As royal weddings went, Carl Philip Bernadotte was going stir crazy over his own, cooped up as he was in their apartment with last minute preparations and minor emergencies that seemed to require his attention.
The British court was nothing if not efficient (as had been shown at Harry's impromptu wedding three years ago), he had to leave it to them. After so many royal weddings in the last sixty years, a system was in place that took care of almost all eventualities, that was cost efficient and ran and with capacities that made even the Swedish court pale in envy. The Royal Palace of Stockholm had offered its assistance early in the planning stage - after all, their one and only prince was part of the couple in question - but whoever was in charge over at Buckingham Palace had politely declined and said they'd handle it.
And handled it they had. Initial guest lists had been sent over to them for approval and additions, with people who could not be not invited marked especially, and invitations had been sent out in a matter of 48 hours. There had been regular consulting with them, but it seemed plans of how to work around the fact that they would not have a church wedding at all had been in the place already and they only needed to go over the details with a fine toothed comb. That was many an evening spent with lists and seating charts (seating Princess Letizia at the same table as Crown Princess Mary was, after all, a catastrophe waiting to happen) and photos and fabric samples and there always came a point when one of them was too frustrated by it all and pounced on the other. At least they didn't have to worry about the costs, exactly.
While this would be an expensive wedding, the venue belonged to William's family and with the layout of Windsor Castle, security would be easy to organise. That only left the rest of the costs and Her Majesty had promised, and come through, with making William's father pay the brunt of it, the rest would be covered by her and by Carl's father. It was a thorn in the Prince of Wales' side, but he could hardly refuse a direct order, or make himself a fool in front of the press now. The man still wanted the throne, after all, and he couldn't be seen to cause a scandal when it concerned Wills as his heir.
Two weeks to their wedding, and Carl's husband-to-be had sneaked out on him to go who knew where. Carl had inquired with the guards, but while the RPD officers assured him that they were aware of Prince William's whereabouts, they could not disclose his location to him. The only information they would give him that Prince William would return within two hours. Maybe Carl could please just ask him himself?, they said. Not helpful at all.
So he padded back to the third floor and sat on the sofa with a sketch pad. Overall, he preferred photography, but he couldn't make a mould from scratch without any visual aid. Madde had teased him if maybe it wasn't time for a picture frame if he gave away prints of his photos as birthday gifts. While it had been a pointed remark, it wasn't such a bad idea. Especially as Wills had, about a year ago, asked if he didn't want to put up his works either in an exhibition or auction some of them off for charity.
It might have been better to get that together before the wedding, because they would be insanely busy in the next few months, but with the planning and other obligations, it just hadn't worked out. On the other hand, a frame to go along with the photographs might catch more eyes, though, so he'd decided to give the idea a try.
He was trying to decide between two rough sketches, one rectangular and one oval, so he'd know which he would elaborate further when the door to the apartment opened and fell shut again. Carl checked his watch and put the pad down.
A minute later, the door to the hallway opened and Wills stepped through, peeling himself out of his coat. He stopped dead in his tracks when he saw Carl's expectant gaze and avoided his eyes. "Hey," he said eventually.
"You ran out on me," Carl accused, frowning.
That made his lover smile and resume getting rid of the coat and kicking the door to the living room shut. But the smile was too smooth, too much Prince William of Wales at a charity event. "Don't be silly, I'd never run out on you." The coat landed on an armchair and Wills left the room through a different door, making for the kitchen.
Carl sighed. Wills had an incredibly thick skull, which was a good thing in terms of wedding preparations because he sometimes just banged his fist on the table to end discussions with an irrevocable decision, but it made fights between them mostly end in stony silence because two could play that game. Another point was that evasive behaviour wasn't typical for Wills, he only ever got this way when it was about something hurtful from the past that he thought he was over but wasn't. Carl usually tried to avoid touching on those subjects because he couldn't make the hurt go away and it only got worse from there.
The door opened again and Wills entered the room, passed behind the couch, dragged the tips of his ice-cold fingers over the nape of Carl's neck and went into the bedroom. He was beginning to feel like this was a drawing room play the Brits were so fond of. Another door fell shut audibly, probably to the bathroom, and a minute later the shower was turned on. The taps shut again after a few seconds. The bathroom door fell shut once more and then there was silence.
Carl knew he wouldn't have peace of mind to sketch anyway so he got up and turned towards the bedroom. Wills was sitting on the bed, fully dressed in slacks and shirt, and didn't move a muscle even when he heard steps coming towards him. Or maybe he didn't hear, as he was staring at the wall, unseeing. Carl stopped short and changed direction to quickly look into the bathroom. The shower was wet, as expected, but everything else seemed unchanged.
Back in the bedroom, Wills still sat in the same position, but this time Carl went to sit next to him, as close as possible. He turned his head to press a kiss to his lover's temple and leaned his forehead against him. William's every muscle was tense, his jaw clenched and his breath shallow.
Wills was high strung when he worked but this wasn't normal; when he got like this it meant he was angry or upset or both, and most often occurred in connection with his father. But the Prince of Wales was in Cornwall this week, so that wasn't it for sure. Old wounds ripped open caused this, too, but Carl couldn't read minds.
A long minute went by, then his lover relaxed a fraction and reached over to take his hand.
"Do you want to talk about it?" Carl asked quietly, using his other hand to slowly stroke up and down his lover's back, trying to soothe out the remaining tension in his muscles. William's touch still startling cool, something Carl didn't know from Wills, whose hands had always been warm.
"No," Wills responded with a sigh that came from deep in his chest and his hold tightened.
Carl made a sound of acknowledgement and tugged their joined hands over to his knee. "Do you want a hug?" he inquired and felt the remaining tension drain from his lover as he exhaled in a sharp half-snort.
"I wouldn't mind that, actually," he answered and there was a smile in his voice.
Carl had always considered hugging while sitting somewhat awkward and as the alternative to standing was climbing into his lover's lap, which wouldn't get him the position he wanted, he got up and pulled Wills along with him. The difference in height usually made for certain disadvantages, like when they were giving eternally doomed shower sex another try, but right now it was probably easier. He had both hands under his lover's shirt, one resting just above the waistband of his trousers, the other up between his shoulder blades, petting the warm skin. Wills, in turn, held him close, head resting on his shoulder so that warm breath was fanning over Carl's throat.
"Will you ever tell me?" he asked quietly. It was important to him to keep his tone carefully neutral, because accusations were not what either of them needed right now. Carl had always known Wills kept those parts of his past that hurt locked up deep within himself and only acknowledged them when someone or something dragged them to the surface. He knew and he'd learned to respect that, only asking, only pressing for an answer when he felt it absolutely necessary. They'd had more than one fight caused by that and they'd have more. This worked the other way around as well. They each had their own demons to face, after all.
William's hold around him tightened and he knew the answer even before it was said out loud. "I don't know."
Some truths were easier said when you didn't have to look your partner in the eye.
"Would you tell me if it was something I could help with?" Carl asked further. His thumb rested on William’s lower back, moving in small reassuring circles.
A second's hesitation followed until Wills spoke up again, an almost-whisper Carl only understood because they were standing so close and there was silence around them. "Yes, I would."
And as far as Carl was concerned, that was quite enough. "Good," he said and smiled. He withdrew his hands and took a half step away so he could look at his lover, frame his face and kiss him properly. It also was important to let a matter rest. "Want to look at sketches for my new picture frames?"