As royal weddings went, this one was almost bearable. Almost, because there still were all those prim and proper lords and ladies and princes and princesses and the occasional king or queen and even though the press had been excluded, they still could not act like normal people for once. But then at this wedding there also were the more - in lack of a better word - bourgeois guests associated with the groom and their awkwardness towards the noble guests of the festivities.
His Royal Highness Prince William Arthur Philip Louis of Wales wasn't exactly sure why he was here at all. Certainly, the House of Windsor (Mountbatton-Windsor but they still weren't quite clear on that formality) had needed to send a representative to the wedding of the Crown Princess of Sweden, because it was not only a courtesy but also because they were cousins, even if five generations and a hundred years removed. But why gran had sent him, of all people was a mystery to him. His cousin Beatrice was much better suited to such tasks; she liked weddings even if she would never admit to that. But maybe this was gran's not-so-subtle way of telling him it was time he announced his engagement, preferably sooner than later and that even Katie was acceptable, despite the recent failings of her family.
They all could wait a long long time for that to happen, for all he cared.
His thoughts were interrupted by Frederik and Mary of Denmark, part of the younger generation of nobles who did abide by their status but managed to live a semblance of a normal life. Mary was leading Isabella by the hand and although the young girl was a countess at her tender age of three already, William hoped she would be able to grow up without the eye of the public on her. They only exchanged a few words for by then Isabella was tugging her mother away already.
He sometimes wondered at his relations. What had once been the House of Hanover was spread over all of Europe by now, and thanks to Queen Victoria's children and grandchildren, he was pretty much related to everyone who only had one drop of noble blood running through their veins. Currently, the line of succession ran through him and his brother down a list of over a thousand candidates, more if one was inclined to count those who were ineligible for one reason or other. He wondered if it served those men and women any, especially in those countries that didn't keep a monarchy anymore. Maybe it made for a good pick up line, 'Hey, baby, I'm 1745th in line to the British throne, wanna dance?' Probably not. Not even any of the people here who were in the low hundreds in line would ever ascend. Unless Britain was overrun by zombies, of course.
"Please tell me you aren't grinning like a loon because you, too, are finding this party so delightful", a voice to his left said and upon the last word fell into such high and nasal falsetto that William instinctively worried about the sinuses and vocal chords of the speaker. Turning slightly, his gaze fell on Carl Philip, Victoria's brother and officially the Duke of Värmland. Another cousin a hundred years removed and almost at position two hundred in the line to succession. Of course, he probably picked up girls more easily by being number two in line to the Swedish throne. Or simply by his good looks, which were now somewhat distorted by frowning and smiling at the same time.
"Actually," he raised his glass in a toast to the brother of the bride, "I was contemplating how you and your family would ascend the British throne if we were overrun by zombies." They clinked glasses but didn't drink, while Carl Philip raised an eyebrow.
"How many of those did you have?"
"It's my second, but I might have a caffeine flash as I had three double espressi so I wouldn't fall asleep during the ceremony." As receptions went, at least they weren't seated stiffly now but free to roam the vast property, the English garden of Drottningholm Palace stretching around them.
"You do have a pulse of 120, that's for sure," more scrutiny hit him but for some reason William didn't find it disturbing that his cousin was able to discern his heart rate. "And the Norwegians before us, don't you forget that. And the Romanians. And Russians."
"You are, however, closer in line than the Danes."
"That is true." Carl Philip took a sip of his red and let his gaze roam. "What will be the use of ascending your throne though when the country is populated by zombies?"
William shrugged. "I thought maybe it made for a good pick up line." They grinned at one another and he returned to the discussion opener, "As royal weddings go, my nightmares have not come true. So far."
"Of having to dance with every single female present?"
"Don't you feed my fears!" Carl Philip chuckled as if that had been exactly his nightmare. He had already danced with his sister.
They were quiet for a while. "If the zombies come, wouldn't it be your job to repel them? Aren't you like a Knight of the Round Table or something?" Carl Philip asked eventually and William threw him a dark look. The Order of the Garter indeed encompassed 25 knighted men but that was a bit much. "Or would you wait until King Arthur returns from Avalon? Oh no wait, that would be you, would it not?" And that would be William himself, age five and announcing to the children at the courts where his parents would take him that he one day would style himself King Arthur and live up to his famous namesake. Curse Carl Philip for his early command of English and Queen Silvia for being multilingual and bestowing this upon her children.
"Oh shut up, would you?"
William Arthur Philip Louis of Wales of the Houses Mountbatton and Windsor would be damned if he knew how he had ended up in the bed of Carl Philip Edmund Bertil, Duke of Värmland of the House of Bernadotte.
Well, of course he knew. He had been bickering with Carl Philip until his sister Madeleine had claimed his attention because of something she didn't specify. Shortly after, rain had started to patter down and everyone had fled, more or less dignified, inside. One of the kids had knocked into William's knees and he had spilled his red wine all over his white shirt. The press wasn't there, no need to worry at all.
And he had wanted to leave anyway, just could not do so too early. Now he had a reason to do just that.
Carl Philip had taken one look at him and, between chuckles, offered him a spare shirt.
Somehow or other William had ended up with his cock in the mouth of the man second in line to the Swedish throne, groaning with pleasure.
Now he was shifting uncomfortably as he felt the other man's eyes tracking his movements. He was late. His driver must be wanting to kill him, his mobile had been ringing nonstop until he had turned it off by throwing it against a wall. Everyone must be furious.
A hand touched his bare shoulder; when he turned around Carl Philip lay in the dim light beneath the sheets, head propped onto his hand. "Between riding a horse you know you can't handle and lying to your parents about the severity of your future-spouses illness," their gazes met for a second and Carl Philip cracked a humourless smile, "how bad is this?"
A sigh escaped William and he settled into a similar stance. If he was honest with himself he didn't want to get up yet to deal with his handlers, who would descend onto him like furies. "I suppose it ranges in the same department as secretly going to war and not telling the public about it after. Or your family."
"You sound like my father." He turned on his back, crossed his arms and looked at the ceiling of the room. White stucco on white wall. And he always thought this prince was supposed to be a designer. Granted, tableware did not have much to do with interior design. "The press would have a field day."
"So we don't tell them."
That sounded way too simple. The press had been after him and his brother ever since the death of their mother, there was hardly a minute of his life unattended by those vultures. Girlfriends, breakups, school reports... It was hardly feasible they would not find out somehow.
"You have doubts it will work?"
William looked over and found the other man studying him with open curiosity. "Most pictures that show up in the tabloids of me or my brother are not supposed to be there. They usually find a way. Somehow."
"William." Carl Philip would only continue when their eyes met. "My elder sister just married her fitness coach. I think I can say I know a few things about ending up in the tabloids."
"At least your last relationship didn't end there." Which wasn't a fair thing to say, because of course it had. When people of their status split with their partners it always ended with the yellow press having the last word. It had been no different with Carl Philip and his ex-girlfriend as it had been with him and Kate. For the most part.
But the other man took it in stride and just shrugged, the sheet sliding a little further down his hip. "Emm's working for a PR firm, it would be rather disastrous for her career prospects if she acquired the reputation of not even being able to manage the fallout of her own relationship. That and I was smart enough not to break up with her via text message." He smirked. "Whatever were you thinking? Your public relations team must have had a series of coronaries."
"I did not either. That was an unfortunate chain of events. I merely confirmed that it was over and that somehow got leaked."
"'Somehow got leaked'," the Swedish prince murmured derisively but was smart enough not to make any further snide comment. "And then it never happened, I guess."
"It's complicated." William wasn't exactly fond of the topic, partly because it was unresolved on so many levels, partly because every one seemed to want to know about it. But two could play that game. "So you and Emma..."
"I guess it's safe to say Emm figured out a few things long before I did," Carl Philip smiled ruefully. "She doesn't blame me, exactly, although I don't imagine it's been easy on her coming to terms with it, just as it hasn't been for me. It's just that she had more time to get used to the thought before we had our big confrontation. And no," Carl Philip looked up, "I have no idea how you fit into the equation." He shifted his legs the slightest bit and now the sheet was good for nothing but keeping the man's lower extremities from cooling out. That by itself was unlikely in a room flooded with June sunshine by day and balmy air by night.
William gazed a long time at the small smile on the other man's face, at his disheveled dark hair and the strands falling into his eyes, the muscles showing under the skin only hinting at the various activities that ranged from horse riding to race car driving, the dark trail of hair from the navel downwards and finally the hem of the sheet. "I am not sure that I should be fitting into that equation."
Their eyes met again seconds later and after that, actions spoke louder than words.
The break up this time was no less spectacular, and hardly less public, but at least less scandalous. Several weeks had passed since Victoria's wedding and between his duties and his own pursuits towards charity, William had given his relationship a lot of thought. It should not have surprised him when he arrived at the conclusion that he and Kate were simply not going anywhere. Yet he had trouble coming up with an explanation that she would understand and accept.
Eventually he made it out to be to her benefit, because she was spending her years waiting for something that simply would not happen. If he were honest with himself though- He had to shake his head at his own thoughts. Because if he were honest with himself, things had not been good for a long time and it had not even started with her not being able to decide on a job.
Sleeping with Carl Philip hadn't changed anything, even though the other prince had let William look at the matter from a different perspective. They had continued this particular discussion while Carl Philip had been sneaking him through long disused servant passages back to the remnants of the party, where people had already been looking for him. Carl Philip, as charming a man as he was and even with as much fun as they'd had, was not a reason to end a relationship though. Where would they take it from there? The Swedish prince probably had more freedom than William when it came to deciding over his life, but they both were second in line to the throne. There were duties and obligations towards their family and their country and their subjects to fulfil. So even if they had known each other well enough to decide to start a relationship, they were not entirely free to do so.
It might have been considered scandalous what went on between William and his father behind the walls of Buckingham Palace and Clarence House, but it never reached the public eye and ear. Gran had taken considerably well to the announcement of his breaking up with Kate, although she had not been too happy. But then, she had not been too happy about Kate's continued presence in his life ever since the alleged baby scandal hit the tabloids, so her current take on it was one of convenience, or rather the lack thereof. And that there was no new princess in sight after all. His father though...
At Buckingham, there had been dead silence and the same looks that had almost turned Harry to stone during his rebellious teenage years.
Later, at Clarence House the yelling had started. William didn't even know why exactly and what had been the matter. The gist of it had been how it was time for him, how everything could have been arranged, how he should be happy that marrying a commoner was now not even frowned upon anymore and that he could not postpone it forever.
For years now, William had remained calm when his father started yelling; the years after his mother died had taught him patience quickly. When Harry had started to act contrary William had remained calm and stood between those two thick skulled men. When Charles' position as the head of the Church of England and the Crown Prince had been seemingly endangered by his wish to marry Camilla and his temper had subsequently shortened, William had (mostly) remained calm.
It was enough though. Charles had been sceptical of Kate when they had first started going out and the more the alleged scandals accumulated, the more displeased he had been. And now he wanted William to do nothing and just let things happen? William did tell him as much in no uncertain words: "At 30 you married a woman you didn't love from the bottom of your heart. You made yourself unhappy, you made her unhappy and you put your family into an impossible position. I'm not blaming you for mommy's death but none of you who could act, acted like you should have. You had to wait until you were 56 to marry the one you loved and how much pain and struggle was involved in all of this? And you really want your son to repeat this? To marry a woman he cannot love with all his heart? In that case, maybe you should start looking for another heir."
It had been risky, turning around and walking away to his own apartments then. On the other hand, gran had given her approval, if reluctantly, and anyway the monarchy couldn't take a scandal like one of the immediate successors to the throne being deposed. Still, even calculated risks were risks.
He had just sat down at his desk when his mobile rang. Not bothering to check the display he picked it up. "Yes?"
"I'm sitting at a lake shore, looking out over sparkling blue water with a snow capped peak in the distance. It's a lovely 22 centigrades in the middle of summer. You cooking in the city?" sounded the familiar voice of Carl Philip, disturbingly close for a connection established under a considerable body of water.
"I'm mostly bemoaning that my life is not mine alone," William answered and leaned back in his chair. He had not so much as talked to the other man since coming back to England, how was it he was smiling now?
A smile also sounded in Carl Philip's voice. "And you moan so prettily."
"You are aware of the existence of phone taps, aren't you?," William warned sharply.
"It wasn't me who complained of new shoes at my sister's wedding, my friend. Not surprised I have your number?"
"I suppose the Säkerhetspolisen might be worth their salt."
Carl Philip laughed. "I'm impressed!"
"As you should be," William allowed and took up a pen to toy with. "What I'm more curious about is what I owe the call to."
A hesitation just long enough for him to notice followed. "The headlines are surprisingly quick making it over the North Sea. How are you holding up?"
"Fighting with my father. Drafting a press release. You know, the usual."
"For what it's worth, I thought it was handled rather well. Hold on." A second voice sounded in the background but too faint to make out the words. "I'm being summoned. Talk to you later, Wills." The line went dead and William was left to stare at the device in his hand. Inexplicitly, his mood was lifted considerably.
November rain pelted from the sky outside when William entered St. James Palace through the side entrance and brushed icy droplets off the shoulders of his coat. He had been in the middle of an interview for the charity AIDS gala he would be hosting on December 1st when he had gotten the note saying he was to come to the old Palace at his earliest convenience on behalf of his grandmother the Queen. In plain speak that said to come there immediately. He had wrapped up the interview and entered the old reception hall, where his grandmother stood in front of the mostly decorative desk, when someone straightened from a bow towards her. The Queen smiled benevolently and then her eye fell on him.
"William! Please join us," she nodded at the dark haired stranger who turned around and suddenly was no stranger at all any longer. Prince Carl Philip of Sweden smiled at him a little lopsidedly and ever so perceptibly shrugged when William stepped up and shot him a confused look. What was the man doing here? They had not talked in several weeks, there had not being any opportunity and William was always wary of tapped lines. "I gather you met King Gustaf's son already?"
"We talked at Princess Victoria's wedding. Your Majesty," he bowed slightly, not as deep as Carl Philip had done but enough to show his respect. Dealing with his gran in front of others was not always easy. More often than not it was a slippery slope to walk for he could not appear too intimate, but at the same time seeming distant didn't tend to improve the image the public was to have of the Royal House of Windsor.
William noticed that Carl Philip bit the inside of his cheek ever so slightly to keep from grinning. "We spent most of the evening together in mutual enjoyment, I dare day. It is sad opportunities like this one don't present themselves more often."
"Perhaps under the given circumstances your parents might be amenable towards intensifying our relations again. Your presence here certainly is welcome and of course you will be treated as a royal guest. William will be glad to be seeing you as well, am I right, William?"
"Yes, Ma'am. May I ask?" He was confused. No state visit was due, there was no ultimate reason for Carl Philip to be here.
The Swedish prince was in London to present a scholarship to the winner of a contest held at the bi-annual design exhibit. "As he is vastly unfamiliar with London and you met previously at the Crown Princess's wedding I deemed it appropriate to ask you to accompany him to the exhibit." The Queen smiled at both of them at once and then turned to Carl Philip again. "You will be staying at Clarence House. Charles and his wife are held up in Cornwall and there is no reason for the two of you to arrive separately. Also, William has been perpetually gloomy over the last few months, maybe you will be able to cheer him up a little."
Neither of them objected as they stood in front of the Queen, who gave them one more smile before nodding at the man on staff to open the door and exited the room at a brisk pace.
"You know," Carl Philip blinked, "I can also stay at a hotel."
"And have gran castrate me? Clarence House isn't far, if it wasn't raining I'd suggest we walk but sending you back to Sweden with pneumonia might just cause an international incident." They, too, exited the room and then the palace by the same door William had used earlier to enter. The other man's luggage had already been stored in the armoured car and they were almost silent on the short drive to the residence of William's most immediate family.
"Did you have a good trip?" he finally asked just to not have the driver gossip to the maids later.
"The flight was fine. Did you know you can get from Sweden to Britain by ferry in twenty hours?"
William raised an eyebrow. "How do you know?"
"I looked it up, of course!" Carl Philip grinned.
"What I meant was, why would you?"
"I like taking trips. Although, to tell you the truth, a ferry is a tad too slow for me."
"Right. You're the race car driving prince no one can ever find," William acknowledged as he opened the door and hurried through the rain to yet another side entrance, this time to his own home.
"It's a valuable talent to have," Carl Philip joked as he followed through the public rooms to an only privately used staircase. "William-" But he cut himself off when William turned around and threw him a look.
The luggage would be taken care of, the guest rooms prepared. Someone from the staff at St. James Palace would have called ahead already, informing the staff here of the royal guest. Although William was almost sure Carl Philip would even sleep on the sofa, the other man struck him as uncomplicated.
On the second floor they turned several corners before William opened a door and ushered Carl Philip inside, turning the key in the lock after stepping through himself.
The Swedish prince gave him a dubious look, then turned it pointedly to the lock and back at William. "Care to elaborate?"
"This room is clean," William simply stated.
Carl Philip looked at the stacks of freshly washed and ironed laundry, sheets and towels for the most part, and nodded. "I can see that."
A linen closet, even and especially in an old palace that had been remodelled but not quite enough, didn't afford a lot of space and they were both invading the other's.
"Harry and I sweep this room daily for bugs, if we are in residence. Sometimes twice. It isn't an effort we can make with our apartments here or anywhere else on a regular basis so if we want to talk about subjects that are too sensitive we go here," William explained, and he was acutely aware of how paranoid that sounded, especially for two men whose private lives were pretty much open to the public anyway. "And yes, I know how it sounds."
"Do you have proof your apartments are bugged?" Carl Philip was still looking somewhat sceptical but was obviously willing to entertain the possibility. Personal experience, William guessed.
So he just shrugged. "We have found the occasional suspicious item and gotten rid of it. That of course doesn't mean anything by itself. But my father had a phone conversation tapped into in 1989 and a lot if things unravelled in the course of that. Of course, they would have unravelled even without that but..."
"I understand." Carl Philip paused. "So if we were to repeat what we did in June..."
"My rooms would need a bug sweep, yes."
"Would? Or will?" The grin on the man's face could be called nothing else but wicked.
William heaved a big sigh. "Has anyone ever told you that you are quite pushy?"
"I'm the middle child William, I have always voiced what I wanted because that is the only way to get it," Carl Philip winked and unlocked the door. "Would you say we should also get rid of your brother or do you have enough in hand against him so he won't talk no matter what we sees....or hears?"
William chose to ignore the last question and reached out one hand to the key, where Carl Philip still had his, and turned it around again. He took one very deliberate step forward. "As long as we're on the topic of asking or not asking," he said and quickly used his left to fix the other man's head in position and pressed his own mouth to Carl Philip's. The fingers of the hands still holding the key tangled and their mouths opened almost simultaneously.
It was scary how William suddenly realised that he had missed this. Kissing had formerly been his favourite part of sex, even though he would never admit that to anyone. But with Carl Philip it was all different; with him he knew it was a prelude to something even better, fingers and tongues exploring, a vast space within him filling that he had never even known to be empty before. It didn't hurt that the man knew how to kiss.
Half an eternity later, Carl Philip leaned his forehead against William's, panting slightly and swallowing before asking, "So, still feeling gloomy?"
"If you put it this way, I suppose I could use some more cheering up."
When you were having sex with someone you should not actually be having sex with and he had his cock buried deep in your arse, there was nothing worse than to suddenly hear a noise that didn't belong. The scratching at his door was like a cold bucket of water over his brain (but not other parts of his anatomy, William registered with a flicker of amusement) and he quickly pressed one hand firmly over Carl Philip's mouth to stifle his panting and the small noises escaping him.
A muffled protest sounded and the man's movements stilled, which didn't mean the location of his cock changed, too. William moved a little to accommodate for the sudden change of pace, literally, and mouthed more than said, "You hear anything?"
Carl Philip shifted his weight from both hands to one so he wouldn't slump down on William, and removed his lover's hand from his mouth. "No," he said ever so quietly. "Why are we whispering?" He gave a little teasing thrust, just enough to keep things interesting, and William had to suppress a groan despite his heightened state of vigilance.
"I heard something. There," they froze and there was a creaking floorboard outside indeed, but it might just as well have been a relaxing piece of wood.
"You really are paranoid," Carl Philip rumbled and lowered himself to his elbows to bend down and capture William's mouth with his, effectively muffling them both while he kept thrusting.
Kissing was good. And the surge of adrenaline, the chance of actually being caught, all of that together led both of them to quick release. William could feel the heat in himself as Carl Philip slipped out of him. "The tabloids pay well for gossip," William murmured and leaned over the side of the bed to grab a shoe and throw it against the door, the second following a few moments later. That should at least discourage eavesdropping with a water glass for a little while. He then turned around and laid one hand on the other man's side. "You know this is a very bad idea."
"In general, or just doing it without a condom?" Carl Philip looked lazy and content, a smile like the cat who got the cream.
They both held ranks in the military, and even if it weren't for that, they had been watched and examined and tested more often over the course of their lives than any one man their age should be. And since neither of them could get pregnant they had considered condoms a moot point in June already. "You know what I mean."
Carl Philip sighed while a frown appeared on his face. "What's to say against a little fun now and then?"
"Well if it was just fun and we had not just performed a half hour bug sweep just to have some fun..." William trailed off, shrugged, didn't quite look at the man across from him.
Carl Philip snickered, and from his peripheral vision William could see how he bit his lip. "I'm sorry," he snickered some more, then cleared his throat. "Really. I'm sorry. Hey Wills?"
"Hm?" he still didn't look at the man. There was something seriously wrong if the man you had just sex with laughed at you right after.
"Do you like me?" It almost sounded serious.
"Darn well I like you. What of it?" William was getting angry because really? Was this man quite serious? First he dragged William into bed with him (although granted, he had not exactly resisted), then invaded his space here in London by telling his gran how much they had enjoyed themselves (and he hoped gran would never know the whole truth because that might just be enough to bring her to an early grave) and then he laughed at him after they had sex again and now what? It was a bad idea, and suddenly William realised that this very well might just turn into an inter-European royal scandal.
"Well," Carl Philip said gravely and reached out one hand to force William to look at him, "I was just thinking how that was a good thing, since I like you too. I like you a whole lot, actually. In fact, I don't often ask the Säpo to find me phone numbers meant to be ultra-secret."
They were kissing again then, deep and hungry. William sighed into the kiss and thought how this was far beyond simply a bad idea, how this would develop into more than a scandal just interesting for the tabloids and that this would compromise his position especially. He also found, though, that he didn't much care at all.
The design exhibit was more exciting for having someone with him who was truly interested in the matter, William thought. For the most part there were schools and private institutions offering an education specialised in design. The contest attached to this presentation was aimed at young men and women up to twenty years of age to show their talents. Everyone could enter the run for the scholarship, no matter if they specialised in material or graphical arts, which made the entries quite diverse and William was glad not to be part of the jury, because he would not have known which to chose over the others.
They exchanged a few words with each of the participants who seemed puzzled but also quite pleased to be confronted with two princes of major royal houses at once. Although the contest was international, most of the runners were based in Europe. There were two Swedish girls who had entered as a team and who could hardly contain their glee at seeing Carl examining their concept for greener living. Stylish greener living, at that.
"I could draw you, you know?" Carl murmured as they left that booth and made their way over to the next. The hall was pleasantly uncrowded; William wasn't used to not having to push his way through when he was out in public at an official event.
"What, like in Titanic?" William laughed back, paying close attention that no one was listening in on them.
"Well, I do hope to avoid the shipwreck so maybe we should do something else."
"You could dedicate your next set of cutlery to me." There was no answer as they had arrived at the next piece, a chair that William wasn't quite sure how anyone would sit in it with any semblance of comfort. But maybe that wasn't the aim.
When they were back in the car, Carl took up the conversation again. "I actually think I want to do something else than tableware. Submitting designs for a ship would be cool."
"You certainly do think big, don't you?" William leaned back into the seat and threaded their ring and little fingers together. Ever so small a point of contact but there. Mostly harmless, hardly even visible should the driver suddenly decide to lower the tinted glass towards the cabin. He really was paranoid, the young prince realised with a frown. He had never made quite such a fuss about his affairs so far, neither when he was picking up different girls nor when he did have a relationship with someone. But this was a different scale, especially since he couldn't be quite sure what this was. A fling might cause a year's scandal, something more - and he would be lying if he said he wasn't hoping for something more maybe - could bring both of them into serious trouble, if it was handled the wrong way.
Carl rolled his eyes. "I told you before, I'm the middle child. I have to think big, nothing ever happens if I don't."
"Point in fact," he nodded, then leaned over and pressed a quick and affectionate kiss to William's lips. "Do you mind?"
The English prince had to consider this for a moment. "Actually, I think the problem might be that I don't. You know, it's giving me unrealistic hopes that are destined to shatter to pieces and I'm doomed to stand by and watch." He frowned. "Do you think they'd find me if I just up and left for Argentina?"
Laughing warmly, Carl slipped one hand around his neck and patted his head. "I wouldn't be surprised if the Royalty Protection Department had implanted both you and your brother with tracking microchips when you were still babes in your mother's arms." The pat turned into a more soothing caress and another kiss landed close to his ear. "Most times, Wills, there is a way. Sometimes we're granted a reprieve; we have to believe in it, however. So cheer up. Let's enjoy the time we have, I'll be on my way tomorrow evening."
William was drawing idle circles on his sleeping lover's skin when he heard the floorboard creak again and steps hurrying past. Right at that moment he was beyond caring though.
As far as sex went he'd never had to look for long. Girls had been throwing themselves into his arms from the time he was thirteen and had continued to do so no matter how awkward puberty got. His handlers had been surprisingly indulgent when it came to that, and there wasn't even much spying going on then for he was still mostly uninteresting for the big headlines - his parents were delivering enough material already. The only matter people had always been insistent on was that he get no one pregnant. The rumours regarding Kate's pregnancy a while ago had caused massive problems already, even though those could be disproven quickly.
But while sex certainly had always been pleasant and he could not complain about it being satisfactory, it had never been so much fun. He couldn't remember ever laughing so much in bed as he had just now with Carl and if he allowed himself some further thought, it was pathetic. Which, in turn, made him all the more set on holding on to what they had here. Saying this was worth fighting for, or calling it a relationship was probably too much because what it came down to was that they were having sex with each other when the opportunity presented itself. On the other hand, he couldn't help but pour his feelings into it. This was more than just sex. Which closed the loop of putting them into an impossible decision.
Birthright was an archaic concept. Birthduty simply sucked.
He had been so lost in thought that he had not noticed Carl stirring and opening his eyes; it was only his voice that pulled William out of his reverie. "So where do we go from here?" he asked sleepily.
"I still haven't quite given up on the idea of Argentina. Or would your father grant me political asylum, do you think?" He smiled at the thought and reached out to draw Carl closer.
"I guess I should have added something about serious ideas," Carl frowned and they kissed for a little while.
William flicked his tongue into Carl's mouth one more time and they settled back. "What can we do? Guess we keep visiting. Hey, there's this gala in two weeks, want to be my date?"
"I thought you didn't want to announce it to everyone. Yet," he added the last word seemingly as an afterthought but William could see that he was quite serious. It was heart-warming but too much of an illusion for him to do more than smile. "I don't want to go half a year without seeing you again."
"Yeah... But it would be nice to be able to talk to you on the phone already, without needing to watch out what I say. Maybe gran will take your... proposal into further consideration." William sighed. It would be nice to go to sleep together but if someone found them here like this there would be hell to pay.
Carl seemed to consider this, then took William's hand. "Come to us for Yule."
But he just shook his head. "Christmas is a family matter, we'll probably be in Windsor rather than here. It will be more than obvious if I'm not there. And how would you explain my presence?"
"Not Christmas. Yule. It's the solstice festival, before Christmas. But it's probably too close anyway." Fingers twined, they were just resting, talking. It felt lazy and way too nice.
"You still observe those holidays?"
"Not officially. Not all of us. And I don't make blood sacrifices to the gods. It's a tradition that is important for the identity of the people. But you're right, it will lead to questions we don't want to answer. But you'll visit?"
William nodded. "I'll try my best."
"I'll make slipping away a habit again then," Carl grinned.
"Careful your mum and dad don't find out that this is a good place for them to start looking for you when you're AWOL." They chuckled even though they both knew it wasn't quite as funny as it sounded. The slope was a slippery one and they were sliding down full speed and head first.
It was almost Christmas and everyone was wrapping up for the end of the year, at least until the Queen's Christmas Message but gran had that written already and would only come to London for the broadcast before returning to Windsor.
William slid into the fond of the car after his last official appointment before the holidays and yawned. An eventful year would come to a close soon and he wasn't sure how he felt about it. He was missing Carl badly; they had not seen each other since November and only talked briefly and innocuously on the phone once. That was not how he wished for a relationship to be.
It was probably a good thing the press had not developed mind reading yet.
The glass pane between the driver and the passenger cabin slid down noiselessly and a pair of eyes looked at him in the rear view mirror after they had pulled away from the curb. "Master William?"
Wills couldn't place the voice and no one called him 'Master', so his eyes narrowed. No one could truly be foolish enough to try to kidnap a member of the royal family again, after that incident with Aunt Anne all those years ago. Then again, there had been a holiday notice regarding his usual driver. "Yes?"
"Sir, my name is Sven, I'm with the Säkerhetspolisen. My responsibilities lie with the House of Bernadotte and I'm personally assigned to Prince Carl Philip," the man announced quietly as he manoeuvred through the city's traffic.
William blinked. Oh. Maybe he should have a word with the Royalty Protection Department about their efficiency. It was probably a miracle none of them had yet been kidnapped. "I see. You do not have much of an accent...Sven."
"Thank you, Sir, I have been working on eliminating it since I joined the Säpo. If you look into the side compartment you will find a satchel. If you open it you will find a mobile phone and charger fit for British Standard sockets. If you press digit 2 for speed dial, it will connect you to His Royal Highness the Prince." He fell silent and waited to William to lean forward and retrieve the box and take out the phone.
"Thank you, Sven. Where are you taking me?" William blinked. The description 'spy novel' came to mind.
"I assumed you would want to go to Clarence House to finish packing?"
"Right. Thank you, Sven."
"You're welcome, Sir." The glass pane slid up again with a quiet buzz of the mechanism and William was left by himself again to stare at the phone in his hand. Shrugging, he pressed 2 and waited for the connection to be established. There was a slight delay until the dialling tone sounded and the other side only picked up after almost a minute of ringing but it sure was Carl's voice that sounded through the speaker.
"I see you received my little present," he said and there was a certain smugness in his tone.
"I did indeed. Your Säpo man surely can give my Royalty Protection Officers a run for their money. I'm impressed," Wills admitted and leaned back to watch the buildings and other cars pass through the side window.
Carl sounded relaxed and happy, probably having wrapped up his own affairs for Yule and Christmas already. "Why thank you. The line is set up secure, it cannot be tapped into. We can talk. If you can explain why you're taking your calls in the laundry closet, that is."
William laughed and they spent the rest of the drive, as well as several traffic jams, scheming their next meeting.
Sweden in January was an ice house. None of them had expected tropical beaches and umbrella drinks but a cutting -12 centigrades plus wind chill during polar night was beyond what they had reckoned with. Wills got out of the car, immediately wished he could get back in and watched as his brother and his cousins burrowed themselves deeper into their thick outdoor jackets while Carl and his sisters stood there grinning hugely at them. They had warned them.
However gran had figured it would be a good idea to send them to northern Sweden with the immediate Swedish royal family was unfathomable to all of them. Probably Carl's stupid suggestion of intensifying the relationship. But sending them here...? True, it was a good opportunity for Beatrice and Eugenie to gather their first experiences on a state visit without it being actually a state visit. Officially, they were on holiday here, having joined Carl Gustaf and his family. And after the fight Harry had with Charles and Camilla over Christmas, it was probably a good thing for all of them to get some... distance from each other.
King Carl XVI Gustaf was a strict man, although he seemed pleased to have the British princes with him. Most likely because for the rest of the year, he and his son were the only men among the womenfolk. He and Queen Silvia were just being driven up to the lodge, cars equipped with snow chains. Dog sleds were still actually used around here, or so William had heard from Carl.
He was not yet sure exactly how things would turn out if they were cooped up here for ten days with their families. The two of them would be sleeping in the same room as Harry, because there were five bedrooms and the King and Queen would share one, as well as Victoria and her husband. Beatrice and Eugenie would share, Madeleine slept alone as she was still recuperating from a cold. That left the three princes - William and Carl Philip already were acquainted, and all three of them were military trained and therefore used to bunking with other men. It was considered the best solution and didn't leave anyone sleeping on the sofa in front of the fire.
The one true advantage, Wills thought as he shouldered his bag and followed Carl towards their room, was that he got to see his lover in jeans around the house. Not that he objected to slacks on principle, but being able to ogle at Carl's arse encased in a tight pair of jeans was not to be scoffed at either.
They moved into their rooms and the three of them were sorted out by far the quickest. It was only three in the afternoon, but outside night had never lifted from the landscape. But it was a very bright night, not midnight black. This would take some getting used to.
"This will likely take a while yet. Want to go skiing? There's opportunities for alpine and cross-country just a few minutes' walk from here. Although it's a bit late to start cross-country but the alpine is equipped with flood lights," Carl suggested and the brothers looked at each other and shrugged. Not like they had made any plans for the remainder of the day.
On the slope William and Carl raced each other and when they couldn't decide who had won they slipped out of the bindings of their ski and had a tussle in the snow that soon developed into a snowball fight. When Harry joined Wills and they ganged up on Carl together he quickly yielded and offered to be a good loser and buy them grog.
There was a lot of laughter and when they finally returned to the house it was late and everyone else was waiting for them with dinner. Queen Silvia (or Silvia because on holiday she didn't like the regal title) was saying something affectionate about silly boys and they had food. It wasn't real home cooking but that would change, since Madeleine had announced she was planning on undertaking that adventure. Carl and Victoria had a friendly wager about how long that would last and which day they would start ordering from restaurants.
Wills idly wondered if there were any laundry closets in this lodge as they went upstairs to retire. It was still early, but all of them were exhausted from travelling and the three of them from the skiing and snowball fight. He couldn't quite get Carl alone though and it was foolish to do anything with their families around.
The next day they went dog sledding with lunch outside and saw a lot of the landscape around Kiruna. It was mostly white. The Scandinavian mountains were a kind of contrast, white and grey against contourless snow, but in general this area was not widely populated. There were a few mines, a river and a lake they skirted closely. It should have been safe enough to step onto the ice but they might do that another day, King Gustaf said. There were a few scattered birch trees, bark white even beneath the snow, and animal herds in the distance, probably elks, or so Victoria supplied.
The dogs were affectionate but the existing hierarchy in each of the sledge packs was clear. "Just like in real life, huh?" Beatrice murmured next to Wills' ear and he had to bite his lip not to burst out laughing.
They returned late and they had an appointment with some of the last indigenous people of Europe, the Saami, the next day. That would be interesting and Wills was looking forward to it, while Harry was bored out of his wits already. It was the only true appointment for all of this holiday, so he would just have to pull through.
Wills had found Victoria and her husband pleasant to be around. She was an intelligent young woman with a cheerful smile and she looked much better than she had in June during her wedding. Nerves, probably or rather, the lack thereof. Daniel was a quiet man but when he deemed it right to say something it was well thought out and articulated.
Madeleine was very much the baby of the family despite being the same age as him and raised to be a princess. Still, she was pleasant enough to be around.
All in all, those first few days had been very relaxing, even more so because no one seemed to recognise them here or else no one paid them any mind. The Brits also weren't in their own country; they were not even supposed to be there in the first place so a lot of then tension that daily kept them on their toes had fallen off of them by the third day.
The holidays continued to be like that; the only thing that Wills was missing was some alone time with Carl. They were around one another constantly, driving the snow mobile, ice skating, ice climbing in the mountains but they never were quite alone. A few stolen kisses when they volunteered to store away some gear were all they could manage.
One night Wills was woken by someone cutting off his air supply. He was up and on an adrenaline high in seconds when he saw Carl's smile in the darkness. Frowning, because waking up his brother wouldn't do, he gestured at his lover whose smile widened and shrugged before motioning him to follow. They slipped into their boots with naked feet and bundled into their jackets before silently leaving the house and closing the door.
"What is it? There are nicer ways to wake a man, you know?" Wills whispered just loud enough to carry to the other man's ear.
"Yes, I know. Stop complaining and look up," Carl nodded to the sky and when William lifted his head, two arms snaked around him from behind and a chin rested on his shoulders.
Aurora borealis. Northern lights. His breath stopped for a split second and he linked his hands with both of Carl's resting on his stomach. "Wow."
The greenish glow high overhead, in the form of bands and ribbons was nothing short of overwhelming. Intellectually Wills knew they were caused by excited atoms and Earth's magnetism, but standing here, in Carl's arms, he could understand why they had been called the 'Dance of the Spirits'.
"Yes," there was a smile in that voice. "We should wake the others but I wanted you to see it first." Wills was turned around and still-warm lips covered his own. They kissed for a few minutes, hands resting on necks and tangled in hair. It was slow and sweet and tasted of longing, of missing one another even though they were always together.
William Arthur Philip Louis of Wales felt the world stop spinning for a second and knew they had reached the end of the slope. And he doubted there was a way back up now.
"Okay," he said when they broke the kiss and looked up again. "Let's get the others."
It was their second to last evening when Victoria surprised them with her announcement. "I'm pregnant," she simply said when they were having dinner. "Three months the day before yesterday."
There were several minutes of surprise and questions and congratulations until there was some kind of order again and even then then women couldn't stop cooing. Victoria and Daniel were smiling so much that Harry voiced his concern that their faces might be stuck that way forever, for which Eugenie kicked his shin.
Wills and Carl shared a look across the table. When the child was born the succession would be secured even further and the weight would be lifted off Carl's shoulders completely.
All in all, the evening was a good way to end one of the most relaxing holidays Wills had known in his adult life.
They managed to continue to see one another at least once a month. Carl would simply slip away occasionally and so would Wills, although he was much tighter bound to his royal duties than his lover. Several of these visits were official and when suddenly the door to the laundry closet was opened and one of them dragged the other into it there was always a lot of laughter.
One early night in April, when Clarence House was empty except for the two of them and the guard personnel, Carl was half lying on him, one arm thrown over his chest, dozing but not sleeping.
Fog was rising outside and the city would be veiled in grey all day. A breakfast with the London branch office of the World Childhood Foundation was scheduled first thing in the morning and they were supposed to appear together. That alone was making this a peculiar time for bringing up the topic but William had wrangled with himself for weeks now. Months, if he was honest.
"Carl," he said calmly and his lover roused, blinked at him sleepily. "Awake enough to listen and process?"
"Will I need to get up?"
Wills smiled. "No."
"Then talk," Carl yawned and shifted away so they could properly look at each other.
He had started this now, so better get it over with. "I love you and want to be with you and stay with you and throne and succession be damned."
Carl grinned, leaned over quickly to kiss him and then laughed. "Where in the rules does it say you can't ascend the throne when you're unmarried...or with a man, for that matter?"
"It doesn't," Wills shook his head. He could wait, of course, another twenty or forty years until he was King, denying who he was for more than half his life. "But I have to ask the reigning monarch for their seal of approval regarding my marriage and I also have to be invested as Prince of Wales when it's my turn. It's not...automatic. And I can't... Carl, I can't do what my great-uncle did. I just-" His protests were silenced by another kiss.
"No one is asking you to give up your future. For now, no one is asking you to chose. And don't imagine I will idly sit by. I love you too much to just walk away."
The mobile Carl had sent him rang, and as there was no one around currently he was free to pick it up. "What's up?"
"Can you come here right away?" his lover's voice sounded exhausted and dull. Enough to alarm William.
"Are you okay, did something happen?"
"I'm fine Wills. Can you? Please?" No appointments the next three days, nothing urgent at least, nothing representative of the sovereign. He was supposed to work on a few things but that would simply have to wait.
"I'm on my way," he simply stated.
"I'll have you picked up." The connection closed.
He used one of the aliases that gave him priority in flying. Palace surveillance would be triggered but he would simply have to deal with the fall-out of that later. William was picked up from the airport by Sven, who just nodded at him but wouldn't say what was wrong.
After a few kilometres drive they stopped in front of a nondescript house and Carl climbed into the car as the glass pane slid closed. "Hey," he said as he fell into the seat next to Wills. "Thank you for coming." Carl looked bad. There were dark rings under his eyes, the whites bloodshot and his skin was pale with exhaustion. His hand, when William took it, was clammy.
"What's wrong? You're scaring me here."
Carl looked at him sadly. "Sorry. I'm all right, really. Daniel had a kidney colic yesterday. He was brought to the hospital and it first it seemed not a big problem but just before I called you he suddenly collapsed and they had to take him to ICU. Vicky is beside herself, and you know she's seven months pregnant now and the stress is not good for the baby. They sedated her but she's been up again for a while yet. Madde is a bundle of nerves as well, my parents are in South Africa although now hurrying back and... I just needed you here. I hope I didn't get you into trouble."
"I'll deal with that later. How's Daniel now?" This could go down very badly. The last trimester of a pregnancy should be quiet and focused on the mother and Victoria didn't deserve to be widowed this early and long before she ascended the throne.
Carl shook his head. "I'm not sure. I volunteered to grab a few changes of clothes for everyone, since I was meaning to come with and pick you up. I'm not even sure what to tell them about why you're there but...," he trailed off, shrugged.
Wills knew. He remembered when his mother died, how one young woman he actually did not know all that well at the time had bullied her way through to him and been at his side whenever he was not appearing in the public. She had probably saved much of his sanity back then, simply by being there and not asking questions. Hers was another grave he visited with any kind of regularity.
It turned out no one was even thinking about asking questions. Carl's siblings simply accepted his presence as a fact and Victoria thanked him for coming. She was looking even worse than her brother as her face was puffy from crying and the advanced pregnancy with its own aches and pains was not making it easier. The smile she gave him was quickly smothered by sniffles, and he spent a good part of the next hour handing over tissues and stroking her back. It was to give his lover and Madde a break as much as his innate need to console another human being when they were sad.
At some point a doctor came to them and there was a brief exchange in Swedish upon which Carl suggested they all get some fresh air.
The back entrance of the hospital bordered a small piece of garden but it and the warm sunshine, contrasting the harsh neon lights and linoleum of the wards, did nothing to cheer them up. "The doctor said Daniel was stable for now. An infection seemed to have wandered up his urinary tract in record time and additional to that there is a stone in that kidney. They don't want to operate because they fear the organ won't survive further cutting into so they'll try to destroy the stone with ultrasound," Carl explained in a voice that showed how close to collapse he was himself. Of the three siblings he seemed to be the only one who managed not to drown in desperation, and William absently thought that under different circumstances he would make a good monarch.
"What if that doesn't work?" Victoria sobbed and Wills just so managed to catch her in his arms when she crumbled. He made shushing sounds and murmured how antibiotics worked wonders these days and that the doctor had seemed confidant. His gaze found his lover's, who could only shrug. He didn't know either. In the meantime Madeleine's fiancé had arrived and taken her away for a few hours rest so it was just the three of them.
William felt the baby move as Victoria pressed closer to him, and for the first time in a long while he started praying silently in earnest. None of these people deserved any kind of tragedy happening to them.
"I'm sorry, I'm a wreck," Victoria said a few minutes later as the sobs had subsided and she pulled away from him.
He smiled at her. "You're entitled to be, don't worry."
"Not very heiress-to-the-crown though," she sniffled, smiled. "How long are you staying?"
"I'd like to say until this is resolved, but a day or two at the most. I will have to answer a few questions as it is already," he shrugged. Basically, Victoria was family but that relationship was so far distant that this single reason alone would not be a good enough explanation. "You should eat something. And sleep a few hours. Both of you."
"I can't sleep," the Crown Princess shook her head. "I'm waking up screaming every time I try."
Carl just shook his head. If his sister wasn't getting any rest, he would not either.
Eventually the events caught up with Victoria and she fell asleep in one of the waiting room chairs. The two men made her as comfortable as possible without waking her and had time to talk for the first time since the car ride twelve hours earlier.
"Sorry I can't do more for you," Wills said but put a hand on his lover's shoulder, then let it slide down to entwine their fingers out of sight.
"You're doing plenty already," Carl sighed and rolled his head around, his grip tightening momentarily. "Really, Wills, thank you for being here. With only the three of us here it's not as easy to manage." There was a lot being left unsaid and more left undone the next 30 hours but for once neither of them minded.
There was a light drizzle when William arrived back in London with a considerable sleep deficit and aching bones. The look his driver gave him was too sympathetic to mean good news, and when he handed over a piece of paper that read 'William, come to my office at once.', he knew he was in trouble.
Being ordered courtly to the Queen's office was never a good sign. Even less so when his father also greeted him there, silent and clearly angry. William had only ever seen this when Harry had gotten himself into some kind of trouble again. This didn't bode well at all. He made to sit down but the look his grandmother shot him prevented him from doing so. Punishment was always received standing up.
"I see you took another trip to Sweden," Her Majesty the Queen said without looking at him further.
"Yes, Ma'am." There was no need to provide her with too much information at once. She probably knew all about it anyway.
"Do you know how I learned of this, William?"
"Clarence House notified you that I used one of the priority aliases?" No point in lying about that.
But his grandmother looked up in surprise, first at him, then his father, who just shrugged. Now William was confused. Why was he here if not to account for wasting the tax payers' money? As if on cue, his grandmother handed him a folded edition of today's The Sun.
"NEW BABY SCANDAL: Is Prince William the father of Victoria's child?"
Below it a picture of the back entrance of the hospital, the moment just before he had caught Victoria when she had almost collapsed.
"Is there any truth to this, William?" his grandmother asked sternly and he only could look up shocked.
"No! Of course not, I would never... I would never lay a hand on Victoria!"
"Well, you obviously have the day before yesterday. When her husband was in intensive care you dropped everything here at home and went to be at her side. Am I wrong?"
She was, but only in her interpretation of the facts, not the facts themselves. And he could not tell her that. "No, Ma'am."
"You also were ridiculously pleased when the announcement came, after your holidays with the Bernadottes I might stress, that Victoria is pregnant," his father added angrily but was quickly silenced by a look from the Queen. He, of all people, did not have the benefit of the moral high ground and was only there to bear witness to the conversation she was having with her grandson who had possibly muddled the line of succession with a royal bastard.
"William, everyone will assume the child is Daniel's and royal houses know better than to conduct paternity tests." That clearly was another jibe into Charles' direction. "But I, as your reigning monarch and as your grandmother, have to know. Are you sleeping with Victoria?"
It was just too much. "I am not sleeping with Victoria! I never have and I never will!"
"Who else, then?" his father interjected again and this time his grandmother didn't interfere.
"You take random trips to Sweden, all the time, and don't you think I don't know about that, young man. You just drop everything, give security a slip and go there when you hear Victoria's husband is admitted to a hospital! You don't contact anyone here for two days," the Queen counted down on her fingers, finally truly looking him in the eye. "You are seen outside that same hospital together with Victoria, and this photo looks a lot like she's about to throw herself into your arms. So what else are we supposed to think? Are you sleeping with Madeleine? Oh please, William, it is the princess, right? Don't tell me you've taken a fancy of someone on the kitchen staff. Again."
That had been a one time episode six years ago and they were still getting at it. The lack of rest and the emotional strain was catching up to him and he let himself down into one of the chairs in what looked like defeat. "I am not sleeping with Madeleine either. Or am pursuing any kind of staff."
"Who else then, William?" his grandmother yelled at the top of her lungs and now William knew why none of the court scribes was present.
Looking back at it later, Wills was glad his gran was such a resolute woman, as many other grandmothers would have died on the spot when he lost his nerves and yelled back. "Carl Philip and I are in a committed relationship!"
In the silence that followed one could have heard a needle drop onto the polished flagstones.
Charles was the first to find his voice again, albeit a shaky version of it. "You cannot be serious."
"I am. We are," Wills answered tiredly, eyes on his grandmother.
"This has to stop, William," she stated icily, her tone controlled and crystal clear. If he didn't do what she wanted, then-
He scrubbed one hand over his face and leaned forward. He should have prepared for this to happen one day, he had been naive to think they could keep it under wraps much longer. "No. This once gran, Ma'am, I won't do your bidding. You can reprimand me however you like, you can remove me from the succession or take away any privileges, ship me off to Hong Kong to Peter but it won't change any of the facts. Not this time.
"All of us have, and continue to sacrifice a lot of personal freedoms simply because of the family we were born into. I do not begrudge that and I have long realised a few of the facts. I have willingly taken over the duties that were expected of me and I will keep doing so. I will assume my place when it is time and father decides to invest me and I will also assume my place as King when the time comes."
He shook his head and could see his father become angrier with every words he said, as if the man wondered how he dare assume he would be sitting the throne one day.
"You have taken a lot of things from me and I have given up on people near and dear to me because I did not want to put them through being a part of my life. But this once, I cannot do that. I'm sorry but I won't give this up."
"This is not acceptable, William," the Queen said almost gently.
"Isn't it?" he echoed angrily. "If you ask me a lot of things have been unacceptable in the last thirty years. What do you expect of me? Leave the person I love, find a nice girl, noble or common, marry her and get her with child as quickly as possible? The last time this family operated according to that pattern it ended at a concrete post in a tunnel in Paris."
He could see his father wince in his peripheral vision and his grandmother, too, couldn't keep looking at him for an instant.
"I know this poses problems in so many ways and not least for the succession later on and I am profoundly sorry for this. However, I am not willing to change my stance on the matter."
Maybe it was time to bring a few more realities into the palace. Several of his relatives were ineligible to the throne already after marrying Catholics, a matter highly debated by the current government, and everyone was still scared by Great-Uncle Edward's abdication more than 70 years ago but this could not go on much longer.
"The Act of Settlement-," his father tried to argue but William cut him off.
"Does not state anything regarding a situation like this. Now, I will admit that no one at the time probably thought of it ever happening but the world has turned more than 300 years forward!" He was tired, and fighting with the two people who held his whole future in their hands did not help.
"Now, please calm down, both of you." His gran sounded almost reasonable again. "William, how long has this been going on? And who knows of it?"
He sighed. That was not an easy topic either. "About a year. And no one knows, we're careful. Maybe one of the Säpo men but I'm not sure about that. Gran, I-"
She held up a hand. "I will not remove you from the succession, William. There is no legitimate reason, as you have pointed out yourself that the Act of Settlement makes no mention for such a situation." She pinched the bridge of her nose. "I must admit I am not quite sure how we should proceed further from here. While there certainly is precedent for successors to the throne who did not fancy women, they have always done their duty. That, however, is not a modern point of view and has, to my knowledge, not happened in recent years. Which means we have to set our own precedent, unless this should be just a phase?"
The look she shot him was just a little hopeful and it pained him to disappoint her. His grandma certainly was not perfect, but until the ugly divorce of his parents and his mother's death she had always acted to the best interest of everyone. Or so he thought.
"I don't think so, gran. I know it's only been a year, but... He's very important to me."
She smiled in what bordered on understanding and continued, "Which leaves us, or more specifically you, my dear, with two problems: the first, if the two of you should decide to take this step, is the Marriage Act, because despite you being over 25, my approval is vital. However, I would be a hypocrite not only to myself and my family but also my people, if I didn't grant it to you, after I even granted it to your father." Charles obviously wanted to protest but thought better of it. "The second is the succession. As you cannot father a legitimate heir on a man, and a child is not legitimate unless it is born of a woman you are married to, this causes enormous problems."
She paused a moment to think. William's father spoke up once more, "See and that is-"
Ignoring her son, the Queen continued. "King Baudouin didn't leave issue either, it was his brother Albert who took the throne and he will be succeeded by his son Philippe. For several reasons, I do not favour that solution for our situation."
Harry would become a monk before agreeing to ascend the throne. Of course, that wasn't gran's only reason she didn't like the idea at all. Also, he couldn't imagine that anyone with even a smattering knowledge of English history wanted to even so much as chance another King Henry.
"I will have to talk to the Prime Minister about the matter. Now, William, was it coincidence that you were in Sweden these past two days?" she steered back to the beginning of their meeting.
Rubbing his eyes, he shook his head. "Carl called me, but I only learned what was the matter when I arrived there."
"So you were there essentially because you wanted to be supportive of friends and family you have been in close contact with previously," satisfied, she jotted down a note. "Plausible deniability. The headline tomorrow will be 'Young royals sticking together in the face of dramatic events', I like that.
"How is the Prince Daniel doing, William?" she then asked in a much more reconciliatory voice.
William nodded. "He's much better. It's not life threatening any longer, although they will keep him in ICU for another day or two. Victoria is doing fine, and the baby seems to have weathered the stress better than everyone else. Thank you, gran."
A small sigh escaped her. "Be happy your Carl Philip is not the direct successor of Gustaf any more. He loses his right to the Swedish crown if he marries the heir to another throne." She looked down at her desk again and William took that as his to cue to be excused. She had taken it surprisingly well and at face value. Maybe the last few decades full of problems where the relationships of her children and grandchildren were concerned had left their mark on her after all.
"You have to tell your parents about us right away," William said in lieu of a proper greeting when the line connected.
Carl yawned audibly and there was a sleepy lull in his voice when he answered. "I already have. We do have tabloids here as well, you know?" There was a pause. "They had started to confront Vicky about it when I went in between them. I take it the Queen knows?"
Wills had sat down on his bed and now leaned back so just his legs were dangling over the edge. "And my father. Will your parents release a response? We have a press release readied right now."
"Vicky said she wouldn't, so I guess we'll go with whatever you have. How did they take it?" They were talking quietly and William, right at that moment, didn't much care if everyone found out the next day, he couldn't go to the laundry closet now or he'd fall asleep standing up.
"My dad is still shellshocked, I think. He yelled a lot but not much else. Gran was surprisingly understanding." He related most of the conversation, only withholding the fine points of the jibes against his father as that would have to wait until they saw each other face to face next time. If Carl was to be even more a part of his life from now on, he needed to know a few of the more sordid details.
"Bringing up your mother hit a nerve, I suppose," Carl concluded.
Wills frowned. "It hits a nerve with me, too, you know?"
"Naturally. All I'm saying is you might have pressed our cause by saying that far enough for your grandmother to accept it. My parents aren't too thrilled themselves, although my mother has taken it very much in stride saying at least my great-grandfather would have been proud as I'm the only one of us siblings to have caught themselves a royal husband." The smile was evident in Carl's voice.
"The Swedes were always more progressive than the rest of us," William said but then something hit him. "They're all seeing us married already, when did that happen?"
"When we weren't looking, apparently. They need to make plans for the event that it happens, as it will affect succession, in your case at the very least. Which is probably the only reason my father didn't lose it, me not being the Crown Prince and all."
"I guess. How're Daniel and your sister doing?"
"Daniel's better still, he'll be out of ICU tomorrow. Vicky's slept a couple of hours and is looking much better for it. Which is probably something I should do as well. Talk to you later?"
"Yeah, sleep sounds good. I guess I should talk to Harry first, though. Sleep well."
"Say hi to your brother from me. Good night, love." The line clicked closed, and William levered himself up and changed into shorts and a t-shirt. No need for formal attire with his brother.
The door to Harry's apartment opened almost immediately after he'd knocked, and he trudged past his brother to secure a place on the sofa. Although Harry had enjoyed a military education, a sense for order had never taken up residence in his mind. The main room was littered with empty bags of snacks, empty bottles of drinks, dirty laundry and assorted other things. The maids were forbidden to tidy up and only collected the dirty clothes with pointy fingers. William sighed, if his brother was to become King he'd need a couple of good advisers.
He made their sign for 'all clear?', meaning if the room was free if listening devices and his brother nodded.
"Carl Philip says hi," he began, shoving away some junk so he could sit more comfortably.
"You're shagging his sister and he tells you to say hi to me? You're doing something seriously wrong. Or seriously right," Harry added after a second's thought and leered.
Wills looked at his brother with a mixture of irritation and the desire to shake him until some common sense would take up residence in his head. Actually he had planned to not be so blunt, but maybe that would keep the crude comments at bay. "Yes, well, I'm not shagging his sister, I'm shagging him."
The silence that followed was neither as loud as the one in the Queen's office before, nor quite as long. "Mate, are you serious?"
"Why is everyone asking me that? Yes, I am. Get used to the idea." Maybe a gay heir presumptive was truly not such a good idea, but what was done was done, not like he could change it.
"Do dad and gran know?" Harry's eyes had become wide, the whites around the irises visible and that alone gave him some satisfaction already.
"As of about an hour ago, they do. Means the line of succession will run officially through you, should Carl and I stay together." Not that it hadn't before. Until Wills had children of his own, Harry was his presumed heir unless he specified something different upon his ascension to the throne. The only matter was that Harry had never been quite so openly confronted with it until now.
Hearing that, Harry slumped into an arm chair, crisp packages rustling beneath him. "And gran allowed that?"
"It's not like we have serious plans for marriage...yet. I might have set an ultimatum and used a few very choice words I maybe shouldn't have. But yes, if it came to that she...would allow it." Wills shrugged, looked intensely at his brother. "You can back out once I have the power to release you."
"You bet I will. Wills, seriously, is that why you and Kate...?"
"No. I mean yes, I did break up with Kate after meeting Carl but... I did not break up with her because of him. I might have eventually but he wasn't the reason; things between Kate and me hadn't been good for a while and we were drawing something out that could never be what it was supposed to be and that's why." He had never quite articulated it to anyone quite like this, to everyone but Kate he had said he had his reasons and even towards Kate he had clothed it into different words.
Harry nodded. Maybe things would work out yet after all.
It was two weeks later when the Queen, the Prince of Wales and Prince William of Wales welcomed the King and Queen of Sweden and their son, the Duke of Värmland, in St. James Palace. It was the first time that William and Carl met under truly and fully formal circumstances and it felt awkward for both of them. Under the strict eyes of the older members of their families, the only contact they dared was a brief joining of hands.
The meeting continued in Clarence House over tea and biscuits and it was quite more civil than Wills would have imagined. There was discussion about if and how to break it to the public that the two princes were in a relationship, because what if they broke up in six months? For the two young men it was clear, then they would break up in six months and move on, despite their conviction that this would not be happening. But obviously this was more of than issue than they had imagined. Both of them had had relationships prior to this one, and while they had always been public to a certain degree, there had never been this much discussion about bringing them to the attention of the public in the first place.
"It is, of course, because you are both men," Queen Silvia explained at some point, "which is more of a problem for you, William, than for my son. However, that is an internal problem for the most part; but you have a brother, which makes the matter relative. On the other hand, it is because of who you are. Carl Philip will remain the Duke of Värmland, but he will lose his spot in the Swedish succession, which in turn would be more problematic if we didn't practise equal primogeniture. But you are still of the royal families of the United Kingdom and Sweden and additional to you both being men... Well, it doesn't have precedent. This needs to be handled carefully."
Which was true and they would have understood without an explanation. But the facts would not change, no matter how they were turned around and looked at, and they could not keep hiding for all of their lives should they decide to stay together.
For it to be Harry of all people who saved them was unexpected.
William's brother barrelled into the small conference room they were occupying, dressed in a dirty pair of slacks and a crumpled shirt, obviously not having realised there were royal visitors. Charles buried his head in his hands, the Queen pressed her lips together in displeasure and Wills and Carl had to suppress a wide grin.
"Oh. Ah... I'm sorry. I... Wills, I need to speak to you. At once," Harry looked sheepish and ran out of the room again.
"May I be excused?" William sighed and was given permission instantly.
He found his brother in the laundry closet with the bug sniffer in his hands. This seemed serious. "Harry, what...?"
"Come in, lock the bloody door." Surprised at the angry voice, William did and waited.
"Wills, I'm done for," he said with desperation in his voice.
William blinked. "Harry... I was sitting there with my prospective parents-in-law so this better be a matter of life or death."
Harry closed his eyes, let out a long breath. "Wills, I got someone pregnant."
"You sodding...," William cursed after a moment in which the implication sank in and he really wanted to throttle his brother. "Who?"
"This girl I met a few months ago. She's a med student and I met her when she worked part time to pay her expenses. Loans aren't enough, it seems." A grown man shouldn't whine like this.
"Okay... Okay. What does she do, buzz tables?" His brother hesitated. "Harry?"
"She's an exotic dancer."
"Oh Lord." This was the next scandal. Definitely. Before he and Carl hit the papers, this would. A royal bastard on a stripper. This would definitely kill gran on the spot. He looked at the younger man. "That's not all, is it?"
"Harry," he warned.
"I think she's Catholic?" If gran wasn't having a stroke when she heard this, she definitely was going to kill him herself.
"What do you mean, you think?!" Wills yelled and wouldn't be surprised if he had been heard in the conference room. But his brother just shrugged, looked to the floor. A knock at the door let them start, but when Wills heard Carl call his name he relaxed and turned the key in the lock.
"Hey," Carl kissed him on the cheek but quickly looked past him at Harry. "Trouble?"
Wills smiled. "Can you occupy your parents for a while? Show them my apartment or something, it's clean and tidy," he pressed his ring of keys into Carl's hand. "I need to talk to dad and gran."
"Sure," his lover blinked but shrugged. "Everything okay?"
"We'll talk later. This is kind of urgent." When Carl had left he turned to his brother again. "Where is she now?"
"At the hospital. She has a rotation in trauma management." Which meant handling it without her for now. They had to tell dad and gran at least, and manage whatever there was to manage later.
"What did you mean, you think?" he asked again.
"Well, we did see each other for a while and she was wearing this little silver cross around her neck and I asked. She told me she was a practising Catholic. So I suppose it's more than thinking." Indeed.
Back in the conference room, Gustaf and Silvia had left already and gran and their dad were sitting there a little lost. He had Harry sit down in a chair and closed and locked the doors. No bug sniffer here, but they were in the public part of the building anyway. Then he cleared his throat. "The good news is, you won't think my relationship with Carl nearly as catastrophic as you did a few minutes ago."
"And what's the bad news, William?" his gran asked and Wills was thanking all the gods he had ever heard of she was used to grief.
"Actually, that might also be part of the good news. After me, the royal lineage will run through Uncle Andrew's family, so we should call him and Bea right away," he smiled and hoped that was preparation enough. His little cousin's children would succeed him one day. He didn't even dare imagine that far ahead.
"Harry what did you do?" Charles asked.
"William, please get to the point," her Majesty the Queen said, ignoring her son.
"Harry got a med student pregnant who's working part time as a stripper to pay her loans. In and by itself that would not present a problem to the succession, however it seems she is a practising Catholic. And I doubt she's in favour of an abortion," he had sat down next to gran who was simply shaking her head as if she had just waited all these years for something like this to happen.
"Oh, Harry," she said but it only sounded sad, not overly shocked. "Whatever were you thinking with?"
"Well," Harry said, "it's not like I planned it, but at least you can't make me King anymore."
It was their father's turn to leave the room running, else he might have done something he regretted later, or so Wills thought.
He sighed. "And you thought Carl and I were presenting a problem."
"William, the two of you have never been a problem, at least not as you perceive it. There are just a few things that have to be talked about before this can possibly be official as there will be questions and controversy. There was controversy when I married your grandfather and he was just foreign born and not even a foreigner. Call your uncle. He's been prepared for something like this since the incident with the Nazi uniform." She waved him away and he took his brother by the arm to drag him after him.
What a day. At least he now knew how his gran stood where his relationship with Carl was concerned.
Of course the girl was not amenable to an abortion. It wasn't suggested outright, but she was shocked at the implication alone and put her hands protectively on her belly. She also wasn't willing to convert to Anglicanism, as the Catholic faith was important in her family and she would not even consider converting.
Her name was Alexandra and she was the most earnest girlfriend Harry had ever had. She seemed serious about her studies and the one reason why she had taken the job at the club because it was well paid and she only had to work on the weekends to make enough to subsidise her loans. She was twelve weeks pregnant.
They met her the same day Harry had come out and said it, although several hours later. The talks with Carl's parents had resumed, although Wills' father had not deemed himself ready to deal with any further 'nonsense', as he called it. William was more happy about it than he let on, as his grandmother was having the discussion proceeding much quicker.
No decisions could be made due to the, as of yet, unknown state of Harry's girlfriend. Accordingly, any decision was postponed to the next day. The Swedish couple would not learn of his brother's plight during their visit, but Wills did tell Carl when they were finally alone later, as he had given them opportunity to talk earlier. And it wouldn't do to keep anything from him now.
"Seems like your brother stole our spotlight," Carl chuckled as he was lying with his head pillowed in William's lap. This was nice, William decided. He'd never quite had it like this before. "Will he have to marry her?"
Wills shrugged. "Probably. He won't be forced, of course, but illegitimacy is still an issue in royal circles and... I think after everything he's done in the past years, this one he can set right."
"I thought he had calmed down some?"
"Yes, well. We thought so too, for a while. But that was while he was with the troops. Now... With any luck he will start settling down now. Alexandra seems like a sweet girl, she'll make a good doctor." He stroked through Carl's hair with one hand, let his other rest on the other man's belly.
"Yeah? That's good. What about us?"
"I thought we were good?" Okay, if the man was breaking up with him now that was lousy timing.
But Carl laughed and tugged him down by his shirt into kissing distance. "We are! I meant more like where are we going from here?"
"Well, everyone's seeing us married already," Wills shrugged and sat up again after rubbing their noses together. "But as Harry will have to wed the girl as soon as possible, meaning this year, and I'm sure something is bound to come up somewhere..."
"Grace period," Carl nodded. "And public outing first. Hey, maybe we could use your brother's wedding for that as well."
"And steal the spotlight back?" William asked amused.
"Better a gay pair of princes than a pregnant royal bride, believe me." Carl laughed and squirmed a little as William's hand made its way beneath the waistband of his trousers and boxer briefs to take hold of him. "Okay, we can discuss that later." He pulled Wills down once more and made the best of the begun evening.
Harry indeed agreed to marry Alexandra. He received the dukedom of Sussex as even if he became ineligible, it was tradition for men of the royal family who married to receive a dukedom.
When the marriage was scheduled to take place four weeks after the announcement, the public knew the reason for this, of course. It didn't take a genius to figure out the bride was expecting and the hurried wedding proceedings were meant to let the child be born within wedlock and to go through with these before the pregnancy showed.
Princess Beatrice of York was not exactly happy the line of succession would run through her and her children directly, but she settled into the circumstances quickly enough. She was a good choice, Carl said and William had to agree. Except for the divorce of Uncle Andrew and Aunt Sarah, that branch of the family had always been quiet and collected. The two of them were friends now and even lived together again. So maybe the British monarchy would settle down again. Beatrice also was somewhat consoled when she learned about William and Carl, so everything seemed fine on that end.
Their relationship was not announced at the wedding. Neither the Queen nor the Swedish royal family deemed it proper, although they did send Prince Carl Philip as their representative, for convenience's sake. It was a small but tasteful ceremony - small only when it was compared to the wedding of their parents of course. The press remarked on the hurried proceedings once more, but the uproar of it settled down quickly. It was like the public had expected something like this to happen to the younger of the two princes so it was not a shockwave running through the country.
Charles, Prince of Wales, only talked to his sons if he had to these days. He had yet to get over the shock of one of his sons taking a male lover and the other making himself ineligible to the throne (and the degree of intention in the second was still being debated). Camilla on the other hand had taken to both Alexandra and Carl rather quickly, which was understandable since she was not the odd one out any longer. It made William smile and they had found an arrangement between them long ago. For the most part it consisted of staying out of each other's way but her welcoming of his new sister-in-law and his lover - for whatever reasons - went a long way towards more than civil treatment.
The spent the month of August trekking through the Scottish Highlands, as Clarence House received another remodelling and they had both begged some time off after all the excitement and before the announcement of their relationship. William and Harry's apartments would be joined to create enough space for the new couple and their child, a model that had previously been applied to Kensington Palace for their parents. William would move one floor up and also make use of Harry's former spot in Kensington Palace, as his brother had been using the apartment there unofficially.
They made their way through the heath mostly on horseback, only leaving the animals stabled for a day or so of rest and oats every week while washing their clothes and stocking up on supplies. As they only shaved every few days and were in outdoor gear, no one recognised them. This was probably aided by the fact that this holiday was not announced. No one expected to see either of them and certainly not in the company of each other. Expectations were an interesting thing to broker with.
Wills loved Scotland for its landscape and its somewhat rougher climate when compared to the English plains. He had been pleased to go university in St. Andrews and had enjoyed this time as much as he could, even though it still was slightly too far south for his tastes. Carl, who was used to the landscape and climate of Sweden, enjoyed the change of pace and finally they could talk without walls that could possibly hide listening devices around them. And the best part yet was that if they slept in their tent in the middle of the heath they could be as loud during sex as they wanted.
His family alone had enough topics to fill those four weeks and they both had a similar background.
"So why was the succession such a problem anyway? It's been done often enough, one brother, or his children, succeeding the other," Carl asked one day as their horses walked in perfect harmony next to one another.
"Harry has never been too keen on the prospect he could one day be crowned King. And I don't know how much the Parliament and the rest of the Commonwealth fancies the idea of Henry IX," Wills grimaced at the idea. He didn't know what his parents had thought at naming their second son Henry, they should have been aware of these implications. "Also...," he sighed. "You will never hear a word uttered about this unless in reference to public opinion oh...maybe 15 years ago, but Harry's paternity is not quite as clear as the court makes it sound."
Carl looked over at him. "Your parents' marriage was broken far earlier than is known, wasn't it?"
"That's quite a nice way to put it," William smiled sadly. "I miss my mum."
"Of course you do. I don't remember too much of her, we only met twice. But I know I thought she was a nice woman," Carl said quietly and reached over to rest a hand on his arm briefly. "Hey, want to have a good long laugh?"
"The lady I bought our supplies from in the last village asked me if I was possibly Orlando Bloom," Carl grinned and he was right, Wills laughed until his stomach. started to cramp, startling the poor horse by shifting his weight around continuously. The roughish look and the tan Carl had acquired over the last week seemed to open a whole new set of doors for him.
Scotland was also the place where they had their first fight. In the middle of their last week, Charles said out of the blue, "Don't you think your brother and you should make up with your father?"
"I don't think my father is in a mood to make up with anyone," Wills answered with a shrug. He didn't want to think about his dad until they were back and he had no choice but to deal with the man again.
"Carl, we're not having this discussion. The way my father has acted in the last few weeks is beyond what could ever be called proper. He doesn't accept that I love you and he won't even so much as look at Harry. Now, Harry does have his flaws and this latest stunt... But it's not like this has never happened before in our family. And our father is far from perfect; actually, our father and perfect could be at different ends of the universe and they wouldn't be farther apart!" Carl obviously wasn't getting it. Gustaf had probably shown less of his own weaknesses to his children.
"All I'm trying to say-"
"My father - both my parents actually but I can't see myself talking about this to my mother even if she had lived long enough - has caused so much pain over the years, has...mismanaged things that came up with me and my brother. I have forgiven him everything and that has everything to do with him being my father and nothing to do with our pedigree." When he shot a heated look at Carl he could see his lover's doubt regarding that last statement, but he was obviously smarter than to make any comment about it. "Now he acts as if he's always made the right decisions, never misstepped once in his life, or made long term changes that had a dramatic effect on everyone involved and rippled out to people who weren't!
"And you, Carl, you who are supposed to be on my side-"
"I am on your side!" he was interrupted but didn't pay it any mind.
"-say I should make up with him. What have I done wrong? Harry has made some problematic choices, true, but what have I done wrong? We kept mum about our relationship, I will grant him that, but he cannot tell me he would have reacted favourable if I had told him up front! And now here you are telling me- Why me, why am I supposed to eat humble pie now to cater to what ultimately amounts to his failings?" He didn't think he was finished but he had to breathe.
There was a brief moment of quiet after which Carl shook his head. "Fine, be that way. Tell me when you're done being petulant." It was obvious he wasn't willing to give in where this topic was concerned and they were not done talking about this.
They didn't speak to each other for the rest of the day, but what William decided was the key to this fight, or rather its resolve, was that they were not moving away from one another. The Highlands were not a dangerous place in and by themselves and as long as they remained within sight of one another separating temporarily should not have been a problem. Yet they didn't, they just kept riding next to each other without talking.
This dragged on through the evening and during the night. On the next day, it was beyond clear that Carl still didn't intend to break his self-decreed silence and Wills also wasn't quite willing to give. He felt himself in the right, why should he be the one to give in?
It took him two more days to realise that Carl would be entirely comfortable ending their holiday in this rather companionable silence and also leave it to him to explain why his intended was happy to spend time with him but why they weren't talking. Following the adage that actions spoke louder than words he went down on his lover the following night.
It was surprisingly easy to get Carl naked as he was a sound sleeper when he got the opportunity. William stroked down softly from the man's chest over his belly and the muscles in his thighs. It didn't take much, a few strokes, licks and pinches and he had coaxed Carl's cock to full hardness. Maybe this particular part was easier in a relationship with another man.
Carl groaned and his eyes fluttered open just as Wills had sucked his cock halfway into his mouth. His lover gave a little breathless laugh and William did his best to grin around his full mouth, intentionally letting his teeth ever so finely graze the sensitive flesh. "You bastard," Carl whispered as his cock bumped the back of William's throat.
Wills pulled off with a little slurping sound and crawled up the other man's body, scattering nips and licks and kisses over the exposed skin. "No," he said, "there are records as to my legitimacy." He covered Carl's mouth with his and he felt the answering chuckle more than heard it, tongues coming out to meet and play as hands wandered to hard flesh and sensitive openings. "So I take it you're talking to me again?" Wills asked as they came up for air and Carl fumbled for the bottle of lube. He wasn't sure if they should be sheepish about it or take it at face value that the bottle had to have been replaced twice during the course of this holiday but postponed the decision for later.
"Can we discuss that after I fucked you hard enough to leave permanent imprints in this weed?" Carl growled and William briefly thought of putting up a fight for dominance. But all the fight went out of him with the heated look Carl gave him, and he briefly suspected it was Carl's alleged Viking heritage surfacing when two fingers were pushed into him without warning. Which wasn't to say he didn't like it, if the moan he heard himself utter was any indication. Carl grinned a little wolfishly as he murmured close to Wills' ear, "Ready to leave your first mark on the country?"
It took William a while to recover while Carl cleaned them both up. "You know," he said casually while William was still trying to regain his bearings, "for occasions like this we maybe should invest in condoms after all. This is really...messy."
"You don't say," Wills breathed. "So you're talking to me again?"
Carl rolled his eyes and when he was finished and had tossed out the damp towels, he stretched out next to Wills and pulled him into his arms. "Will you be reasonable now?"
"I was-," William started to protest but Carl made him stop with a kiss.
"Shut up. You're not and you know it. Neither are your father and brother for that matter, and I have a feeling all of you haven't been quite reasonable for a while and now that all of you are living together again it surfaces." He traced the index finger of his right down the contours of William's face. "I'm not saying it was entirely your fault, all I was trying to tell you is that it won't help our cause any if the press suspects he's not happy for us. He's your father, love, he is supposed to be on your side, too."
Wills didn't say anything for a long time, then leaned up to press another lingering kiss to his lover's mouth. He figured that was answer enough and also statement enough to let the matter rest until they were back home.
Three days after William's return to Clarence House and the move into his new apartment he was notified that the announcement regarding his and Carl's relationship would take place a week hence. They were first to appear together at the Raindance Film Festival three days after the press release was made, but 'spontaneously'. William was not convinced by the idea, as Carl had left for Sweden. There seemed to have been a minor incident involving Queen Silvia and Grandpa Philip, who had made a crack about the two of them in the sauna now that they were as good as family and it seemed like Carl's mother had called him names in German. Wills said as much to his PR team but they would have nothing of it, so he resolved to tell Carl so he could prepare for the upcoming press uproar.
"Have you talked to your father?" Carl asked in lieu of acknowledgement of impending doom.
Wills sighed. "No, I have not. I have yet to catch him alone, I don't want to this in front of Camilla, as supportive as she has been. And he's not exactly forthcoming with his time."
"I see," Carl sounded ponderous but then his voice turned to cheerful. "Well, now you have a deadline by which you must have accomplished this feat. May the Force be with you, young padawan."
He thought his eyeroll must be audible all the way to Stockholm. "Why, thank you my dear. Any other such sound advice?"
"Not really." Carl sighed. "It's good to be nervous, right? I grew up in the public eye, this really shouldn't bother me so much."
Wills laughed. "It'll pass. You're setting precedent, and being third in line to the throne with no good reason ever to sit on it you should not have to do that. I'll need your official approval so we can go ahead with the plan."
"I'll have it sent over. Anything else? They won't actually give the vultures a photo, will they?"
"Unlikely, but I'll expect to see pictures of you on tv and in the tabloids before the day is done, as well as a detailed description of all the events we have participated at together. And lots of attendees at the Raindance," he smirked as his lover groaned in unpleasant anticipation. "Look forward to the headlines."
"Oh yes. 'Succession Crisis in Britain: Hades in Guise of British Prince!' Are you sure we want to do this?"
Wills smiled in sympathy. "Dice are rolling already. Did you just compare yourself to Persephone?"
"I'm glad to see your expensive education was not for nil, I want my man intellectually stimulating," Carl shot back and they proceeded to bicker for a few more minutes until Carl was called away.
Wills cut the connection and stared out the window for a moment unseeing, hands toying with the mobile Carl had sent him what seemed like a lifetime ago but was hardly even a year.
The door opened before he could even knock and Camilla almost ran into him. "William! Oh dear," she smiled and Wills berated himself internally for, yet again, drawing the comparison with a horse. This was his father's wife and she probably meant well. "Your father is inside, please, go ahead. I have an appointment in the city."
She left him standing in the open door and he took a moment to collect himself. He was doing the right thing. Even if he felt like a little boy who was begging forgiveness from his father.
"Dad?" he called as he entered and closed the door behind him, sparing one last private thought for the man who was about to be announced as his partner. When he got no answer he made his way towards his father's study, Charles tended towards shutting the door and ignoring whatever went on outside that room.
William knocked at the that same door and opened it without waiting for an answer. "Dad?"
The Prince of Wales looked up from a heap of paperwork that certainly hadn't diminished since the decision about the announcement had been made. When he saw his son, Charles screwed the fountain pen shut and put on an expectant look. "What is it?" he asked gruffly.
William counted internally to three as he stepped up to the desk. "Can I talk to you?"
"Sure. Sit down," Charles made a sweeping gesture at the lone chair in front of the desk in which Wills had sat what felt like a million times and been scolded. The younger man did sit but hesitated. "Wills? You wanted to say something?"
"Dad, with the announcement-"
"I've heard about it," his father interrupted him him curtly.
Wills bit his lip but refused to become angry. "Dad, we can't-"
"Don't worry, everyone will see me happy and smiling," Charles looked down at his pen again, probably contemplating how long and smooth it was.
But enough was enough. "Dad!"
"What is it Wills? What do you want from me?" His father looked up again, clearly angry. "To thump you on the back and tell you to go on? To be happy you're giving up on children and on a normal family? To rejoice and ask what I can do for the wedding?"
But William needed to remain calm, else they would end up where they had started. "Do you think it's easy, dad? Everything was laid out for me, only the details needed names. The name of my wife, names for my children, my regnal name. And all of a sudden I'm in this maelstrom of emotions and insecurities and everything that seemed so clear one minute has vanished into thin air the next.
"Bloody hell, dad, I don't even know if I'm gay or bisexual or if what I have with Carl is just happening because it's him. All I know about it is that I love him and that it would tear me apart to let him go. I didn't plan for this! I might not have always agreed with what you and gran had in mind for me but I have never consciously undermined any plans regarding my place in the...grand scheme." Had his father planned subterfuge on his own marriage to Diana? But William couldn't bring himself to voice that question. Partly because he was afraid of the answer.
"I never said you did." Charles admitted.
"Then why are you acting like I've done everything to destroy the monarchy? You're treating me like I'm the dirt under your fingernails, you won't even look at Carl with anything but malice. Dad, in a week's time, the whole world will be looking at me and him. This is not just about Britain, or the Commonwealth or even the mainland. Within days this will be in every newspaper around the planet, 'William and Carl, uncloseted!'. Do you think I enjoy doing this? Neither Carl nor I are in this for the fun of dealing with the press and the millions of people out there. But this is the next logical step in a relationship and that doesn't change with the fact that we are both men or of royal blood!
"And you're my father. I need you to be my dad for me, not my father for the press. We'll need your support and that of Harry and gran and Grandpa Philip and Carl's siblings and his parents and everyone else's we can get. This is not...," he faltered. "I'm done, dad. I can't break it down further or make it any simpler. I can't go on like we have in the past few weeks, you and I. So if you cannot be on our side, please, don't step into our way."
He was done and they sat in silence for long, laboured heartbeats.
"I'm working on it," was all Charles seemed to be ready to say.
William could only stare at his father. "That's not good enough, dad."
"I promise you I'll have my own issues resolved by the time the announcement is made." Issues? William wanted to scream, I am your son, not some 'issue' you need to resolve! But he was too shocked to do that.
"Dad, I'm not sure-"
"Wills, that's truly all I can promise you. But it's a promise I plan to honour."
"I guess I'll have to live with that." It did take a moment until he felt his knees were strong enough to carry him but he did leave without another word and with as much dignity as was left to him.
"WILLIAM GAY WITH FORMER SWEDISH CROWN PRINCE"
"FIRST HARRY, NOW WILLIAM: Did Prince Andrew manipulate his brother's family to gain the crown?"
"OUR FUTURE CROWN PRINCE IS GAY!"
"Und das ist auch gut so! Prinz William und sein Prinz"
"After the red card for Harry, now the yellow card for Wills?"
"VIKINGS INVADING BRITAIN: Raping, Pillaging and Burning started with Prince William"
"PRINCES IN LOVE"
"Principe William gay - il fidanzato nuovo!"
"SUCCESSION CRISIS: Gay Prince William endangering future of monarchy!"
"Modern Romance: William and his swell Swede"
"Fairytale Come True - Princess Turned Into Prince"
"Security mistake: Prince of Wales left at M25 rest stop in yesterday's thunderstorm."
"How is your sister's family doing, Carl Philip?" the Queen asked after the greeting, which had taken place in Buckingham Palace for once. As Carl was not defined as a state guest per se anymore but currently an appendage to the family, he was to be greeted less formally. They were currently having tea and Carl had to swallow before answering.
"Quite well, Your Majesty, thank you. My brother-in-law was released from the hospital just two days before the birth of my niece and has been has not had any further problems since." Carl smiled and the Queen nodded encouragingly.
"It was somewhat lucky she was born before the due date, as I could be at home then before we left for our holiday. I do have pictures in my luggage, should you be interested."
They were pointedly not talking about any of the headlines. Wills had gone over them briefly with Carl, newspapers collected from the Commonwealth, the mainland and Sweden. The one benefit had been that it presented William's first written Swedish lesson.
"Certainly," gran said and it was at that moment that Charles joined them and William felt the ton of bricks fall off his heart when the man nodded his acknowledgement to Carl. "Now, you will be properly briefed regarding tomorrow later, but general directive is to say whatever you're comfortable with. Just don't reveal too many sordid details, William."
He felt himself colour just a little. "Gran..."
"You have too much of your grandfather in you for me not to give that warning," she simply stated and went on to talk about Beatrice finishing her degree in history.
The Raindance Film Festival for Independent Film had garnered much attention in the past. Film like Blair Witch Project had debuted there and Ewen McGregor and Alan Rickman had been known to frequent the various projects. Yet the reason for the halls filling so quickly had never been a so obviously not-cinematography once the rumour spread that Prince William and his new male lover had been sighted.
Quickly they were surrounded by masses of people, who weren't simply crushing them because of the strong presence of the Säpo and the Royal Portection Department. William knew a lot of the faces surrounding them, those that belonged to journalists as well as self-styled 'experts of nobility', many of whom had accompanied his public appearances since he was 15. And by far not all of them were with tabloids.
"Your Royal Highness...es," the last was added after a second's hesitation and everyone laughed good naturedly, "is it true that you are in a relationship?"
"Yes, CC, it's true, I thought the press release was rather unambiguous where that was concerned," he answered over his shoulder, trusting Carl to pull him along by the hand and not steer him false.
"Since when has this been going on?" another voice, male this time, asked and quickly clarified, "Was this already an issue when Prince Carl Philip was here for the exhibit last year?"
"We're an issue?" Carl raised an eyebrow in dismay and shook his head.
"Were you already in a relationship at the time?" the man qualified further.
"No," Carl said firmly while walking on. They had discussed this and while they had been involved, after a fashion, at the time, they had not defined themselves as anything like a couple at the time. "That happened only later."
"So your reason for being in Sweden when Prince Daniel was taken to the hospital was not Princess Victoria?"
"I feel towards Princess Victoria as I would feel towards a sister, and my reason for being in Sweden at the time was as much to give her some comfort as it was to be at my partner's side," William answered and was aware that was not the best answer to give but it was the truth, he did view Vicky as a sister and had tried his level best to comfort her.
Several questions followed as to the nature of their relationship but they mostly blocked these. The final question, before the doors to the show room closed behind them was if marriage was an option, to which Wills just answered as he always had when he had still been with Kate, "Wait and see."
They were expected to open the first film to be shown at the festival, fittingly a project about a gay footie player shot in Australia and their security officers managed to get them to the showing room with only minimal delay.
The reception of this first appearance together was mixed but the general tone of the coverage was positive. They had seemed very familiar with one another, trusting, had never let go for long but had absolutely been able to hold their own discussions. It was seen as quite favourable by many that Carl had not simply hung on William's arm and looked pretty but actually participated in the media challenge, something that was not done often by new partners at first outings and Carl's own experiences with the press were credited.
Afterwards, the Norwegian Crown Princess Mette-Marit sent them a book via priority mail, "Skapsprengerne", along with a letter. She wrote she had been glad to hear that they had found one another and that the book, for which she had written the preface several years ago, told stories about real Norwegians and how they ha come out to friends and family. It was a nice gesture and they sent their appreciation and William put it up in his apartment within easy reach, because while he, at least, could not read it, it showed that people were indeed looking at them benevolently.
Once come to the attention of the public, their relationship remained in focus and they were observed quite closely. This was aided by the fact that Clarence House exposed them to the public and the press as much as possible; there hardly was a week when they didn't make an appearance, be it in Britain, Sweden or on the mainland.
Little by little, their relationship lost the sensational angle and as there followed no scandals, the public seemed to make its peace with seeing them together and the press turned favourable, albeit speculative if a marriage was actually possible. Occasionally, the headlines turned larger again, like when after a fall during a polo match Wills sat down rather gingerly for a few days and Clarence House received thousands of lube packages after the tabloids titled "Sensitive Royal Backside - Are Wills and Carl Philip doing it dry?" or when William sat a little frettingly on the stands when Carl was racing in the Porsche Carrera Cup Scandinavia. In general though, the tabloids found more interesting matters for the front page.
For over two years, Carl divided his time between his actual home in Sweden, where he was still fulfilling royal duties even though at a greatly diminished load due to his extended absence, and Britain, where he was officially staying with Wills. The arrangement was working out better than anyone would have expected, although soon enough a daily routine settled over their lives that encompassed fights as much as love making.
When they eventually did take the final step in their relationship, it was their shared decision rather than anyone's proposal. Everyone had been expecting them to marry since learning about them being in a relationship. Over the years they had talked about it now and again, so it was rather anticlimactic when they were lying on the sofa together one evening watching a film and Wills asked, "So, do you think we should marry already?"
Consequently, he felt Carl shrug as he said, "Sure. I'm certain I'll make a beautiful bride."
Wills only snorted and jabbed his elbow into his partner's ribs.
Their plans were announced but only that much, the details remained within the palaces in London and Stockholm, as well as Clarence House, for once.
They had a fall wedding. The nature of their union demanded they have a civil ceremony only, but William would have been uncomfortable with a pompous church ceremony like his parents had. Carl's signature on the marriage certificate sealed his stepping aside from his place in the Swedish succession - surrendering his title as prince - and also confirmed Beatrice's spot in line for the British throne, as Harry's son had been baptised Catholic.
It was not traditional, but even so they decided to have the wedding not take place in London but at Windsor Castle. The Säkerhetspolisen as well as the Royalty Protection Department were grateful because as large as the fortress was, it was easier to secure than London city. The ceremony took place in the Round Tower, the reception in one of the large halls. The guest list was long but not as long as that of many another royal wedding had been in the House of Windsor.
They had written their own vows, as seemed fitting, and pronounced them before their families and assorted friends and as William said his, he knew he had made the right choice and his marriage would last. He was going to make it so. And if Carl's answering smile and the look in his eyes was any indication, he was thinking the same.
Of course, none of them actually had to play the bride, although William did make it a point to sweep his man off his feet and into the reception hall, albeit briefly. It maybe was the first royal wedding where groom and groom had to delay their first kiss in public - the first kiss the press was to see - due to bubbling laughter.
"It will take some getting used to, being called Prince Consort in a few years," Carl joked as everyone sat down at their tables and they waited for the toasts.
William looked him over, winked. "With any luck it'll be another thirty years so don't start getting used to it now."
They joked for a few more minutes until everyone had taken their place and a small commotion ensued at the other side of their table, as King Carl XVI Gustaf and Prince Philip seemed to have a friendly argument about who would get up to toast first, while the Queen looked on with an amused expression and Charles with a slightly annoyed one that Camilla pinched him for.
Eventually, both men got up at once, grinning, and called for attention. Carl's father cleared his throat. "Dear family and friends," he nodded at the various tables around the room, his tone good natured and teasing, "we're here now to celebrate the joining in marriage of my son and his beloved British prince.
"When their relationship was first revealed to the public in Sweden everyone seemed to think the British had come back to take revenge for our ancestors raiding their shores by stealing our prince. However, I have not lost a potential successor but we have forged new ties out of old strings; I have not lost a son, but gained one. Whoever had doubts at the strength a relationship between two men who both stand in the spotlight could hold has been proven wrong.
"When I ascended the throne, I swore to go with the times, to lead my country forward. This day today is a large step, for both our countries, both our families and these two men have chosen to be our leaders. I congratulate you, William and Carl Philip, may there be many more steps for you to take!" King Carl XVI Gustaf raised his champagne flute and toasted for Prince Philip, then the room. Polite applause and genuine laughter sounded, Wills grinned at Carl.
When everythone was quiet again, Prince Philip looked around. "What are you all looking at? Never seen two men standing together? Look at my grandson and that hunk he caught for himself." Wills thought maybe he wanted the earth to open up and swallow him whole but just to make a point, Carl pressed an affectionate buzz to his cheek. "Now we have those details out of the way... Dear William, dear Carl; in a world that has progressed ever faster around us, the royal gin palace might have put on some cobwebs and gathered some dust bunnies. It has fallen upon you to...modernise our coterie.
"I wish you a long and happy life, a peaceful reign over a prosperous people and a glass always half full." He looked at his own glass that was full to the brim and grinned around the hall to toast to everyone before continuing.
"It may be that the gulfs will wash us down:
It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles,
And see the great Achilles, whom we knew.
Tho’ much is taken, much abides; and tho’
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield."