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Stronger than any fear

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Simon literally chose the worst moment for his freakout.

Wille is fast asleep next to him, his breathing measured as his chest keeps moving up and down steadily from where he's almost star-fished on the bed. And Simon can't help but think that he gets to be star-fished on the bed here and Simon still has enough space to lay comfortably next to him, not like in his tiny bed in Bjärstad.

Because Simon is at his boyfriend's house. And since that boyfriend happens to be the prince of Sweden, the house happens to be the palace.

And apparently, his mind decided that 3:18 in the morning is the perfect time to freak out about this place.

He's really been keeping it together quite well if he thinks about it. He was surprised to see Erik texting him earlier today, scared even that something happened to Will. But his boyfriend’s brother was just worried and Wille was freaking out over the coming out post, and Simon just really, really wanted to be there for him.

He might have agreed without much thinking when Erik proposed he'd send the car for him.

Then he freaked out, a little because there wasn't much time. He was just finishing his shift and Erik kept updating him that the car is on its way, also saying he was sorry he couldn’t get him personally but he just didn't want to leave Wille alone for that long. Simon more than understood that and could not be upset, he really appreciates Erik being so supportive and being there for Wille, especially when Simon himself can't.

The first thing he did was tell Ayub and the hey so I'm going to the palace to see Wille after my shift was met with probably as much shock as Simon himself felt.

And only when he said it, he realised that shit, I'm going to the palace.

Ayub tried to reassure him then, that it was okay, he'll be with Wille all the time after all. Simon chose to believe him, for his own sanity. Because just then a fancy black car pulled up outside of the pizzeria and yeah, it was time to go.

The road here was weird, silent mostly. He did politely greet the woman in the driver’s seat who he now recognized as Erik's bodyguard and kept texting with Erik, letting him know when they were approaching the palace.

And when they drove to the palace's premise... yep, another freakout was incoming.

Because the place is huge, way bigger than his school, than Hillerska than basically everything Simon had seen. He was looking out of the car window with his jaw almost on the floor. He was totally going to get lost in there, there must be at least a thousand corridors and like a million rooms.

Thankfully, Erik came to meet him at the entrance, greeting him with a smile and pulling him into a quick hug that actually made him relax a little.

"How's Wille?" Simon asked basically immediately when they entered the palace, trying to focus on everything else than the fact that he was actually in the palace.

Erik, fortunately, and of course, seemed to know his way around quite well, leading Simon through all the winding corridors at a fast pace, clearing having only one destination in mind, no detours.

Simon was very much thankful for that.

"He's freaking out," Erik admitted with a bit of a worried sigh but not slowing down their pace "I tried literally everything to distract him but there's only so much I can do," he retorted, then threw Simon a bit of a longer, almost pleading gaze "he really needs you," he said.

Simon felt himself smile a little. He nodded, suddenly the fear and panic of being in this unknown, huge place replaced by a strong way of affection and love for his boyfriend, stronger than any fear could be.

"I'm here then," he stated with a bit of a nervous chuckle and shared a smile with his boyfriend’s brother.

Then they reached Wille's bedroom and well, Wille was there and it was like his surroundings disappeared as soon as he had his boyfriend in his arms.

Then all he could feel was pride when Wille shared the coming out post, so strong that it kept dimming all the other feelings. And then it was just him and Wille and he always lets his guard down at these moments when they're alone, lets himself just be, lets them be, no matter what, where, when.

But now... yeah, Wille is right next to him, but he's asleep and not able to distract him from well... everything.

The room is dark as they lay on his boyfriend's huge, surprisingly very comfortable, bed, but the moonlight is casting a glow on all the shiny trims in the room, all the golden elements reflecting prettily in the moon rays.

There probably is real freaking gold in this room, this is insane.

Simon shifts a bit on the bed, careful not to wake Wille up, laying on his side and trying to focus on his boyfriend. Wilhelm looks peaceful in his sleep, finally after the day he had. The panicked and nervous expression on his face when Simon arrived here was something almost heart-breaking and all Simon could feel was the overwhelming need to comfort him. Then, after the post, it was pure relief. It's all still far from over and there is a lot more stress to come in the upcoming days, for both of them, but right now, Wille deserves the rest more than anybody. His brave prince, Simon smiles at that thought as he reaches to delicately brush Wille's hair from his face as it seems to be tickling his nose.

But then his eyes land on his surroundings again. The huge room illuminated by moonlight, few, probably super expensive, paintings on the walls, the golden-like ornaments on the closest, the heavy wooden desk, a mirror in a golden frame... it's a lot as Simon tries to take it all in. The room does feel like it's the space of his house. He tried to play it down with Wille before but right now, alone with his thoughts, he's hit with a hurricane-like force by how different their lives are.

Can Simon fit into this?

He wants to, he desperately wants to be the eloquent, perfectly well-mannered partner his boyfriend's mother probably wants for him. But he doesn't think he can. He doesn't want to change in order to be with Wille, knows his boyfriend would never even ask him to change a thing about himself. But unfortunately, this is about to become bigger than them.

Forgoing all of the rich, royal details of the room it simply just feels so... not Wille. Everything is so neatly put together that Simon misses the mess of Wille's notes on his desk back in his dorm at Hillerska, the few clothes always stacked on the bed as if he couldn't decide what to wear and just threw whatever out of the closet. Those are such little things probably but they make that room so inhabited for Simon, so real and alive, you can just see it's someone's personal space.

He wonders if Wille feels like that too, that his Hillerska room has more soul and personality than the one here, at home.

And Simon just feels so small here, the space so overwhelming not only with its vastness but also with the whole history that's literally in these walls. He's afraid of his every step here, of doing the wrong thing, asking the wrong question, touching something antique that probably shouldn't be touched. He's a curious boy but most of all, he's scared here.

It's scary, his love for Wilhelm feels scary sometimes since it's so strong and it hit Simon so unexpectedly.

Still, it's beautiful and unique, in some way the palace is too.

He snuggles a bit closer to Wille, resting his head on his shoulder and throwing an arm over his stomach gently, needing the comfort now.

Thankfully, Wille doesn't wake up, but he does wrap his arm around Simon basically subconsciously. Simon is glad no one is here to see him grinning in the darkness of the night.

As he closes his eyes, he can almost pretend he's back at home in Bjärstad, in his own little bedroom, wrapped around Wille as they always are.

He's with Wille so he will be okay.

 

 

 

 

Simon sit’s on his boyfriend’s bed, playing nervously with the sleeves of his borrowed, grey sweater.

He’s nervous but he’s trying now to let it show.

He keeps watching Wille as he stands in from of the mirror a few steps ahead, putting on his suit jacket and tie, looking as stunning as ever. Usually, Simon would totally gush about his boyfriend’s beauty now, and he still does a little, but he’s also stressed, and can see Wille is too. He notices the tense line of his shoulders, the way his hands are slightly shaky as he knots his tie.

And Simon understands. It’s not every day you’re going to give a television interview, especially about something so personal.

“How are you feeling?” Simon decides to ask eventually, catching Wille’s eye in the mirror.

“Nervous,” his boyfriend admits with a sigh.

Simon tries to smile comfortingly. Then he moves from the bed and steps closer to Wilhelm, till he can wrap his arms around him from behind. He raises on his tiptoes to rest his chin on his boyfriend’s shoulder, observing both of their reflections in the mirror now.

“You look beautiful,” he tells Wilhelm and kisses his cheek gently. His boyfriend smiles at him in the reflection and leans back into his embrace. He closes his eyes and Simon watches him relax a little as he exhales, releasing the tension, his shoulders slouching down a bit “you’re brave, you’re going to do great,” Simon adds quietly, letting Wille have this little moment of ease and calm. His boyfriend nods eventually before opening his eyes. He turns in Simon’s arms and looks at him, intense but still soft.

“And how are you feeling?” He asks, his hand going to sweep through Simon’s hair. He feels himself smile at the tender touch but just shakes his head, the I’m fine and this isn’t about me on the tip of his tongue. Because it really isn’t about him now and he has to do everything to make Wille as comfortable as he can before what he’s about to face.

Before he gets to say anything though, his boyfriend interjects.

“Don’t say some bullshit how this is about me today, I want to know.” He says in a stern tone that almost makes Simon roll his eyes as he sighs. He swears that Wille must be a mind reader sometimes...

“I’m okay,” he assures simply. Then bites his lip but decides to carry on. They did promise to be honest after all and he’s way past concealing his feelings. Wille deserves all the truth “nervous for you but I know you’ll do great. I don’t want to think about later now, let’s just focus on the interview, okay?” He states softly.

His boyfriend nods, confirming that he agrees with a gentle kiss placed on Simon’s lips and soon they both smile into it. Then a quiet knock sounds around the room. Wilhelm calls out a ‘come in’, his arms still resting wrapped around Simon’s waist as they both turn toward the door.

“Hey,” Erik comes into the view as he peeks inside the room. His expression is relaxed and comforting but Simon supposes that he also must have been taught to conceal his emotions sometimes as Wille does, so he’s not sure how to read it “are you ready?” His boyfriend’s brother offers a tentative question.

Simon looks back at Wille, ready to stay here for a moment longer or get on it with, just waiting for him to decide. His boyfriend exhales and nods then, a sliver of the tension from before returning to his body.

Simon takes his hand, squeezing in a gesture of I’m here, you’re doing great, trying to offer at least some bit of comfort, dismissing his own nerves for now. Then they set on the way and follow Erik out of the room, hand in hand.

And only as the walk down the hall Simon really grasps what is about to happen.

Wille is going to basically confirm their relationship, they will be out in the open out there, with everyone’s eyes on them. He tries not to panic at this thought too much. He thought he’s had enough time to deal with this, has been thinking this concept through more times than he can count, ever since Wille only as much as mentioned coming out to him. Yet right now, it feels scarier than ever.

And then it hits Simon that he will probably meet the queen.

He did meet her once already, in Wille’s dorm at Hillerska, but back then she basically only asked him to leave the room. Which he did, so not so much for making an impression on his boyfriend’s mother.

Simon is aware that he will never fall into the good graces of the queen. He is probably the total opposite of everything she’s ever dreamt of in a partner for Wilhelm. First of all, he’s a boy, second of all he comes from a working-class family, thrid of all, his family history is not ideal also. And the list just keeps on going.

He can feel the tension rising in his body as they get closer to the room where the interview will take place. He desperately tries to shake it off because the last thing he needs right now is to worry Wille with his internal freakout.

Still, his boyfriend notices or more like feels something is not right. It’s his turn to tighten the hold on Simon’s hand. He throws him a bit of a worried glance and Simon attempts to answer with a reassuring smile, but he feels it doesn’t come out too genuine. He just really doesn’t have it in him to fake it.

When they eventually reach the right room, it’s bustling with life already. Many people walk around with microphones, tablets in their hands, makeup brushes or whatever. Simon’s head begins to spin a little at the amount of action that is going on here and he can’t focus at all. Trying to follow Wille’s line of sight he notices the royal couple a few steps ahead as they talk to a woman that Simon suspects will conduct the interview. She’s wearing a pristine, black skirt and a matching suit jacket with a white shirt underneath, her hair is neatly put into a tight ponytail. Quite a professional look if he was the one to judge.

Just then, the woman walks off and the queen’s eyes lock on him and Wilhelm.

Simon swallows thickly, feeling all of his fears return to the surface with double force as the queen measures him up with a piercing gaze. It makes him feel small and helpless, like the odd one, like he doesn’t fit in. He knows he does not but right now it just seems more obvious. She also makes him feel like he never will, like she will make sure of it.

“You’re okay?” Wille asks with concern as his parents begin to approach them. Simon nods at him but his panic doesn’t ease up.

“Yeah, I’m fine,” he says with a weird shrug as he tries to release some tension from his shoulders. It doesn’t work. But there’s nothing else he can do now since the royal couple comes up to them. Wilhelm eyes him still with a hint of worry, but then the queen is right in front of them so he doesn’t say anything more.

“Wilhelm,” Kristina greets him with a nod which Wille swiftly reciprocates. Then her gaze shifts to Simon again, offering the same gesture. “Simon,” she greets him also and he returns the nod shakily “my husband, Ludvig,” she introduces Wille’s dad to him. Ludvig extends his hand, his expression way more welcoming than the queen’s. Simon appreciates it but his stomach is still twisting nervously.

If somebody told him only a few months ago he’d be at the freaking royal palace, making pleasantries with the queen and the prince consort, he’d laugh right in their face.

Yet here he is now.

“Nice to meet you, sir,” Simon’s voice shakes as he greets Wille’s dad in a polite tone and shakes his hand. The man’s expression still remains soft enough not to make him feel completely bad.

“Son, you have to go to makeup, we’re about to start soon,” the queen addresses Wille then.

“Right,” he states but turns to Simon, squeezing their still clasped together hands “will you be okay?” He asks with concern, his eyes tracing Simon’s face and clearly seeing the nerves he’s been so desperately trying to hide mirrored there.

Still, Simon nods, attempting a smile.

“Go, you’ll do great,” he assures, his voice gaining a bit more confidence as he speaks “good luck.”

He can see the conflict on Wille’s face now and knows leaving him here is the last thing he wants to do now. But he has to and they both know it. Wille proposed to him to do the interview together and address the rumours right away but he refused to. It felt like too scary of a perspective to go on television and talk about his personal life.

Still, he wishes a bit that he could hold Wille’s hand right through it all, just like he does now.

His boyfriend offers a small smile before walking off to the makeup station in the corner of the room after sharing some last words with Erik that Simon doesn’t manage to catch. He watches as his boyfriend marches away, adjusting his jacket and politely greeting the makeup lady before settling in the chair. Wille doesn’t exactly look in his element but it seems like he knows the logistics of this whole precedence at least. But Simon knows he doesn’t like it, the officialities, the pressure. And honestly, he beings to relate. It’s already getting a bit too much for him, the atmosphere of the palace settling like an overwhelming weight on his shoulders. It’s too big, too many people when it was supposed to be just them when they were supposed to dictate the rules and navigate their relationship becoming public.

But it’s been taken away from them.

Simon releases an exhale that sounds incredibly loud to his own ears in the already noisy room. He feels the pace of his breath quicken.

Because this is unfair and none of this now should be happening. And Simon shouldn’t be here and he doesn’t fit in here. But he wants to be here for Wille but it’s just so fucking difficult to handle this whole thing sometimes. And it’s only the beginning.

“Hey,” he hears a calm, soft voice next to him as Erik settles on his side “are you okay?”

Simon nods, not trusting his voice now.

“Simon,” Erik lowers his voice a little and turns slightly more to him, probably not to let the queen hear.

Because the queen of the country is literally standing on Simon’s other side now. A fact that definitely calls for another freakout.

“It’s okay if you’re not,” his boyfriend’s brother tells him gently. Simon looks at him, at his warm, tentative expression and thanks the heavens that he has at least one ally in this whole thing. That with Wille not being near now he can at least find a sliver of comfort in his older brother, who seems to be saying the words Simon needs to hear.

“Sorry, I’m…” Simon shakes his head and trails off, eventually managing to get his breathing under control. He speaks in a quiet tone also, only for Erik to hear “I know Wille will do great, I just… I’m just freaking out a little over… this,” his eyes roam around the room to indicate basically this whole place.

Erik chuckles a little at the most probably panicked expression on his face but it’s not done in a mocking manner, more like sympathetic.

“You’re doing great for the first time,” he reassures and Simon almost lets out a snort. Almost because the queen of Sweden is standing next to him, he’s not sure if it’s appropriate.

He does roll his eyes, only for Erik to see.

“And don’t apologize, it is totally okay to feel like this,” the crown prince tells him then. He then drops his gaze for a second, as if hesitating but eventually continues “I just know how important you are to Wille and I know this whole thing is probably happening way too soon for your liking but… I just don’t want all of this to scare you away, I know he’d hate that.”

Simon lets himself take Erik’s face in, the concern, the hint of fear in his eyes and he sees that this man just truly cares. For his brother’s happiness, for Simon’s comfort now… and it’s a relief that Wille has someone like this by his side, has had Erik with him through this whole thing considering how the queen has been acting.

Wille’s been so brave, fighting for them with literally everything he has, making them, and Simon, his priority. Simon doesn’t think he’s ever been someone’s first, and only, choice like this. But as shocking as it was, Wille did choose him and he does continue to choose Simon in most of the things he does. Along the way, he made sure to let him onto his whole coming out plan, made sure Simon was kept in the loop of the things happening in the palace, asked him how much he wants to share, in what way, when. Simon’s so grateful to be a part of that, to be able to create the rules with Wille. He’s always valued his independence and he’s aware they can’t have it fully their way, that compromises had to be made, the interview that’s about to happen being one of them for example, but he knows Wille did everything in his power to let them have this.

And it means everything to Simon. His bravery and his stubbornness in this. If so, it all made him love him even more.

Simon does not scare away easily.

“I’m not backing down,” Simon states, his voice sounding more confident than he thought it would come out. But it’s easy to feel confident in stating such a truth. He’ll take everything, the officialities, the overpowering palace, the queen’s glares because, in the end, it means he gets to have Wille, and it’s all he wants after all “I love him too much.”

Erik considers him with a thoughtful look for a few seconds.

“You seem like a fighter, Simon,” he says, with something almost like awe in his tone.

Simon feels himself smile a bit sadly. He is a fighter, he knows. He’s been through shit, fought his way out every time, no matter how much it hurt to leave some things and some people behind. Some days the fight is just more difficult than others and he wishes for nothing more than to catch a break. He really hopes that soon he’ll be able to.

There are moments when he doesn’t feel strong enough but then he remembers that Wille told him he is. And Simon trusts him.

He shrugs to Erik’s words, trying to dismiss all the fights, both literal and figurative, that he’s been through before his eyes glass over with tears.

Erik smiles then, gently and sympathetically, laying his hand on Simon’s shoulder.

“I just want you to know I’m here for you, okay? Both for you and Wille,” he says “it really warms my heart to see how your family has welcomed him in and I know ours hasn’t been the kindest to you, Simon. And I know I can’t make up for this also but-“

“Erik, I get it,” Simon cuts in and assures, sending him a smile “and thank you, for being there for Wille. And for me now. I appreciate it.”

They share a smile and Erik squeezes his shoulder once more.

“I do deserve some freaking reward,” Erik begins then as he turns back towards where the interview will be stationed as Wille and the interview lady take their seats “Wille is insufferable when you’re not near, he’s very hard to be around with all the whining.” Erik jokes and Simon can’t help but laugh. Maybe a bit too loud and he can feel the queen’s eyes on him again but he doesn’t find it in himself to care at that moment.

He mirrors Erik’s position to watch the scene before them. The actual interview is taking place in the room adjacent to this so he can actually barely see Wille, but they have a preview on the screens from the cameras here so Simon decides to watch those. He almost feels relaxed after the comfortable banter with Erik but just then, the queen shifts slightly from where she’s standing next to him and he feels himself adjust his position, standing a bit straighter, trying to appear less scared than he actually is. A posture he should have mastered at this point but this is some kind of a new fear that he can’t really shake off yet.

Then some people being to bustle around Wille and the interviewer and Simon supposes it’s about to start, so he focuses on his boyfriend’s face on the screen.

“Thank you for joining us today, prince Wilhelm,” the interviewer greets warmly. She seems kind, sympathetic to them even but Simon’s not sure if it’s just an act and the magic of television or the real her.

“Thank you for having me,” Wille replies in a polite tone but Simon knows that the smile he offers is not fully genuine, way too nervous than a real smile would look like.

“So we have to discuss yesterday’s announcement,” the interviewer cuts straight to the chase “I guess congratulations are in order?”

Simon smiles a little. Maybe it is scripted but it still feels nice.

“Thank you,” Wille chuckles in reply, smiling a bit more honestly.

“Can we get to know a little bit about how you came around to that self-realisation and what prompted this decision to come out?” The questions continue.

“Yes, of course,” Wille clears his throat as he dives into the talk Simon knows he has rehearsaled up to perfection now. Still, he doesn’t blame Wille for the wobble in his tone, it must all be incredibly nerve-racking to talk about.

But then his boyfriend smiles a little, an almost nostalgic smile which Simon feels himself mirroring basically involuntarily.

“Well…” Wilhelm continues “my brother told me that high school is a great time to try new things and find out what I like. I guess I took it quite literally,” he laughs a little.

“Oh, I did say that,” Erik mumbles from Simon’s side as if remembering the same thing now. He glances at his boyfriend’s brother to see him wearing a similar smile to Wille’s. They look even more alike when they smile, he realises.

“And I met a person who I feel like I can actually, truly be myself with” Wilhelm carries on with the answer then.

Does he mean me?  Simon thinks, suddenly feeling like he’s blushing.

Erik glances at him then with a smug expression that seemingly confirms what Simon’s been thinking. He just drops his gaze shyly, listening to his boyfriend speak.

“And I guess that was when I started realising some things about myself. It all came very naturally.”

“Now, the coming out,” the interviewer prompts after a slight pause to let everyone take in the information, “I think most of us are aware of the photos released of you recently. Did that event play any role in your coming out?”

There’s a sigh coming from Wille and Simon knows he must have expected the question but it’s still difficult to talk about. He finds himself growing more nervous too, playing with his fingers and twisting them in an anxious manner.

He risks a quick glance at the queen on his right. She stands still, her expression what can only be described as emotionless but also slightly judging, inspecting the screen in front of them strictly. As if waiting to point out any sort of mistakes or things she might have not liked and call Wille out as soon as this whole thing ends.

He’s sure she will have comments but for Simon, Wille is doing amazing so far. He’s so freaking brave.

“I already know how it feels to have something like that get out about me,” Wilhelm beings the answer carefully. Simon has never dwelled on that but he did hear some news about prince Wilhelm in passing, not always pleasant. But he didn’t even bother googling Wille or doing any sort of research when they got together. That would be ridiculous. He didn’t want to get to know prince Wilhelm but simply, just his Wille.

“But the situation was different this time because it wasn’t only me involved.” Wille carries on. His voice is calm and stern, maybe even with a hint of anger that Simon feels he shares. He is still angry at this situation. “And I would really love to say that these photos, taken without our knowledge and released without consent, had no role in my coming out. But that would be a lie, because maybe if that hadn’t got out, I wouldn’t be sitting next to you here now. Not yet at least.”

Our, it kind of feels like Wilhelm is mentioning them for the first time and Simon’s breath almost hitches in his throat.

He’s ready, or he thinks he is, to come out to the world about them. But it still feels scary.

“So the coming out was not in the cards at all before this?” The interviewer strikes with the next question skilfully but Wille gives an answer right away.

“Oh no, it was,” he admits and Simon smiles. It’s said so casually, like the truest fact, like he never even considered hiding forever which Simon knows he didn’t. “It’s been at the back of my head, I was getting warmed up to the idea for quite a while. The thing is, that I wasn’t completely ready yet when it all got out. I wouldn’t want to live in this hiding and fear all the time, but I didn’t get as much time as I’d like to prepare for the coming out because of all the pressure and rumours. And I just hate the fact that it was taken away from me.”

Simon bites his lip as a weird mix of emotions begins to swirl in his stomach. He’s so proud of Wille but also so sad and angry that they are in this whole mess now. It feels a bit like his heart is being torn apart with all these equally strong emotions and he doesn’t know which one to focus on, which one he should let overtake him. He wants it to be the pride, the positive one but his heart tends to have its way with him, not really taking into account what he wants sometimes.

“I can’t even imagine how that must feel,” the interviewer retorts sympathetically.

“I am lucky to have amazing, supportive people around me, so that helps a lot,” Wille smiles and Simon does too a little.

“And speaking of those people. Your statement says that you are ‘full of love’,” the interviewer quotes “is it love for someone special?” she questions with a quirked eyebrow.

Simon feels himself holding his breath because this is the moment. With Wille’s next words everything will be out. And he’s scared shitless but also proud and so full of love for his boyfriend too.

As long as they’re together, it will be fine, he tries to remind himself.

But then Wille on the screen smiles, that one real smile that Simon has witnessed so many times already and it’s like Simon’s fears and worries fade into the background when he sees his boyfriend being genuinely happy at sharing the news.

Simon has been focusing so much on the bad parts that he’s forgotten about the good ones. About the fact that he and Wille will just get to be. Together, no hiding, public dates, holding hands on the streets, stealing kisses over shared meals at restaurants… it will be a whole new experience and all of the emotions Simon has been already feeling are joined by one more.

Pure excitement.

Because he’s in love and he’ll finally get to show it.

“I am in a happy relationship if that’s what you’re asking,” Wille replies almost grinning.

Simon can feel Erik’s teasing eyes on him but he just continues to smile, his cheeks burning.

“Can we take that as a confirmation of the rumours?” comes the next question.

“I think it’s quite easy to put the two and two together,” Wilhelm retorts. Just like he told Simon, it’s subtle yet there because they still want to be the ones confirming it together, just them, on their own rules.

All of these emotions in Simon seem to accumulate now as he feels tears pricking in the corners of his eyes. Ones of joy, but also slightly of relief. He’s never doubted Wille, never considered he would back down last minute or anything. But he’s also learnt to be prepared for everything, no matter how shocking the outcome may be.

“Is there anything more you wish to say to the people of Sweden right now?” The interviewer gives Wille the space to share more.

“Yes, actually,” his boyfriend admits. As he clears his throat his expression becomes a bit more serious and his voice stern as he speaks “all I am asking of you, is to respect our privacy. It’s already been invaded enough and it’s been a difficult time for us as we’ve been dealing with it. So please, just think before sharing a photo are writing a comment that may not do anyone any good. We are also just people, we have feelings and emotions and some of you may think we don’t see what you write online, but we do. I don’t want to hear any more about my boyfriend being harassed by some pushy journalists or either of us being asked invasive questions about our relationship. Please, just be human about it.”

Boyfriend.

Wilhelm just called him his boyfriend on television.

And Simon knows he shouldn’t really be focusing on that fact because everything else Wille said is more important and he agrees with every word. Wilhelm did say he will continue to protect them from the public, the hate, as much as he can and Simon knows this is him taking the first step in it and he appreciates it so much.

He’s not sure how much this statement will help but it’s there and hopefully, it will make some difference.

“I hope everyone has heard the message loud and clear,” the interviewer retorts, coming to an end slowly “thank you so much for your time again, prince Wilhelm.”

“Thank you for letting me use your platform to shed some light on things,” Wille retorts finishingly. 

Simon stands frozen for a few seconds as people begin to bustle around the room again. He anxiously waits for Wille to return, wanting nothing more than to have his boyfriend in his arms now. Because what he’s just done was huge and so freaking brave, and Simon has to make sure he knows it.

Finally, after what feels like an eternity, Wille enters the room again and it’s like his eyes instantly settle on Simon as he quickens his pace to get to him. Simon smiles again, feeling his eyes become glassy and the pride finally taking over his heart. Wilhelm smiles back, just as brightly and sweeps Simon into a hug as soon as he’s within arms’ reach.

Simon holds onto him tightly, as if he was afraid Wille was about to disappear as soon as he’d let go. But he just can’t find the words to explain everything he’s feeling so he lets the actions speak. Wille buries his head in his neck and Simon can feel some of the tension leave his body as he exhales against his skin, hugging him even tighter when he feels him relax.

“You were amazing,” Simon’s voice shakes a little as he whispers, letting them have this moment, saying the words Wille really deserves to hear right now. “I’m proud of you. I love you.” He breathes out, the words feeling rushed but still powerful but he’s afraid the tears will flow if he continues to speak.

“I love you too,” Wille says and Simon can feel him place a lingering kiss on his temple. He almost melts on the spot and has to blink away the tears again.

They pull back slightly then and Simon is reminded that they are in a room full of people after all. But when they hugged it felt as if it was only them and nothing else mattered in that moment. Wille still holds him gently with his arms around his waist and Simon finds himself grabbing at his boyfriend’s arms, all of the emotions almost making his head spin.

“Good job, little brother,” Erik speaks then, clasping Wille on a shoulder with a smile that his brother easily returns.

Wille’s eyes then wander to his parents. Simon feels himself shy away, taking a step back from Wilhelm almost feeling embarrassed after receiving a critical look from the queen at that display of affection. Wilhelm doesn’t let him step too far away though, still keeping to his side.

The queen clears her throat.

“Well done, Wilhelm,” she retorts and Simon observes Wille’s eyes going wide. He’s pretty sure his are the same though.

Because that was not what he was expecting. But it’s a rather welcomed surprise.

“Thank you,” Wille replies eventually after shaking off his daze.

“I was thinking,” Kristina starts then, glancing at Simon and he feels this weird fear returning as he waits for her next words “that since Simon is already here we could talk some formalities through.”

“Like?” Wille asks suspiciously before Simon can even think of any words.

Honestly, he should have expected that there probably is a whole shitload of paperwork that goes with dating a royal but somehow, this thought hasn’t really occurred to him till now. Let’s just say he had other things on his mind.

“He’ll have to sign NDAs and such, for one,” the queen explains in an inert tone “this is just a formality.” She addresses Simon more then. “Everyone involved with Wilhelm or Erik has to sign them.”

Simon is aware but still, he’s just a child, it doesn’t feel like he has much legal power here.

“Oh, I’m still only sixteen so I don’t think I can sign anything without my mom here actually,” he points out cautiously. The queen remains silent for a while, eyeing him with an almost judging look “and I’d like to read through them before actually signing anyway.” He adds hesitantly.

He may not have much experience, the most serious document he's ever signed is probably his employment contract at the pizzeria, but his mom did teach him to always read everything, even or especially the small font, before he signs anything. It’s just for precaution. He doesn't want to get himself, or his family also on that matter, into some mess, even if unconsciously. It'd just feel reckless to go into anything blind at this point.

There’s a weird, tense silence lingering around all of them for a while.

“You could maybe look through them with our lawyer now and if you have any doubts, he can clear them up right away?” Erik eventually breaks it as he suggests encouragingly.

And it does sound reasonable, Simon must admit. He’s no legal expert but he wants to know what exactly he’s getting himself into with signing whatever they want him, or more like his mom, to sign. The contract, or whatever, will probably be full of phrases Simon has no idea the meaning of and he still wants to have some sort of control. Or gain it.

“Yeah, okay I guess,” he agrees, throwing a careful smile at Erik.

“Very well then,” the queen retorts officially “Minou can take you to the conference room then.” She informs.

“Okay,” Simon says but reaches for Wille’s hand as he feels another wave of stress and panic fill him. It all may be reasonable but it’s also freaking huge. He just wants to be with the man he loves but everything that comes with it is just… really a lot for a sixteen-year-old. It'd be a lot for most of the people, he supposes.

He truly has some getting used to to do. He’ll be fine, he just needs time. That’s what he’s telling himself.

He can feel Wille’s fingers lock around his, bringing back some comfort at least.

The queen clears her throat again, her eyes flicking to their joint hands.

“Wilhelm, we must look over the takes from the interview now to make sure everything is in order,” she announces then “I’m sure Simon will be fine on his own, let’s go” the gaze thrown Simon’s way definitely leaves no room for discussion since without even waiting for a reply she begins to walk off, expecting Wille to follow but he doesn’t right away.

Instead, he turns to Simon, literally keeping the queen waiting.

Simon feels a sliver of satisfaction at that.

“Will you be okay?” Wilhelm asks him as he squeezes their hands together. His expression is slightly annoyed and Simon kind of feels the same because they are being pulled apart again when he wants nothing more than to just be with his boyfriend now but he should have expected it wouldn’t be like this. Wille’s eyes also shine with concern a little, tracing Simon’s face carefully and trying to read the emotions there that Simon hopes he’s masking well. He still doesn’t want to worry him since Wilhelm seems to have some other things to attend to now.

Simon nods, hoping the gesture would come out more confident than it probably does.

“This won’t take long I hope, so I can join you soon, alright?” Wille tries reassuringly.

“Yeah, okay,” Simon states, trying for a smile but even he can feel it’s not very genuine. He’s too scared and stressed to manage more though. “I’ll be fine, don’t worry. Go do what you have to,” he adds, mustering up any residues of some sort of courage he has left, when everything inside of him just wants to scream at Wille not to leave.

But he knows he can’t do that.

Wille squeezes his hand one more time, his thumb caressing Simon’s knuckles tenderly before he lets go. Simon can feel his palm turning cold almost instantly.

A woman approaches him then. She’s dressed smartly with her hair neatly pulled together at the back of her neck. Simon assumes it must be Minou, the PR manager. She offers Simon a smile and gestures him towards the exit. Simon throws one more look at his boyfriend before he tries to stop being pathetic and just get on with it, so he steps towards the door.

Still, he’s hoping Wille can join him soon.

“Please, follow me,” Minou says after they leave the room and all Simon can do is manage a weak nod in answer before they begin to stride down the huge hallways.

Simon tries not to pay attention to his surroundings too much, mostly just staring at the fancy carpet beneath his feet as they walk. Usually, he’d hate the weird silence and probably try to small talk with the woman at least but it’s like all the words die on the tip of his tongue today and he just stays quiet. It’s probably not the ideal first impression he’d like to make on the palace staff but, let’s face it, he’s just freaked out and he thinks he has a right to be.

Soon, they reach the right room as Minou opens the door and lets him in. Simon offers a small, grateful smile as he slides inside.

The room is mostly empty besides a long, heavy wooden table that would fit at least sixteen people. Simon lets his eyes roam around the space, once again realising how… official it all feels.

“Please, take a seat,” Minou instructs him and gestures to the chair at the foot of the big table. Simon eyes it almost cautiously before eventually pulling it out and sitting down “Mr Larsson, the lawyer, will be here shortly. I have to leave now since the queen needs me.”

“Okay,” Simon nods a little as the woman types something onto the table she’s holding “thank you,” he adds politely.

Simon is not exactly intimidated and it’s not like she is rude but just so… stiff and formal. And he knows it’s her job and she can’t really let herself be laid-back or anything but still, some banter would for sure release at least a bit of tension.

Minou looks up eventually and nods before turning to exit the room, leaving Simon alone.

He looks around again, letting out a bit of a shaky exhale now that he’s all by himself in the huge room. His fingers tap nervously but rhythmically against the shiny countertop of the table. Oh, how he wishes he could put on some music to calm his nerves now.

Then he realises he should probably fix his posture and sits a bit straighter, shifting in his chair and clearing his throat. Fuck, he’d never think he’d be worried about such things as slouching or leaning his elbows on the table but there he is. It may not be the queen who he’s going to be seeing now but he’s aware that literally, everyone here can report to her on his behaviour. Better to be safe than sorry, the queen is already not a fan of him.

He startles when the door bursts open and nearly jumps in his chair.

A middle-aged man in a neat suit enters, closing the door behind himself and straightening his tie a little as he approaches Simon. He’s tall, his dark hair deftly slicked back and put together in place, a slight beard and moustache covering his face.

Simon feels himself stand up as the man comes up to the table.

“Sorry to keep you waiting, Mr Eriksson.”

Mr Eriksson. Am I forty or something? 

The man extends his hand in greeting. 

“Larsson,” he introduces himself in a rather official tone “the lawyer.”

Simon shakes the offered palm. The man has a firm, almost bone-crashing grip.

“Simon,” he says although Mr Larsson is obviously already aware of who he is. They stand there shaking hands for probably which is a bit too long but Simon doesn’t know who should let go first “the boyfriend,” he adds, realising how stupid it sounds as soon as the words are out.

Mr Larsson cracks a smile, letting go of his hand eventually.

“Let’s take a seat,” he retorts and gestures to the chairs.

Simon takes his previous seat while the lawyer settles on his right. There’s a moment of silence when Mr Larsson begins to pull out some documents from a folder he brought with him. Simon keeps looking as a stack of papers begins to form in front of him. He swallows thickly as it just keeps growing.

“Now,” Mr Larsson’s voice startles him again. He aligns the documents to lay evenly on the table “here are the NDAs you are required to sign plus some other formalities.”

Simon nods slowly.

“I’m sixteen,” he says carefully “so I probably can’t-“

“Yes, of course, we will forward everything to your mother,” the lawyer informs.

“I was told I’d be able to ask any questions?”

“That’s what I’m here for, Mr Eriksson,” the man leans back in his chair a little, his hands folded together on the table “ask away if anything is unclear.”

“Okay…” Simon trails off, reaching for the first page.

It feels like it’s going to be a long meeting.

He makes it through the first few pages without much trouble. It’s mostly some legal basis that he doesn’t really care that much about. He starts reading more intently when it comes to all of the do's and don’ts, the things he can and apparently can’t do when it comes to the public image of his and Wille’s relationship.

Mr Larsson has wandered away from the table as he’s pacing the room, but not in an impatient manner really. He’s been giving Simon all the time he needs to get acquainted with this. He’s typing away on his phone when Simon raises his eyes to him again, a question forming on his lips.

But the man’s attention is not on him so he awkwardly raises his hand as if he was sitting at his school desk, but still, no reaction.

He clears his throat. Apparently, loud enough for the man’s attention to focus on him.

“Yes?” Mr Larsson asks as he makes his way back to the table.

“It says here that I am not allowed to share content of me and Wille or just of Wille-, I mean, prince Wilhelm,” he quickly corrects himself but damn does that feel weird to call him that “without first checking in with the PR team?”

Mr Larsson glances at the document.

“Yes, that seems to be correct.”

Simon looks at him for a few seconds since he doesn’t offer any more words.

“Why?” He asks eventually.

“Mr Eriksson,” Mr Larsson starts slowly and yep, Simon is slowly getting annoyed with the Mr Eriksson thing “prince Wilhelm is a public person so any sort of content shared of him has to be approved by the PR team to make sure it’s not damaging for his public image.”

“So what? Why would anyone even think I would ever post something that somehow ‘threatens’” he puts air quotes around the words “Wille’s image?”

“Nobody thinks that, Mr-“

“So why this statement in the document?” He questions, his tone coming off a bit harsh.

But how is that fair? Is he supposed to call the PR team every time before posting an Instagram story? He’s just in love with his boyfriend for goodness sake, of course he would never do anything to damage Wille’s image. Some innocent, disgustingly cute photos sure seem harmless enough.

But of course, in the crown's eyes everyone from the outside is probably either a gold-digger or a spy going on the inside to corrupt the monarchy or something. Simon understands precaution, he really does but that's just pushing it for him. He wants to have at least a bit of freedom still, little sliver.

His question clearly takes the lawyer aback a little since he’s trying to form some reply, seemingly not having prepared one. Maybe he didn’t exactly think Simon would have any questions actually.

Simon exhales then.

“What if we changed the ‘content’ to ‘incriminating’ or ‘damaging’ content?” He suggests, not sure if he even has a right to propose such changes but hey, he’ll try everything to gain some control.

"And what exactly is your definition of "damaging"?" Mr Larsson asks, squinting his eyes a little as he looks at him.

Simon shrugs.

"That would be for me to decide then," he retorts. That's kind of his point, the little loopholes he can use to gain himself some control.

He's always been good at class debates and discussions. If anyone assumes him of breaking the deal, he'll fight his way through with the little cracks in the door he's leaving open for himself now.

He knows it's risky but who said he can't have his tiny bit of fun and games in all of this? The worst that can happen for now is that his improvements just won't come through.

The lawyer considers him for a moment with a thoughtful look before, to Simon’s surprise, nodding slightly.

“I like the way you think, Mr Eriksson,” he retorts, grabbing the pen from the table and scribbling Simon’s correction into the contract.

Simon feels himself smile a little.

Maybe it won’t be that bad and maybe he did in the end win over at least one member of the palace’s staff.

 

 

 

 

They go through the rest of the contract and all other documents together and provide some more corrections Simon suggests. Mr Larsson informs him that he cannot guarantee everything will make it through with the queen but he will try to argue as much as he can for them. Simon finds himself grateful for that because honestly, he doesn’t think any of the changes he demands are unreasonable. It's also nice to see the lawyer seems to be on his and Wille's side in all this.

Eventually, after what feels like a hundred hours at least, they both get up from the table and Mr Larsson straightens his jacket a little.

“We will forward all the improved documents to your mother,” he informs “and I recommend going through them again to see what changes ended up being implemented.”

“Sure,” Simon nods along with his words. The man puts out his hand then again.

“That would be all, Mr Eriksson,” he states and Simon grabs his palm with a relieved smile.

Is this what Wille’s normality is like? And Erik’s? Shaking hands with lawyers, sitting in hours-long meetings, reading through over a thousand pages of documents… it’s a lot, Simon is not sure if he could succumb to such a life.

But he realises he kind of has to, kind of already has.

Maybe he’s being foolish thinking that it will only be like this for now, in the beginning, to settle the formalities. Maybe it will be even worse further on but right now he doesn’t want to, can’t think about it.

“Thank you,” he just tells the lawyer and is dismissed with a smile then, leaving the man to collect some last documents as he heads towards the door, more than ready to leave the conference room.

Only then he begins to panic again because fuck, how is he supposed to find Wille now? He paid totally zero attention to the route here and even if he did, who says Wille will be back in the interview room? Or even in his room? What if he’s in the queen’s office or whatever? Simon has totally no idea where that is or if he’s even allowed there.

He reaches for the doorknob with a shaky hand, the room suddenly feeling a bit too hot.

But most of his panic evaporates as he steps outside and sees his boyfriend already waiting there for him, a warm, welcoming smile on his face.

“Hi,” Wille greets when Simon’s eyes land on him.

“Thank God you’re here,” he can’t stop the relieved exhale as he quickly comes up to his boyfriend and grabs his hand, needing comfort. “I was afraid I would have to find my way back alone. I’d totally get lost.” He confesses.

Wilhelm tugs him a bit closer by their jointed hands, till he can wrap his arms around him and hold him gently. Simon easily allows it.

“I’m here,” he says and Simon slowly feels himself begin to relax. He’s okay, he’s with Wille again and this godforsaken day is finally coming to an end. “How was it?” His boyfriend asks him then, looking at Simon curiously but also with a hint of worry.

But Simon suddenly feels exhausted. It seems that now that he’s finally here, safe, comforted and in Wille’s arms, he finds it easier to let go, let all the tension and tiredness bleed out of his body that he must have held still and straight for the past few hours. He almost slumps against Wille’s frame, letting him hold him up.

And when it comes to his question Simon mostly just feels… weird.

It will for sure take some time to get used to and Simon doesn’t like this fact. He’d love nothing more than to just jump onto this straight-on, plaster on a polite smile, make small talk with people, keep up with everything in boring meetings, not feel this raging anxiety every time Wille’s not near him when he’s in the palace…

But he can’t. He never even imagined doing all that and now he’s been thrown into this head-on, with no preparation, no words of advice.

He knows Wille tried, did basically everything he could to prepare him for what’s to come and he doesn’t blame his boyfriend in the slightest. But he also had a lot going on and giving Simon proper etiquette lessons wasn’t really the most crucial point.

But he suspects it will come someday. He already dreads it.

Simon drops his gaze, reaching with his fingers to play lightly with the collar of Wille’s dress shirt in a nervous manner, letting himself gather his thoughts. He hopes Wille is not mad at him for how shitty he’s been handling all that. He will try to do better, he doesn’t want to be an embarrassment to his boyfriend.

“A lot,” he eventually answers the question “I… don’t get me wrong, I’m glad I could ask all the questions and stuff but it’s just…” he trails off, not even sure what he wants to say.

“A lot?” His boyfriend repeats sympathetically, making Simon chuckle but he nods. There probably is no better way to describe it.

“Does your offer to freak out still stand?” He tries jokingly but it still comes out more nervous than he’d like to. Still, Wille laughs softly, the sound ringing pleasantly in Simon’s ears as it echoes along the empty hallway.

“Always,” Wille replies and then leans in, pressing a soft kiss to Simon’s forehead. He feels himself relax further into the tender touch of his boyfriend’s lips, almost letting out a relieved sigh. He tucks his head under Wille’s chin and hugs him, the embrace immediately being returned as Wille’s arms squeeze him tighter. “I’m so sorry I couldn’t be there,” his boyfriend adds as one of his palms goes to run through Simon’s hair comfortingly.

“It’s okay,” Simon just mumbles into his neck. He’s aware Wille had important stuff to do himself, they can’t spend every second of every minute and hour together, no matter how much they want to.

“Were they nice to you at least?” Wille asks, something wary in his tone.

“Yeah, they were alright,” Simon admits. It really wasn’t the worst and the people were high-level professional, that’s what he values but also… “it all just feels so… official.” He retorts, again struggling to find the right word to name it.

“I know,” Wille says sympathetically, hugging him a bit tighter. They stay like this for a few long seconds, or minutes even and Simon lets himself soak all the comfort he can.

“Everything went fine will all your stuff?” He decides to ask eventually, pulling back slightly so he can look at his boyfriend.

Wille nods in answer, sending him a reassuring smile.

“Everything went good,” he retorts genuinely.

“Are you coming back to Hillerska today?” Simon asks then. He really wants nothing more than to go back home now but he also wants to spend time with Wille. If they could go back together it would at least grant them some more moments.

“Yeah,” Wille replies “we can go back together. But we have to wait till after the interview airs and we post the photos. Mom will probably want to check in with me.”

Simon understands that so he nods and offers a smile. Maybe they can at least hide away in Wille’s room as it all goes down so he can feel a bit of comfort, being safely sheltered by his boyfriend’s strong arms.

“Come on,” Wille takes him by the hand then, an almost excited smile playing at the corners of his lips as he leads them down the hall. Simon can’t find it in him to share the excitement nevertheless it’s nice to see his boyfriend like this. “I have a surprise,” Wille informs and Simon feels himself wince.

“I’m not sure this is a good time for surprises,” he states, initially feeling apprehensive about whatever his boyfriend might have come up with.

“You’ll like this one,” Wille assures him and somehow, Simon believes him. He trusts him enough to know Wille wouldn't drop some other shoe on him after the day they’ve just had. Whatever he has in mind, Simon is sure he will enjoy it if he says so “remember when you said that it was my turn to plan a date?” Wilhelm inquires then.

Simon frowns. He does recall his words, they feel like ages ago, especially since he feels like he’s aged at least ten years in the span of the last few days, add the Mr Eriksson thing on top of that. He nods, letting Wille know that he remembers. But there was never any pressure for it, especially with everything that came crushing on them, and Simon hopes Wille knows that.

“So what if I told you I actually planned one?” Wille asks with a glint in his eyes but Simon just continues to stare at him confused.

“You said we can’t leave now,” he points out. His boyfriend nods but his grin is still in place on his lips, as if he knew something Simon doesn’t. And he does actually.

“But nobody said we can’t have fun while here, let’s go,” Wille just smiles over his shoulder again, tugging at Simon’s hands to make them speed through the palace’s hallways.

And Simon doesn’t know where they’re going but he realises, he kind of trusts Wille to lead him anywhere.

And his boyfriend is so sweet, planning a date after the stressful day they’ve just had as if he knew that just what Simon needs is a few moments to relax with his boyfriend and forget about the outside world, even if for just a minute.

Yeah, Simon really is in love with that boy.

And the struggles may be far from over now. Even today they still have the official announcement of their relationship to make, but Simon doesn’t feel so scared about it, not anymore.

Because it’s going to be just him and Wille. Taking back control, reclaiming what’s been taken away from them, doing it by their own rules, the way they fought for it.

And as long as he’s with Wille, he will be okay.