he's sure it was a fluke and he can show him on the second round. After that, Eggsy kisses a path of searing anticipation down Harry’s chest and stomach, over his thighs, stirring up a starving excitement which he soothes with his mouth. It's nothing like the rushed fumbling up until Eggsy's orgasm lead Harry to expect: Eggsy sucks him off slow and savouring, more exploratory enthusiasm than experience, taking time to find out exactly how Harry likes it and Harry wonders briefly - madly - if he might be role playing the whore in his head. In any case it's possibly the best, certainly the most fervently  appreciated head Harry has ever had.

“You are incredible with your mouth,” he tells Eggsy, kissing him after, tasting red wine and  his own come and worrying that in that immediate bliss, he might be falling in love a little bit.

“Cheers.” Eggsy smiles against his lips, his naked body soft and warm half on top of Harry’s on the bed for the snog although he'd already announced he was going for a cigarette. He breaks into a laugh.  “Whack it on tripadvisor, might get me some more business!”

Do shut up.”

“That'll cost you extra.”

Harry just groans. It occurs to him that he may never in fact live down his brief flirtation with paying for sex, and not for any of the reasons he might have  initially panicked about.

Then there's a pang of unease as he realises he's thinking as though Eggsy is now some sort of fixture in his life, when in fact there's a very real possibility he’ll never see him again. That doesn't feel right, somehow, which is in itself surreal because in the cold sobriety after orgasm Harry has been only too keen to get shot of his encounters at times, yet now he finds himself wondering if it would be an absurd test of his luck to reassert now that Eggsy should stay the night, or rude not to.

This. This is why he has, by choice, been single for so long.

Fortunately, Eggsy rekindles the conversation From the french doors and the twelve inch deep “balcony” where he stands smoking into the night. The rain seems to have eased up.

“Oi Harry.”  Harry looks up from trying to mop up the puddle of come and sweat with a towel so neither of them have to sleep in it, if it comes to that. “Do you think hookers take card payments now?”

“I would have thought is was excruciatingly obvious that I have absolutely no idea.”

“You'd have to surely. Modern economy and all that. You can get them little Bluetooth reader things they have down the market.” Eggsy puts his cigarette out in the wall mounted bin and shuts the door behind him, shivering loudly to shake off the cold. 

“We've got one of those for exhibitions. Does contactless and everything.” Harry knows he’s put his foot in it again before he’s even closed his mouth, but once more Eggsy takes it in good humour, with a slap to Harry’s shoulder as he yanks his damp t-shirt back off - Christ - and a filthy laugh.

“Oi! You can only do contactless up to thirty quid! How fucking rude.”

Harry grins. “See how I'm learning? See how I'm resisting the urge to ask what I'd get for thirty pounds even though you obviously want me to?”

A heated silence hangs, in which Eggsy apears to weigh the challenge.

“Thirty quid would get you… this kiss,” Eggsy kneels over Harry’s lap again and seals their lips together, hot but gentle, tasting of dry, sweet tobacco. “And arrangements for a second date, and my number.” He holds his hand out until Harry catches on and passes his phone from the bedside table  for Eggsy to enter his details into, one handed and with his tongue poking into the corner of his lips.  “And thirty quid cashback, because I ain't charging you fuck all for shit, thanks.”

 It takes Harry a moment to decipher his swearing, and then to believe he's understood the implication correctly. “You'd… you'll see me again?”

“Err, I should bloody hope so. I am not in fact a one night kind of guy. Honestly Harry I'm trying really hard not to get offended here but you ain't makin it easy."

Harry notes the undressing, too, which adds to the hot surge of hope, and takes the oportunity wrap his arms around Eggsy's waist and press a kiss to his sternum. “I'm sure I'll make it up to you. Will you stay, then?”

“Yeah? I know I said about the buses but it was just an excuse really. I can go, if you don't… -”

“Eggsy, I would very much like that second date to begin with us waking up here together.”

Decisively, Eggsy gets up. Harry goes to protest but he's just taking his trousers back off - god, those thighs are something else and at the very least Harry will not let him out of this room until he's had them around his ears - and he gets back into bed without hesitation. His skin is chilled on the surface from the night air, hot underneath as he snuggles down onto his side and tucks his leg over Harry's. Harry can only stare in something like wonder as Eggsy fidgets around until he finds where he wants to lay his head!on Harry’s bicep, completely and absolutely heedless to Harry's comfort, and then once apparently satisfied, squints up at him.

“If I wake up and there's cash on this table I'm going to roll it up, put the little elastic band round it like hookers do, and shove it right up your arse.”

Harry allows himself to look shocked. “I presume a full English breakfast wouldn't be subject to the same treatment?”

“Nah.” Eggsy shuts his eyes and sniffs, mollified. “Extra bacon please. And two sugars in my tea.”

“Anything else?” Goodness, Harry could fall hard and fast for this one. If he hasn’t already. It's saying something that it would onlt loosely be in the running for the stupidest thing he's done in the last twenty four hours.

“Fried bread.” His voice is quieter by the second, falling asleep already, and it does something really quite alarming to Harry’s heart. “Hash browns.”

“Of course.”

If Harry fears that Eggsy might disappear in the night - with his watch, his wallet, anything - he makes sure to firmly tell himself off for stereotyping the young man, especially when he's already got it so wrong, so many times.

And of course that voice is proved the fool when he wakes up to the room too warm a slight headache from the heat and the wine, and the sight of Eggsy’s smooth, muscular back to him where he's snoring softly at the bedside table. He wonders if it would be unwelcome to cover each of the freckles that are dusted over him like paint spatters with a kiss, and has the blissful, satisfying notion that he may well be afforded the opportunity to find out at some point in the future.

The moonlight flit would, however, have spared him the very old fashioned look he gets from the steward who brings up Harry's museli and Eggsy’s full English breakfast with extra breakfast. It’s nothing, he suspects, on the one he’s like to incur from the desk staff when they check out in an hour or two, or in fact from Eggsy’s friend the barmaid next time they cross paths and she’s inevitably heard the whole sorry story of how they met, but that's a price Harry’s willing to pay.