It was quite a sight: her standing there in the street, yelling at the mover who held two pieces of what used to be one chair, all the while holding the largest cat he had ever seen.
At least it was something for him to watch as he waited for his coffee to brew, and JB was just as interested, letting out a snort here and there and even scratching the floor as they both stared out the window.
He'd woken up early; the recurring nightmare/memory of Valentine killing Harry in cold blood as he watched from a computer screen had kept him from sleep. He'd pushed himself yesterday, had the bruises on his body from his last mission to prove it – so he skipped his usual run. He had time to relax before he had to go in to work.
The mover threw down the pieces of the chair and walked towards the truck, giving a loud whistle as he raised his arm in the air. She yelled out again but the man ignored her. Soon enough him and his men unloaded the big truck of all her furniture – leaving it on the sidewalk. The girl kept yelling, all the while holding that damn cat who didn't seem perturbed at all by the commotion.
He almost laughed as he watched the main mover come back to her, holding out his hand as though expecting a tip. She leant down to drop her cat before righting herself and facing him again. She only shook her head and crossed her arms.
The man said something and yet again she shook her head, her short red hair brushing at her jaw. She had on a long black dress, the hem was touching the ground, covering her arms down to her wrists – he wasn't even sure if she was wearing any shoes.
His blood turned cold when he saw the man take a threatening step towards her.
However what he wasn't suspecting was the uppercut she threw to the man, followed by a kick at his legs, sweeping him off his feet so he landed on the concrete, banging his head against the ground, yelling out.
She nodded, tugged at sleeve of her dress, and then picked up her cat, who had sat on the sidewalk patiently during the incident as though nothing had ever happened.
He couldn't help but grin as he watched the other movers come forward, picking up their colleague and dragging him back to the truck, the tires squealing as they drove away.
As soon as they turned the corner she dropped her arms, the cat jumping lithely away as she sunk down onto the curb, dropping her head between her knees.
JB let out a soft woof. Eggsy squatted down to give a scratch to his back.
"Well, that was a curious start to the mornin'-"
He stopped when he heard another yell, and looked back out to the street.
She was playing tug of war with a small bedside table with a kid who had apparently thought it was a free for all on her furniture.
She pulled the same move she did on the mover, kicking the kid's feet out from under him. The kid scrambled away as she let off a string of obscenities that had Eggsy gaping.
She took the small table up the steps, her cat following at her heels, and opened the door to the flat next to his, disappearing.
He scanned the street, making sure no one else was eyeing the small mountain of furniture on the sidewalk – but it was empty, save for the occasional car that slowed down to look but eventually speeding away.
She reappeared with a large carpet which she unrolled on the stairs of the stoop. She walked down, showing her now bare feet, to the pile of furniture on the street. She shook her head as she grabbed a large dresser, pulling it towards the carpet before laying it down on it's side, stepping behind it and pushing.
He had to admire her ability to think on her feet; left without movers, she found a way to do it herself. She was struggling, pushing the dresser up the stairs against that carpet.
But he wouldn't be the man that Harry had helped create if he didn't help her.
His coffee maker beeped but he ignored it, quickly descending the stairs and putting on his soft Kingmsen slippers that had the logo on the feet.
He put down his mug on the hall table and whistled to JB as he walked to the front door.
"C'mon, boy, time for some good deeds."
The fucking nerve.
Just her luck, hiring a crap moving company for her first ever adventure in living at her own place alone. They'd sneered at her, made sexist comments behind her back that she wasn't sure if they wanted her to hear or not, and even broke her chair but gave some crap excuse that it was already cracked. And the head mover had the fucking nerve to ask for a tip.
It felt good punching him, watching the shock on his face as he looked up at her as he lay on the cement, holding his chin. She had kicked him for extra measure; more for herself than anything.
But now she had work to do. It wasn't like she had a friend that she could call for help – she had to do this alone. She was used to it. But it didn't mean that it didn't suck.
She got her dresser up the stairs and through the doorway, pushing her boxes all aside to make room for the furniture. She only needed to get the furniture off the street – then she could think about the new problem of getting the furniture to each room.
It was a nice two story flat – and she was only able to get such a 'posh' one as this from the death settlement from her parents, and the fact that her dad was a Neurosurgeon when he was younger before he met her mom... she had the money.
She had always wanted to live in the city – but not like this; not completely alone. But it was something she'd have to get used to, now that she really was. Alone, that is.
Sydney meowed near her feet, and she looked down and grinned. Maybe not completely alone...
"You think you can grow some muscle and opposable thumbs? I could use the help."
Sydney only meowed again and rubbed against her leg, leaving even more fur on her dress. She reached down and gave her back a scratch, smiling.
"That's help enough, Syd."
She closed her eyes, counted to four, and took a deep breath before she walked back out, watching her bare toes on the carpet as she walked down the stairs again.
She looked up to decide which piece of furniture to move next and jumped at the sight of someone standing there on the sidewalk, leaning against a bookshelf.
He only titled his head, raising an eyebrow.
"Well now, that's a greetin'."
She looked at the mountain of her furniture on the street before looking at him.
"None of this shit is for sale. I've already had to deal with someone else trying to take thing, not including my movers who broke one of my chairs and not so subtly tried to deny it... I'd hate to mess up your pretty face."
He only laughed, and her breath caught.
She wasn't lying about his face, although it was anything but 'pretty'. A hard jaw, piercing eyes, and dirty blonde hair that now looked mussed but she knew would look even more amazing when tamed. Not that the messy hair and sweats wasn't a good combination for him...
"I'm your neighbor."
"Oh. That's a coincidence, since I'm your neighbor…" she muttered, and he laughed again. Something barked, and she blinked again.
She looked down to see a pug sitting at his feet, looking up at her, his tongue falling out the side of it's mouth.
Sydney, now perched on the railing of her stairs let out a soft growl. The pug looked at Sydney and let out another bark, its tail wagging.
"That's JB, I'm Eggsy."
"Eggsy?" she asked, looking up at him.
"Nickname, I presume," she continued.
He raised an eyebrow but nodded.
"Honestly, I prefer that to my real name."
He sighed, and squinted his eyes.
This time she laughed. The pug barked again.
She knelt down and held out her hand, palm up. The pug slowly approached, sniffing her hand and then stepping forward more so she could pet him. When she scratched under his chin he fell to the floor and exposed his belly.
She laughed and scratched that as well.
"JB's a player, I'll give you that."
"JB?" she asked, standing up. "James Bond?"
'Eggsy' shook his head.
"Nevermind… oh! Jack Bauer!" she cried out.
He raised an eyebrow again, and she knew she was right.
She only grinned.
"It's good to meet a fan of American TV! It took me a while to find the channels so I could watch shows from home. Nothing on your TV shows here, they're great, but sometimes it's nice to hear an American accent if you know what I mean," she babbled, "And not to say that accents here are amazing, which they definitely are in themselves. So much variety in a small country. But then again we have to thank you for our diversity in accents in the USA as well, especially in the South. The first few generations that came over to the U.S. held the original accent, but further generations and their accents slowed down and that created the 'Southern Drawl' as it's called. If you speed up a Southern Accent it actually sounds British, which is pretty neat."
She stopped talking and almost frowned when she noticed he was still listening to her yet didn't have a bored glazed over look.
He smiled at her, and she wasn't sure what to do about that.
"Uhm, anyways…" she said, looking around for something to say. She smiled when Sydney meowed.
"That's Sydney Bristow, Syd for short," she said, nodding to her grey long-haired tabby. Said hair made her look bigger than she really was.
When he didn't say anything, she continued.
"As in Sydney Bristow, from Alias?"
Still nothing. She raised an eyebrow.
"Puts the show 24 to shame," she finished, at least hoping that would bring a reaction.
Sure enough, he put a hand over his heart, wincing and closing his eyes.
"That hurt. Here I was, offerin' to help - to be neighborly - and you go and say that? In front of JB?"
At his name, the pug barked.
She shook her head, refraining from grinning, and took a step closer to him.
"No! Be neighborly. Please," she said, trying not to sound desperate.
His eyes bore down on her, still smiling.
"I'm not so sure-"
"Okay fine, the fifth Season was the best on TV, even above Alias. But even then that show kind of downspiraled after Season three anyways."
He shook his head, but still grinned.
"Still feel that insult… what'dya you think JB?" he asked as he looked down at his dog. JB let out a yap that had Syndey growling again.
Eggsy looked back up, smiling.
"I'll take that as a yes. What goes first?"
Merlin was waiting for him when he walked into the tailor shop.
"Sorry, troubles with a new neighbor."
Merlin's face stayed unchanged, as per usual.
"Glasses on, the rest are all waiting."
He followed Merlin into the newly updated Dining Room, taking a seat at Harry's old chair, Merlin sitting next to him at the head of table, now the superior.
"My apologies, hopefully you weren't waiting too long," Eggsy said as he put on his glasses. Roxy,who sat next to him as a hologram, raised an eyebrow. He grinned and shrugged, looking at the few other men with them.
Arthur wasn't the only one that Valentine had gotten his hands on in their agnecy, leaving the long table somewhat scarce of Kingsman. There were already three new batches of recruits training at headquarters, all vying for a spot at their table. Once the three were chosen, then a fourth batch of candidates brought forth from the Kingsman themselves would start the drastic interview process. Eggsy was worried about that part – he had no clue how to even start to look for a candidate.
Amelia entered, tapping on her ClipPad to bring up photos and documents on the table in front of them, covered in a piece of glass that projected information. They were crime scene photos of what looked like a man and woman involved in a car wreck.
"Glad you made it, Eggsy, let's begin," Amelia said, her sarcasm obvious.
Roxy let out a chuckle next to him, and Eggsy moved his foot to kick at her ankle but forgot that she wasn't really there next to him.
"Saw that," Roxy muttered as Amelia started.
"Dr. and Dr. Renzella. At the top of their fields in Neuroscience and Chemical Biology. They were murdered six weeks ago, under the guise of a fatal car wreck. What wasn't disclosed to the public was the bullet wounds, one clean shot to the head each. This is a special case, gents and lady, as it was MI6 themselves who came to us. The doctors were working with the agency to create a chemical compound that heightens adrenaline to the receiver to enhance fighting skills, as well as battling sleeplessness and enhancing brain activity and reflexes – something to help agents in the field. Parts of their finished research were in the car with them, to be delivered to MI6, when they were killed."
"Their work with the agency was purely confidential," Merlin said, "they were recruited by Oxford when their work at Yale drew attention, and took the job, finally moving across the pond to us. This mission has multiple parts. Firstly, we need to know who killed the Doctors, as well as why. The bullets were clean, untraceable, but we are exhausting any and all sources," he said, giving a nod to Amelia, who brought up photos of the said bullets.
"17 HMR," Roxy said, and Eggsy grinned.
"Indeed, Lancelot, very good catch," Merlin said.
Eggsy looked down at the table and tapped the glass to enlarge a photo of the car. It was one of the many updates that Merlin brought when he took over; the table projected information with the glasses so the agents could enlarge or bring up evidence as they pleased with the touch of a finger.
"Not such a waste of paper," Merlin had said.
Eggsy looked at the photo of the wreck. The windshield was cracked, half detached, but still fully intact.
"No bullet holes… this was a close range killing. They probably even rolled the window down," Eggsy muttered.
"That could mean it's someone they knew…" Roxy said, finishing his thoughts.
"Or it was a man dressed as a bum and they were giving spare change," Percival said.
"They were smart, however they did it. CCTV's were disabled in the area five minutes before the assassination," Amelia said.
"But that is a good note about the kill range. And since we are still in the dark about suspects, however a shot in the dark, it could very well be that it was someone they knew... Lancelot, Galahad, you will take lead on this mission. I'm afraid we might need to cut your Italy trip short, Lancelot."
Roxy nodded, as did Eggsy.
"I can be home in two hours. I completed the mission last night, anyways."
"Which brings us to our next part of the mission," Merlin continued, "the doctors have a daughter. Whereabouts currently unknown; it seemed she went off the grid after her parent's death. Cleaned out accounts, wills, paid all debts, and sold their house."
"She even dropped out of the Physics department at Cambridge University," Amelia said, "But if her parents were murdered for their research, then those that did the deed are looking for the rest of it," she said, taping on her ClipPad to bring up a mugshot photo of a young woman.
"Daughter of doctors, a criminal?" Gareth said from the far end of the table.
Eggsy frowned at the photo of the young woman, with a large black eye and a cut on her jaw, long blonde hair covering one side of her face.
"This is the most recent photo I could find, she's not on any Social Media. This photo was when she was arrested for assault of her boyfriend, who his brother later filed a restraining order."
"Looks like he was the one doing the assaulting," Eggsy said tightly, looking away from the photo, the sight of the bruises hitting too close to home.
"We need to find her," Merlin said, "Before the people that killed her parents do. MI6 believes that she has the rest of the research - whether she knows it or not - and that puts a target on her back. So far they know she hasn't left the country, they've been keeping tabs on all flights out."
Eggsy looked at up again at the photo, and he realized who it was, as though a switch was flipped on his mind. She had different hair now, and the cut on her jaw was now a light scar... but there was no mistaking that scowl, her eyes boring into him even from a photo.
"Holy shit," he whispered.
"Something to add, Galahad?" Merlin asked.
"Yup," he said, leaning back in his chair, shaking his head, "I know exactly where she is."
Merlin blinked as though surprised.
"And how, pray tell, do you know this?"
"She's my new neighbor."
"How could we have overlooked this?" Amelia muttered for the umpteenth time, now sitting at the small table in the backroom at the tailor shop, sipping some tea.
Merlin shook his head.
"She used an alias, payed in cash when she bought the flat... did she introduce herself with her real name?" he asked.
"Ariel. Didn't give a last name."
"Does she have an accent?"
He nodded again.
"Definitely American. We even talked about American TV," he said, refraining from grinning at her excitement that he had watched 24. "But she's different: she dyed her hair, cut it. She wears... simpler make-up," he said, remembering the traces of black eyeliner in streaks on her face from the mugshot...
"This is too much to be just mere coincidence!" Amelia said.
Eggsy only shrugged, stretching out in the chair – or at least as much as his suit would let him. Eggsy had tried to talk to the tailor about roomier slacks, but he only scoffed at the idea, telling him to wear sweatpants if he wanted to be so comfortable.
Merlin wasn't pleased when he came into work with a suit jacket and button down shirt tucked into sweatpants. Mr. Bridgemont's priceless face made it worth it, though.
"Some things are just... coincidental, even though the word is lost on me. Thankfully, this works in our favor," Merlin said, looking over at Eggsy expectantly.
He frowned, and stared back.
"Wait… no, no-"
"A neighbor is the perfect way to edge in a relationship-"
"I'm not babysitting her, if that's what'ca on about!"
"Oh please," Roxy said as she entered the room suddenly, "A woman who fights back hardly needs a babysitter."
"Rox," Eggsy said, grinning.
"That's Lancelot to you," she said jokingly, moving over to the counter to stand next to Merlin. "And Merlin is right, we need an edge in, and you're perfect for the job."
"It's more like protection, than babysitting. Like we said, she's got a target on her back. Keeping a close watch on her without disrupting her life could bring in those that killed her parents, and then we'll know who we're dealing with."
Eggsy frowned, knowing he had no choice.
"It's not fair to her."
Merlin stopped and gazed at Eggsy for a beat before the corner of his mouth twitched up.
"Spoken just like your predecessor."
Eggsy looked down at the table, not wanting to hear about him. What would he do, given such a predicament?
"She's alone now, has no idea what her parents have done, who they really were, and now she's in danger? Not to mention she's technically not even home. Why did MI6 come to us? They probably have better resources to help her. It's not like I can invite her here and give her a ride to Headquarters," Eggsy said, trying a last attempt at avoiding the job.
Merlin shook his head.
"She'd be trapped in MI6 if they took her in. Imagine the repercussions. If she happens to be exposed, we can give her a better chance at a simpler life. Relocation, new identity, even protection," Roxy said.
Eggsy nodded, feeling a little at ease, the corner of his mouth twitching.
"She's a difficult one," he said, looking up as the grin spread. "She knocked a mover off his feet when he tried to ask for a tip after breaking a chair."
"Maybe MI6 was right to send her our way, then."