Merlin is patiently waiting at the top of the steps when the front door opens. It closes and he starts to count. Keys jingle into a pocket. Umbrella hits the stand. A heavy sigh, followed by the rustle of a coat going on its hook. “I’m home,” a weary voice say exactly twenty seconds after the door closes.
“Upstairs, Harry,” Merlin calls back down. “Dinnae worry about getting a drink…please come up here.”
“Coming.” Another dramatic sigh followed by Harry’s heavy footsteps.
Merlin stands leaning against the wall, hands in his pockets. “Hello, Harry.”
“Ye look fatigued.”
“I’m sure I do. Please, darling, if you love me, no comments on how old I look, or worn down, or useless.”
“I’m fairly certain I have never said ye look useless.” Merlin stands up. “I promise not to say any of those things, because none of them are true.”
“Are you sure? Because I do believe today proved it.”
Merlin rolls his eyes. “I WILL say that ye are a dramatic bloody peacock. I figured ye would feel this way after today, so I will be taking care of ye.”
“Taking care of me?” Harry repeats.
“Aye. First thing’s first…into the bedroom.” Merlin corrals his husband into the master suite. “Undress…just put your suit on the bed, I will inspect it and put it away. I have your dressing gown and slippers right here.” Merlin folds the warm red gown over the foot of the bed.
“My dressing gown already? We’ve not had dinner!”
“For Christ’s sake, Harry, live a little,” Merlin snaps. He takes a deep breath. This is for Harry. He’s had a rough day. “Please just do as I ask.”
“Yes, Hamish.” Harry’s voice is small and tired and Merlin drops everything to pull him into a hug.
“It will be all right, Harry. Today has not made ye less of a man.”
“So you say.” But Harry buries his face in Merlin’s neck for a long moment before pulling away to finish undressing.
Merlin leaves him to it and heads for the en suite. He starts the water in the tub, increasing the hot water until steam fills the room. He finds the bottle of soothing oils and adds that to the water, and waits. Harry finally appears in his red dressing gown and slippers. “In you go,” Merlin says, motioning to the tub. Harry reaches down to feel the temperature. When he nods in satisfaction Merlin raises an eyebrow. “I’ve met ye,” Merlin points out. “I know ye like your bath water hot enough to remove your skin.”
“It’s relaxing,” Harry say defensively. He removes his gown and slippers and Merlin looks him over. “Like what you see?” His tone is sarcastic but he actually looks a bit nervous.
“No matter how old ye are, how broken ye say ye feel…ye will always be the most incredible man I’ve ever seen,” Merlin says honestly. “Even when you’re shivering like an idiot. Get in the tub.”
“Yes, Hamish,” Harry says obediently. He climbs in and Merlin helps him lay back onto the bath pillow. “Christ, that is lovely,” Harry sighs.
“Now you just close your eyes and relax. I will be back shortly.” Merlin slowly removes Harry’s Kingsman glasses, places a very gentle kiss on the scarred eye, and leaves the room.
He has everything ready in the kitchen so it doesn’t take long to prepare a tray. A small pot of tea with sugar and a cup. Whisky on the rocks. A plate of sandwiches. And at the last minute, his clipboard. Merlin carefully balances the tray and takes his time going up the steps. The last thing he needs is the whole thing crashing to the ground.
Harry’s eyes flutter open as Merlin opens the door of the bath, steam still whirling around in the gust of air from the open door. “What’s all this?”
“I told ye I will be taking care of ye.” Harry sits up a bit as Merlin arranges the tray across the tub, stealthily placing the clipboard on the vanity. “The tea will stay hot if ye wish to have your drink first.”
“Thank you, dearest.” Harry’s eyes widen. “Is…is that watercress?”
“Aye. With cucumbers, or with egg salad.”
“You hate these kind of sandwiches.”
“I do, but you love them, and therefore ye should have them.”
“Pampering a broken old fool?” Harry asks bitterly.
“Nae. Pampering my handsome husband, the man I love more than my own life. Keep it up, Harry, and this lovely glass of whisky will end up in the tub with ye.”
“I’m sorry, Hamish,” Harry says with a sigh. He sips at his whisky and smacks his lips. “Delicious. Cucumber, please.” He opens his mouth and nibbles at the sandwich Merlin holds out. “I just…it’s as if my life is over.”
“I do hope the idea of a few more decades by my side is enough to keep you going,” Merlin says wryly.
“You know what I mean. Valentine didn’t only take my sight…or my stamina.” Harry holds up a hand and watches it shake. “He took Kingsman from me, Hamish. It took four years, but I am no longer an agent.” Harry clears his throat as he looks at his empty pinky finger. “Like a police officer turning in his gun and badge…although it’s probably wise for me not to fire a weapon any longer.”
“Harry, ye were nae fired. Ye simply are nae an agent.” Merlin feeds him another sandwich.
“They might as well have fired me. What good am I? It is a polite way for them to tell me I’m useless. Percival was quite kind about it, though…never exactly SAID I’m useless.”
“Harry, ye are nae…”
“I’m useless, Merlin,” Harry says firmly. “I cannot shoot straight. I have no peripheral vision, even with the adjustments you’ve made to my glasses. My right side is weak, and I still limp now and then. After all this time, I occasionally have lapses in memory.”
“Rarely,” Merlin points out, but Harry ignores him.
“It seems that all I’m good for is taking your dick in my arse.”
Merlin rolls his eyes. Ridiculous. “Well, you’re quite good at it, if it’s any consolation.” Merlin removes Harry’s empty glass and pours his tea. “Ye know there will always be a place for ye at Kingsman, Harry. I know for a fact that Percival misses the field. Other agents would support ye.”
“Support me for what?”
“Arthur, of course,” Merlin says, and Harry gapes at him. His clipboard dings. “Ah…right on time. Unlike other people I know.” Merlin gives Harry a pointed look. He reaches for the clipboard and props it on Harry’s tray.
“What’s going on?”
“Eggsy messaged me earlier today and said he wishes to speak with us both. We made plans for him to video-call right about…now.” Merlin pushes a button.
Eggsy’s handsome face fills the screen, his old saucy grin bright and broad. He’s matured a bit in four years, busy making a life with his princess wife and helping her rebuild her country. “Hey, Merlin…hiya, Haz.”
“Hello, darling boy!” Harry immediately cheers up, sitting up a bit and sloshing water onto the floor. Merlin grimaces and wipes at it with a towel before kneeling behind Harry on the floor.
“Harry…are you naked?” Eggsy asks cautiously.
“In the bath, my boy…had a bit of an emotional day,” Harry says with a sigh.
“Yeah, Merlin told me about that…said you’re gonna be Arthur!”
“I don’t know about that,” Harry stammers.
“I think it’s ACES. Tilde does, too. She thinks the world of you, Harry, and she’s a fucking world leader. If she thinks you’d be good for the job, it’s true.”
“Well…” Harry turns pink and Merlin doesn’t think it’s from the steam. “Right now no one quite knows what to do with me. We don’t exactly have a retirement plan for aging, broken knights.”
“Harry…you’re not broken,” Eggsy say stubbornly. “You still have so much to offer!”
Merlin notices his husband preparing to argue and quickly steps in. “How is your lovely wife, lad?”
“Perfect, as usual.” It’s Eggsy’s turn to blush. “She’s the reason I’m calling, actually.”
Harry and Merlin look at each other and frown. “Is the Princess quite all right?”
“Been a bit under the weather, throwing up a lot, but otherwise we’re both doing well. Real well.” Eggsy takes a deep breath. “She’s pregnant. Gonna have a baby. We’re gonna be parents.”
“Oh, Eggsy,” Merlin says softly. He can see tears in Eggsy’s eyes and Harry gives an audible sniff.
“Oh, my darling boy. I’m so happy for you…congratulations.” Harry’s entire face lights up. “That is wonderful news! So she’s been feeling ill.”
“It’s getting better. She’s almost four months along now…wanted to tell everyone right off but the doctor said it was best to wait through the first trimester.” Eggsy’s smiling so hard it looks like it hurts.
“Congratulations, lad,” Merlin adds.
“I gotta say, Harry, I’m happy to hear you’re not gonna be Galahad no more. Means you got a lot more free time.”
“Is that so,” Harry says in a icy tone. Merlin gapes at Eggsy.
“Yeah…my son or daughter needs to get to know their godfather real well, even if he lives all the way over in England.”
Merlin glances at Harry, sure he’s stopped breathing. “I…I just…are you quite sure you want that?” Harry whispers. “Shouldn’t you find someone younger, or…”
“No. Me and Tilde agreed on it. If it’s a boy, he needs to learn to be deadly and posh. If it’s a girl, she needs to learn to protect herself and feed on the heart of anyone who dares to disrespect her. You can teach them all that and then some.” Eggsy looks over at Merlin. “Could only pick one person, Merlin, I’m sorry.”
“Lad, it’s fine,” Merlin says, and it is. He can see how much this means to Harry.
“Besides, that leaves you to be the fun Granddad, while Papa here teaches all the manners.”
“Granddad?” Merlin repeats as Harry says, “Papa?”
“Sure. You two are like fathers to me…you know that.”
Actually Merlin didn’t know that, and it’s obvious Harry is just as surprised as he is. “Oh, my dear boy,” Harry whispers. “Thank you for this honor.”
“Hey, listen, I gotta run. But Tilde’s coming to that summit thing in London this summer, and I’ll find a reason to tag along. See you two then. Love you both.”
“And we love you, lad,” Merlin manages. He disconnects the call and looks at Harry. “Eggsy…a father.”
“He will be so good at it,” Harry say.
“See? Ye cannae be useless if he expects ye to train his child,” Merlin points out. “You’re starting to wrinkle. Out of the tub and into your dressing gown…we’ll order in Thai tonight.”
“I do love you, Hamish.” Harry tilts his head so Merlin can kiss him.
“And I you, my beautiful peacock.”