”What are we doing on Saturday?” Tilde said as she came into the bedroom in Eggsy’s terraced house, two tub stops from the neighbourhood where he had grown up.
Eggsy, already under the covers, looked up from his tablet where he was doing Very Serious Kingsman Stuff and not at all browsing Amazon for Game of Thrones clothes for pugs. He had been back at Kingsman for eight months and this was Tilde’s first visit here — official or otherwise — but he remembered what that tone of voice meant. It meant that he had absolutely nothing to say about whatever plans had already been made and that he probably wouldn’t like it one bit.
”I’m thinking I’d take you on a tour of the new shop,” he said just to say something. ”Maybe have Harry over for dinner. Let him cook.”
Tilde tossed her mobile on the bed and crawled up next to him. He turned the tablet to show her the super cute outfit he had found for JB jr.
”You’re going to spoil our kids rotten, aren’t you?”
Eggsy smiled. ”Kids, hu?”
”Ask me again after the first one, but yes,” said Tilde. ”Being an only child is lonely.”
Eggsy put away the tablet and gave her a quick kiss. They hadn’t discussed kids at all before their wedding, but he had figured it came with the gig. Even in the 21st century, Tilde needed an heir. He wasn’t against the idea. He wanted children. Just… not now. Though he had a feeling that neither did she.
”What’s the plan for Saturday?” he asked.
”Martin called,” she said. Eggsy sighed mentally, because a call from her private secretary never led to anything fun. ”Jonathan Davis called him and wondered if we’re free for lunch.”
”Should I know this person?”
”Davis is the Duke of Cambridge’s secretary.”
Eggsy stared at her. That was a title he knew since before he got married and had to learn all of the European sovereigns’ family trees.
”Prince Fucking William’s inviting us to lunch?” he blurted out.
”At Buckingham Palace.”
Eggsy’s brain had short circuit. ”At Buck— What?”
”I told Martin that I’d get back to him so that he can call Davis tonight, can I tell him we’re free?”
Eggsy smiled weakly, but he nodded and managed to kiss her back before she got her phone and called her secretary to confirm and get further details. The conversation was in Swedish and Eggsy probably wouldn’t have been able to follow even if his brain had been up and running. Instead he just watched her move around as she talked in awe; he had almost forgotten what an amazing energy she brought to a room.
”You know this is your fault, right?” said Tilde with a smile when she hung up.
”How?” Eggsy asked. ”How’s an invitation from your… second cousin’s brother’s uncle’s great grandchild or whatever my fault?”
”He’s my third cousin on my mother’s side,” said Tilde, getting back into the bed and – to Eggsy’s delight – straddled his lap, ”and let’s see, my fourth cousin twice removed on my father’s side… or I think you say it that way in English.”
“No one says shit like that,” Eggsy said, putting his hands on her thighs. “No one keeps track that far.”
“Anyway,” Tilde continued, “dad and his grandmother are fourth cousins on two sides, that much I know. Then dad and his grandfather are also fourth cousins on two sides. Wait, so, yes, William is the son of my fifth cousin. So he’s my fifth cousin, once removed?”
”Not even JB has pedigree chart this detailed,” Eggsy muttered.
Tilde made a scandalised noise. ”Did you just compare me to our dog?”
Tilde hit him lightly in the arm. Eggsy giggled and pretended to hold up his arms to protect himself.
”It’s still your fault,” said Tilde.
”Again, how is an invitation from Prince Fucking William my fault?”
”You’re a foreign prince, currently living semi-permanently in their country,” said Tilde. ”They more or less have to invite us to lunch even if this isn’t a state visit. And you have to stop calling him ’Prince Fucking William’ because you’ll slip up and actually say that to his face.”
Eggsy groaned. “How do they even know I’m here?”
”Oh, we have a Facebook group,” said Tilde. “Training Crowns -- invite only.”
”Are you serious?”
Tilde smiled and wiggled her eyebrows. Eggsy couldn’t tell if she told the truth or not, but sank a little deeper into the pillows.
”Conspiracy theories aside,” said Tilde, “there was a very official memo going out that you were moving back here to finish your apprenticeship, remember?”
“Mm.” Eggsy rubbed his face. This was an unexpected side effect of moving back. He had planned for a long distance relationship, lots of flight hours, media speculations, paparazzi, public gossip and smear campaigns… but this was something he hadn’t taken into consideration.
“Hey…” Tilde poked him gently. “What is it?”
“Nothing. It’s fine. I just need a year to process this.”
“Don’t worry,” she said, leaning down as if to kiss him, her hair tickling is face and blocking out most of the world around them. “It will be very low-key.”
“But it’s Prince Fu—William,” said Eggsy. “Where do I even— My mum watched his mum’s funeral on telly as if it was an episode of Emmerdale. His grandmother is on all the money. He’s not real.”
“If it helps…” said Tilde with a sly smile, “I outrank him.”
Tilde finally closed the distance and kissed him. “How about this, then?”
“Helps a little,” Eggsy said with a smile, wrapping his arms around her. “Try it again.”
She kissed him again. And again. And again.
And for a while, he almost forgot that they were going to eat at Buckingham Palace this weekend.
It was a long time since Eggsy had stopped thinking that his life couldn’t get any more insane, yet kneeling in the Ballroom of Buckingham Palace while a 95 year old woman put a 150-something year old sword on his shoulders still made him question what reality this was.
He was one of 25 people getting honoured today, one out of 3 who got knighted. He received the Royal Victorian Order, an order Tilde only held as a member since she wasn’t a British citizen. He had been pretty smug about that right up until the moment when she had left him to sit with other family members while he had been seated up front with the guests of honour.
Standing up again, he felt like he was bursting with things to say to the Queen. He had no idea what any of those things were, but he needed to tell her something. In the end, all he did was thank her (which was just as well, since he would probably had ended up saying something about The Crown if he had pushed it) and return to his seat.
He was not the kind of person who was knighted. The only things he had ever done to maybe deserve an honour of any kind were the things he wasn’t supposed to be thanked for. Yet, this was the second knighthood he received. (Third, depending on if he counted Kingsman or not.) The first one had been given to him upon his wedding – the Order of the Seraphim – but, with no disrespect to his new country, that was nothing compared to this.
Now, he was knighted. For real. By the Queen. The world did not make sense to him.
He told Tilde as much when the ceremony was over and they met up again. Her blue and red sash matched the ribbon around his neck and her eyes sparkled.
“How is it,” she asked, slipping her arm in his, “that it’s always your fault that we’re invited to this place?”
“I wonder the same thing,” said Eggsy. He gave her a kiss, feeling himself relax. “I think we can blame your dad for today, though.”
“Mm,” Tilde agreed. “He talked about it enough at Christmas, didn’t he?”
“I have a feeling he’s trying to make me presentable after the fact.”
“Not an entirely unreasonable assumption.”
Eggsy laughed. “Well, he has his work cut out for him.”
“Stop putting yourself down,” said Tilde, quietly, fiddling a little with his ribbon. “You’ve been my knight in shining armour since the first time I saw you and you know you’re worth more than all the people in this room.”
Eggsy shook his head, giving her another kiss. “Not in the least.”
“So…” said Tilde, “was the Queen as terrifying as you thought she would be?”
“Babe, you have no idea.”
She shook her head, smiling as if he was being silly.
“Seriously, you have no idea.”
Eggsy smiled. It had taken a while, but finally Tilde had accepted that all these people that had been around her all her life were not people to Eggsy. They were concepts rather than anything else. Even the interchangeable ones like prime ministers and presidents. They were titles. Roles. Icons. On a logical level he knew that they were just people, human beings, but standing face to face with that human being was still surreal.
It was a bit like meeting a cartoon character.
“Have you seen mum and Dais—“ Eggsy started, but somewhere in the crowd he heard his name being called and suddenly he had a seven year old girl throwing herself at him.
“There she is!” he said, laughing as he caught her. “Hi, was it boring?”
“No!” said Daisy, shocked at the very suggestion.
Tilde tugged Daisy’s dress lightly. “Hej, gullunge.”
Daisy turned to her, going completely serious, and bowed her head. “Ers höghet.”
“Aaw, Dais,” said Eggsy as Tilde gave his sister her hand to kiss. “Stop that. You make me look bad.”
Daisy and Tilde shared a look. Daisy giggled and Tilde smiled. They had, according to Eggsy, a very strange greeting ritual his wife and sister but it had been going since the first time they met and it seemed to be going strong. Daisy had also picked up a lot of Swedish over the years and had a much better accent than Eggsy could ever dream of.
“Where’s mum?” he asked.
“There,” said Daisy and pointed from where she’d come. Eggsy saw his mum making her way towards them and smiled from ear to ear. He had been a bit (or a lot) frustrated that Tilde and his mother and sister hadn’t been allowed to sit together during the ceremony.
He put down Daisy to be able to hug his mum as well. When he let go, he refrained from saying something about ‘all his girls’ but nothing could stop him from thinking it.
“I’m going to force you all to be in the pictures with me,” he said instead, taking Daisy’s hand in his. “Then we’ll get out of here. I’m sure Harry’s waiting with dinner already.”
No one protested, and with that, they left Buckingham Palace for this time and went to meet the gathered press.
The black car drove through the gates to Buckingham Palace. In the backseat sat Eggsy, dressed in a deep purple suit jacket with black lapels. Alone. He looked through the window up at the huge palace, feeling himself shrink. He had been a prince for a little over three years now, but he had spent more than two decades looking at places like these the same way the people storming Versailles once must have, and without Tilde by his side he was sure it showed that he didn’t belong.
His phone had been buzzing almost constantly during the ride over, but he refused to look at it. He had told Harry that even if Armageddon started tonight there was no way he could come back into the office, because tonight he represented the entire Swedish royal family. It was the unofficial start to what would be a month long celebration of Queen Elizabeth’s 70 years on the throne. The invitation had gone to his father-in-law who had more or less outsourced it to him. He had never been to anything like this alone before. Previously, he had only had to represent himself as part of the royal family, but now it was only him. In all honesty, this felt way scarier than when Merlin told him and Roxy that there was no safety net anymore.
This was the first time his father-in-law had trusted him with just about anything. He could not mess this up.
The car stopped and someone opened the door for him. With a deep sigh, Eggsy braced himself and stepped out. There were no cameras — which was one of the few perks — and he just had to smile and nod to the men who helped with the logistics of getting the guests inside.
As Eggsy walked after the man leading him to the East Gallery he felt the weight of the entire building on his shoulders. All the good and bad it stood for pressing down on him, crushing him like the pleb he was.
He had his glasses on, and his signet ring – his armour, indeed – but without Roxy on the other side of the glasses it really wasn’t the same. It wasn’t the same at all. Fuck, he missed Roxy. Tonight more than he had in a long time.
He was let into the gallery where a good number of the guests were already waiting for the ballroom to open. He got a few lazy, curious looks but no one really seemed to take notice of him. Relieved, Eggsy took the champagne that was offered to him and moved to stand at the side, his back against the wall as he tried to take in as much of the room as possible. He didn’t hide. At all.
From the other side of the room, the Duchess of Cambridge met his eyes. Very indiscreetly she held up her mobile and waved it a little before dropping it in her handbag and turning to her company again.
With a small frown, Eggsy reached into his inner pocket and pulled up his own phone. He had seven messages, three of them from Kate, two from Mary, one from Mette-Marit, and one from Máxima, all with messages of support and reminders to breathe.
Eggsy felt a smile spreading across his face as he read the encouraging messages from other plebs marrying royalty. Perhaps he wasn’t completely without a safety net, after all.
Tilde took his hand rather than his arm as they walked up to Buckingham Palace. It was the scariest thing so far during this completely terrifying day.
The Queen was dead, 97 years old, to the surprise to no one and everyone. The funeral had been spectacular, broadcasted not only in the Commonwealth (former and present), but in most countries in the world, and live streamed numerous news outlets on the internet.
The church had been filled, the streets lined with people. The coffin, wrapped in a flag and dragged by eight horses. The crown jewels resting upon it. Her closest family walking the entire way behind it. A procession that went on for almost one mile with horses, military, politicians, dignitaries…
(Eggsy had made sure that all available Kingsman and Statesman agents were there as well, because the thought of the Royal family walking like that in the street made him nauseous.)
Now, some two hundred of the closest friends and most distinguished guests had come back to Buckingham Palace for a lighter meal. Eggsy and Tilde fell somewhere in between the two groups, while Tilde’s mum and dad belonged to the second one.
Eggsy had kissed Kate’s cheek and shook William’s hand outside the church. They had looked pale and sombre both of them. All of them, really. The unofficial head of the European monarchies was gone. Status quo was destroyed. Reality hit. Hard. The future was coming for all of them. The entire next generation of Heads of State walked around like ghosts in the grand rooms. Eggsy was probably no exception.
He was definitely no exception.
Looking around, he thought that they all seemed so afraid, so frightened. The privileged upper class. He would have laughed at them – because what would they know of real fear? – if he didn’t felt like screaming in panic and horror himself. That saying about walking a mile in someone’s shoes really went both ways.
“I wanted to be a teacher when I was a kid,” whispered Tilde out of nowhere. It was the first thing she had said since they left the church. “And a chef. And a tour guide.”
Eggsy squeezed her hand. “You still can be.”
Tilde shook her head. She couldn’t be any of it. Never had. This was her lot in life. A politician without a voice. A living symbol of a country. An embodiment of traditions. Eggsy knew that. She would have been a great teacher though, he knew that too.
He squeezed her hand again and kissed it, trying to not feel incredibly guilty for getting to be a Kingsman, a tailor, and a prince at the same time, while most of the people in this room had never had a choice at all.
Eggsy almost managed exit the car gracefully while getting the garment bag with him. He was very careful not to slam the car door on it.
“This is rather unorthodox, your highness,” said Jonathan Davis who was waiting for him at the Ambassador’s entrance to Buckingham Palace.
“’Unorthodox’ has turned out to be my middle name, Davis,” said Eggsy with a grin, holding the garment bag away from the Prince of Wales’ private secretary as he tried to take it. “I insist.”
Davis sighed, holding up the door for him. “You could have taken the Grand entrance, you know.”
“Does the help usually use that entrance?”
“No, but, sir, you’re—“
“A tailor,” said Eggsy. “I’m getting paid and everything. There’s a check somewhere with a crazy amount of zeros on it going to Prins Garys Ungdomsstiftelse right now. At least I’m not insisting on the servants’ entrance.”
Davis sighed again. Eggsy liked Davis. He was about twenty years older than Eggsy and he pretended to be a stickler for traditions and how things were supposed to be, but in reality he had no trouble whatsoever to put any of the royals in their place if he thought it necessary. In some ways, Davis reminded Eggsy of Harry.
The Princess of Wales (Kate still found that title very strange to have attached to her name) had asked Eggsy during one of their very sporadic lunches what he’d think about making a suit for William. It would be a fun thing, she thought, and they could donate some money to Eggsy’s foundation for at risk youth in Sweden as payment. Eggsy had accepted on the spot, because something about that was just too hilarious to turn down, and after a consultation and first and second fittings he was now here to let the future king of the United Kingdom try on his new suit for the final fitting.
Initially this had been planned to take place in Kensington Palace but with both their schedule pretty full and Eggsy having to cram in another trip to Sweden, a fitting at Buckingham Palace between two of Prince William’s other appointments had turned out to be the only solution.
Eggsy was shown into an extravagant room on the first floor, which was made less extravagant by contemporary furniture, a bunch of full figure mirrors, and two mannequins brought here especially for this occasion.
“Do you need anything, sir?” asked Davis. “The Prince of Wales with be here as soon as he’s seen the ambassador off.”
“Too early for a pint?”
“Then some water would be just grand, Davis, thank you so much.”
“Certainly, sir,” said Davis, bowing once as he left the room. Eggsy was impressed by the man’s self-control and the fact that he didn’t roll his eyes at Eggsy’s exaggerated speech.
Eggsy shook his head when he was alone and hung the garment bag over the back of a sofa. He unzipped it and started to carefully take out the suit. Just as carefully he then put the suit on one of the mannequin.
When he had told Tilde about this she had wondered which museum this suit would end up in when they were all dead (she thought way too much about death these days) but Eggsy couldn’t stop giggling about how much this suit would be worth if it turned up on the Antique Roadshow in 100 years. A suit made by a future queen consort, worn by a future king.
And he had actually made it himself!
It turned out he wasn’t half bad with a needle when it came down to it and he had finally received his certificate last year. This suit wasn’t the masterpiece that would grant him membership in the guild, but it was a nice, traditional single breasted, light grey suit with notched lapels. Compared to the colourful velvet suit jackets Eggsy made for himself, this one was incredibly dull, but as Eggsy had said when they had discussed the fabric during the consultation: with the right tie, the eyes can still pop! (When his own words had caught up with him neither of them had been able to stop laughing.) Because of this, he had brought with him a selection of ties as well – knowing perfectly well that no future King of England would ever wear a Micky Mouse tie in public – that he put out on display on a table.
He went over the suit with a roller for good measure and made sure it hang perfectly. He had to admit that he was nervous, because even though he had made his own clothes for years now this was the first suit he had made for someone else. And what a ‘someone else’ he had picked as his first customer.
After one last inspection he unbuttoned his own jacket and sat down to wait for his client on the sofa he had hung the garment bag over. He might be here in his capacity as a tailor, he might have insisted on not taking the main entrance today, but after almost six years he knew what and who he was and where he was allowed to sit.
Even at Buckingham Palace.
It was a quarter to two at night. Eggsy walked fast and determined through one of the corridor of Buckingham Palace. This part of the palace consisted mostly of unused representation rooms and was very poorly lit at this time since no one was supposed to be there. That was why he almost miss the door he was looking for, it had absolutely nothing to do with the fact that he was looking over his shoulder every few step. Not at all.
He put down the case he was carrying and squatted in front of the door. He opened the case and pulled out two tension wrenches and set of keys. Old locks needed old fashioned tools. He looked from the tools to the lock and then back to the tools again. He couldn’t remember when he picked a mortice lock last, but it shouldn’t be much of a problem. Like riding a bike. Hopefully. He decided against the keys and started working with just the wrenches.
“Tell me again why I’m doing this?” Eggsy muttered when he had to remove the wrenches and start over.
“Because it’s in the best interest of the nation,” came Harry’s voice in his ear.
“I meant why am I the one doing it? I’m not a field agent anymore.”
“Because we only have three field agents and you’ve sent them all into the field.”
“I sent—? I sent them, ’Arthur’?” He spit out Harry’s codename as if it was an insult. “This is stupid. Remember what happened the last time Merlin went on a mission.”
There was a pointed silence on the other side. Eggsy almost immediately regretted saying that, but he dropped it. He could apologise later, because it would do nothing for the mission if they were going to dig into that now. Luckily, the lock finally gave away and Eggsy got something else to focus on. He sighed in unveiled relief.
“Any alarm?” he asked as he put away the tools again.
“Nothing triggered yet.”
“Did you really expect one?”
Eggsy was taken aback. He didn’t know what to answer. Logically he didn’t expect an inner door to a random room to be equipped with an alarm. At the same time, he had lived in this world for many years now and knew what ridiculous amount of security the royals were constantly under, so the idea of anything at all not being under surveillance just didn’t sit right with him. That was also why he was there – regardless of if there had been an active field agent available or not – because the people in this building had become his people, and he wouldn’t let just anyone in here.
He didn’t say anything about any of it. Instead he looked up and down the dark corridor one last time before opening the door. (He wished he could say that the door had opened soundlessly, but in truth it squeaked so loudly it almost made him jump.) Quickly he picked up his things, stepped inside, and closed the door again.
The room was much darker than the corridor, but he refrained from turning on the light since it would most likely be spotted from the outside. It was a simply furnished room (at least considering the building it was in) with two sofas and four chairs, a chandelier, a fire place, generic oil paintings on the walls of fox hunts and grand houses… nothing that made it special.
What did make it special was its location. It was fairly right in the centre of the north wing and since all of the four walls were load-bearing it was almost like a keystone for this part of the palace.
They had received intelligence about a terrorist attack directed at the Royal family. Harry had muttered about it being very 17th century to go after the monarch, but the more they had looked into it the less it had been Cromwell and the more it had been Fawkes. It wasn’t a plot to kill a monarch, but rather to shake the monarchy.
And this… this was the perfect room to do it from.
“Do you see the bomb?” Harry asked.
“Yes, that’s why I’m disarming it right now.”
“There’s no need for a tone.”
Eggsy rolled his eyes and started to move through the room. They weren’t 100 % sure that the bomb would be here, but since time was of the essence they had made an educated guess. After a few minutes though, Eggsy started to worry that they had made a mistake.
“Can you imagine the headlines if I get caught?” he said as he got down on his hands and knees to look under the furniture. “Foreign Prince Breaks Into Buckingham Palace.”
“Prince Gary -- Out With a Bang,” Harry suggested.
“Tailor Prince Claims to Have Accidentally Entered the Wrong Palace.”
“You know, I almost wish you’d get caught now.”
Eggsy coughed to hide a laugh as he got up again. Then, it suddenly wasn’t funny anymore when he pulled away one of the heavy curtains and found the bomb strapped to the wall.
“Do you see it?” he asked Harry, tapping his glasses once to zoom in on it.
“Tell me what to do.”
Eggsy sat down, his legs crossed, in front of the bomb. As far as he could tell it was a homebuilt one, but a really good homebuilt one. There didn’t seem to be a timer, but a remote detonator. He supressed the urge to poke at the cords sticking out of it.
“Right,” said Harry. “First step is to disconnect the detonator.”
“Just like that?”
“Just like that.”
“I hope you’ve read the entire manual now, Harry” Eggsy muttered. He moved to stand on his knees and pulled out a pair of scissors. “If this goes off now, you get the honour of telling Tilde.”
“And here I thought I’d send Percival to do that.”
Eggsy almost giggled. Almost. “Shut it.”
The transmission seemed to be put on mute, because he suddenly didn’t even hear Harry’s breathing. He was alone with a live bomb inside Buckingham Palace. It was absolutely impossible for him to not think about both his dad and Merlin and how they had met their end. Eggsy held his breath. In his head he counted three… two… one… and…
“Good job, Eggsy,” said Harry as the transmission came back. “It should be safe to take it down put it in the case now.”
“I promise I won’t send Percival.”
“That’s all I ask,” said Eggsy faintly.
He opened the case he had brought – feeling good about the fact that it seemed large enough – and started to loosen the bomb from the wall. There would be terrible marks on the wallpaper, which he had no idea why he cared about that right now.
Finally, the bomb was loose and, very carefully, Eggsy moved it to the case. His hands were not quite as steady as he had hoped they would be and his heart was beating fast and hard. He had clearly been out of the game for too long.
Slowly, he lowered the bomb in the case and closed the lid. With a sigh, he then fell back on his arse to sit perfectly still on the floor for a moment. He sure as hell would buy a newspaper tomorrow morning.
“Nicely done,” said Harry, clearly relieved as well.
“Now, get out of there.”
Eggsy got up and took the case with him. He didn’t have to be told twice.