Actions

Work Header

Fit for a Prince

Chapter Text

Tweaking his double-breasted jacket, Robert gave himself a once over in the mirror. The mirror that stood proudly in the glistening grand entrance of the palace he was born and raised in, mocking him as he rubbed his eyes dry of tears. Of any sign of weakness. He straightened himself out, loosened his shoulders and exhaled. 

He was Robert flaming Sugden; he wasn’t going to let some prejudiced tyrant floor him.

Not today.

He turned to face the double doors in the corner of the hall where King Jack waited on the other side. Actually, seethed seemed more appropriate. Robert could just picture him burning a hole in the carpet with his freshly polished dress shoes, wondering where it all went wrong. 

 

Earlier that day...

Robert’s eyes rolled to the back of his head as Aaron’s lips left little wet patches from his neck to his navel, the gruff man’s fist gliding up and down his slick cock. The parting of Robert’s lips grew as his head rolled back onto the pillow. Aaron’s mouth was pure bliss and it hadn’t even reached the spot where Robert most desired it yet.

Unlike a sloppy hand job, squished together in the backseat of Robert’s Porsche, or a frantic fuck on the floor of some derelict barn somewhere deep in the palace grounds as they fought off the cold, this time was slow. This time was fluid. Aaron took his time to explore every freckle, dimple and birthmark on Robert’s body whilst they soaked up each other's warmth on a king size bed fit for a… well, a king. Or, in this case, a prince. Life couldn’t get much better than this.

Robert pouted when Aaron detached himself from him and slid off the edge of the bed to take a swig of beer. Aaron’s tongue darted out to lick his top lip as he tossed the empty bottle in the wicker bin by the nightstand and swiftly returned himself to Robert’s side, continuing what they’d started. 

“I forgot beer’s your one true love,” Robert said. Aaron just let a huff of air escape his nostrils, his hand finding its way back over to Robert’s impatient cock.

Robert manoeuvred himself up slightly so that he was on top of Aaron and his lips nibbled, sucked and grazed at Aaron’s neck unapologetically, motivated by the drop of Aaron’s jaw and the hot breaths it emitted. Aaron’s hand only left Robert’s cock to cup his own growing bulge through the stiff denim of his jeans.

“Think we should get rid of these,” Robert panted, tugging at the material. Whilst he was gloriously naked, the summer breeze that swirled around his balcony coming through the crack in the door and nipping at his skin, Aaron was still covered from head to toe. That just wouldn’t do. He rolled off of Aaron, allowing the younger man to strip under Robert’s intense gaze as his cheeks flushed crimson.

…..

Afterwards, as they lay there basking in their release, Aaron and Robert found solace in tangling themselves up together. The rich silk of Robert's sheets was chilling on Aaron's bare skin and he sighed, feathering the tips of his fingers up and down Robert's thigh. 

"So, what now?" he asked.

"My Dad's attending a dinner party later on, you can sneak out after he leaves."

"Just like that. Never changes, does it?" 

Robert turned to face Aaron, his fringe bouncing on his forehead. "Please don't make this any harder."

"You say that every time," Aaron said. Robert leant impossibly closer, his breath tickling Aaron's pores.

"It- it's how it has to be."

"No."

"Yes."

"You're a coward," Aaron spat. He was hurting and it projected right onto Robert like a missile. 

If Robert's voice faltered or cracked, he tried his best to not let it show. "Don't say that. I think I have a right to feel the way I do, given what I have to lose."

Aaron frowned. "What? The inheritance? A few motors? Or your family who you don't give a toss about anyway?"

"It's you," Robert said, a little louder than necessary but Aaron didn't flinch. He just had this pitiful look drawn onto his face that Robert had seen one too many times. "Coming out, it'd– I like it being just me and you. That will be over the second this gets out. And I know you value your privacy, Aaron, so I'm sorry if not coming out yet makes me selfish but I am thinking of you. Just not in the way you want."

Aaron lay there in silence, his eyes trained on the intricate details in the ceiling. He understood, he did. Coming out wasn't a walk in the park, it was like a never-ending, baking walk through the desert that leaves you with a spinning head and lips drier than the cracked ground beneath your feet. Where the only thing on the horizon for miles and miles is sand, sky and sun, no matter which way you face.

He studied Robert’s face. He watched the freckles come alive under the ray of daylight, the twitch of Robert’s lips as he fought to stop them from down-turning, and the little quiver Robert’s chin always did whenever he was on the verge of tears. Robert’s mouth parted to let out a sigh and his breath danced about in the jilted atmosphere. 

The duvet rustled as Aaron sat up, his chest a sight that Robert’s eyes would never get tired of. Aaron’s eyes shifted about uncomfortably. “Look, Robert, I know it’s not easy but– but it might not be as bad as you think. Years and years ago, maybe, but now? And I don't care! I don't care about me, I'm already out.”

Robert huffed, pulling a face that resembled a sulking child.

"I do give a toss about my family, by the way," he murmured, shifting himself so that he was level with Aaron. "Deep down."

Aaron gave a half-hearted smile. "I'm not gonna force you to do anything, Robert. But promise me you won't put it off because you're scared I couldn’t handle it."

"Let's just enjoy the rest of the day," Robert said, nuzzling his nose in Aaron's hair and breathing in the scent of the younger man's shampoo.

He closed his eyes and his lips met Aaron’s for the umpteenth time that day.

The funny thing is Robert almost sensed his father’s presence before he heard it speeding down the halls like a freight train. It crashed into Robert’s door with a moan.

“For goodness sake, lad, it’s mid-afternoon. What are you still–” 

And suddenly Robert’s inability to get out of bed on his day off was the least of Jack’s worries.

 

Back in the present…

Robert’s had a hand on each door handle when Victoria appeared by his side, just like that. Robert could swear that girl was a phantom

“Dad’s fuming with ya,” she said, one eye on the door as the other eyed up her brother for gossip. “What have you done?”

Robert bowed his head. “Nothing, Vic. I haven’t done anything this time. But thanks for assuming.”

“C’mon, Rob. Don’t be like that. I’m sure whatever it is–”

“Dad caught me with someone.”

Vic tittered. “Is that it? Join the club.”

Robert chose to ignore his sister’s revelation and dragged her away from the steaming ears of his dad, back over to the grand ol’ mirror where he’d started. 

The man staring back at him was the proud result of Aaron’s snaking hands and searing mouth, still fresh in his mind little under an hour later. His jacket was crumpled from being discarded on his floor, his hair had gone wild and his cheeks were rouge. 

He cleared his throat. “It was a man.”

“Right,” Vic said, her mouth agape as Robert’s words stayed out there. “I– Okay, is it a one night thing or…”

“No.”

Victoria could hear her brother’s smile in just that one small word and that was enough for her.

…..

Robert was a fan of cop shows. He loved watching detectives break a suspect down to dust. Sometimes all it would take is for the first question to be the right question and the criminal would snap before they had even started to fray. Other times, they played it cool, keeping a poker face whilst they were silently unravelling beneath the surface. Robert liked to think that if he was ever in that position he would be the latter.

“What is it with you, eh?” Jack pinched the bridge of his nose as he brought Robert back into the room. “Are you trying to send me to an early grave?”

Robert didn't dare answer that question.

“So you’ve decided that all the poor women who have inexplicably thrown themselves at you weren’t enough so now you’ve moved onto men?” Jack spouted, Sarah shaking her head at him from across the kitchen island.

Robert’s mum put a finger and a thumb either side of his chin and lifted his head up. “It’s alright, sweetheart. It’s just a shock, that’s all.”

“I can’t talk to you about this.”

“Where’d you meet him then?” Vic chimed in from her spot on the counter, unbothered as her legs dangled to and fro'. 

Robert looked at her then back at his mum. It was like looking at the same person. This warm, caring individual who only wanted him to be happy. “He’s a friend of Nicole’s.”

“Nicole? Isn’t she that tart Dad tried to set you up with the other month?”

“Victoria!” Sarah tutted.

Robert only wished he had stuck around to see the look on Jack’s face when he realised how spectacularly the blind date he’d set his son up with last Spring had backfired. 

Instead, in his true fashion, he ran. One measly question had cracked him.

Chapter Text

The clank of the palace gates shutting behind him gave Robert the push to keep walking forward, beyond the driveway and past the pristine bushes that had been trimmed within an inch of their life, until he ended up face to face with the sorry frame of his Classic Porsche. 

It was peeling at the seams and Robert needed to shove a screwdriver in the ignition each morning to get it going but he just couldn’t find an excuse to let go of the car that had seen him through the past twelve years and served as a comfort to him when nothing else did. He sank into the driver’s seat and picked at the leather interior.

It wasn’t until a sleek, matte-black jeep pulled up in his rear-view mirror and unloaded his oblivious brother, dozy sister-in-law, two dodgy tans and a small fortune of luggage that he got his wheezing, spluttering engine going and put his foot down.

Now it was time to pray to God that his sat-nav had saved Aaron’s address.

…..

Shockingly, a fifty-five minute drive through central London during rush hour did not make Robert feel any better. But he had made it to Aaron’s, he hoped, and that did make him feel better. 

What he hadn’t remembered from when he’d dropped Aaron off the morning after the night they’d met, which felt like a lifetime ago when in actuality they’d only known each other for a couple months, was that Aaron lived above some swanky bar with this wanna-be retro vibe that was… questionable. The name─Adam’s─in neon lights, fake greenery on every wall, and cocktails starting from £12.99 or something ridiculous. That sort of place. It didn’t scream Aaron, that’s for sure.

(Perhaps the reason that Robert had no recollection of this bar beneath Aaron’s flat was because it was his driver who had dropped them off in the early hours of the morning whilst he was busy spewing into a carrier bag in the backseat after one too many jager bombs. Maybe.)

Robert’s luck checked in when he noticed a metal staircase that began at the side of the red-brick building and disappeared round to the back. There was plastic ivy wrapped around the railing, naturally.

Once he had finally got over himself and climbed the stairs, the first thing Robert saw, to his surprise, was a secret, unkempt terrace, guarded by a blue French bulldog who had been enjoying a spot of sunbathing before he’d heard Robert approaching and gone berserk.

Sure enough, Aaron then appeared from the large window in the corner of the terrace that acted like a miniature pair of double doors. He hushed the yapping dog and sent him inside. Kevin, as Aaron had called him, obeyed with a sniff.

“Sorry, I probably should’ve asked if I could come round first. I just needed to see you,” Robert admitted, his head turned sideways as he stared at anything but Aaron. “I can leave if─” 

“I’m watching my baby sister for a bit,” Aaron simply said, his smile warmer than the July heatwave London was currently falling victim to. “We’re playing ballerinas and firemen if you care to join us.”

There promptly came a series of barks from inside followed by a scattered crash and a screech that turned into a giggle. Aaron clenched his jaw, running a hand through his hair.

“Well that depends, will you be in a tutu or a fireman’s uniform?”

“You’ll have to come in and find out.”

Robert grinned.

…..

After just twenty minutes Little Eve had crashed on Aaron’s lap, her rosy cheeks smushed into her brother’s shoulder as she clutched her toy fire engine in one hand and her tiara in the other. Between her heavy breathing and Kevin’s snoring, any gaps in Aaron and Robert’s conversation were nicely filled. Not that there were many.

“I had no idea your mum had another kid,” Robert said, forgetting about his own life for the afternoon as he refused to budge from Aaron’s sofa.

“Up until a month ago that would’ve made two of us,” Aaron sighed. “Full of surprises, my mum.”

When Robert met Aaron, Aaron couldn’t haven’t pointed Chas out in a crowd. She’d walked out on him when he was still wearing Thomas the Tank Engine pyjamas and did a pretty good job of pretending she didn’t even have a son. That was until she’d ended up in London just sixteen days ago, Eve on her hip as she begged for forgiveness on Aaron’s doorstep.

“She cheated on Eve’s dad and bottled it when she got caught, took Eve, and ran away. She’s got no family left that respects her so she finally remembered I exist,” Aaron explained as he shifted Eve, his tone bitter.

Robert couldn’t comprehend why Aaron was even giving Chas the time of day. For Eve, he figured. But if he were Aaron, Chas would have a door in her face and one less family member to treat like crap.

“Letting her back in your life is more than she deserves,” Robert said.

“She is trying now, which is an improvement, I suppose.”

“Yeah, and thirty years too late.”

Aaron scratched his eyebrow. “Anyway, enough about my shitty family. What about your shitty family?”

Robert went a little spacey as that feeling settled in. Dread. He knew he couldn’t hide at Aaron’s forever. A hyperactive two-year-old running round and round the sofa and Aaron’s stifling conversation about how his boss faked a heart attack to get out of signing his divorce papers could only distract him for so long. Still, it made a nice change to cracking open a bottle of Sauvignon and necking it alone in his room which had been his plan before he ended up gravitating to Aaron’s place instead. He felt safe here.

Robert was swarmed by thoughts at the back of his mind as Aaron waited until he was ready, smoothing out Eve’s tutu. "Well, my Dad's probably shooting whisky as he writes me out of his will." Eve hummed in her sleep, the corner of lips curling up as if she found the image funny.

"He'll come round," Aaron said. Robert’s only thought was that he couldn’t see Aaron being this calm once the salivating press inevitably got a taste.

"I wouldn't be so sure."

“He might surprise you.”

Robert exhaled from his nose. “Didn’t have you down as an optimist.”

Aaron shrugged as he used one hand to push himself off the sofa, trying not to jostle Eve too much. He disappeared for a few moments and Kevin opened one eye that didn’t close until Aaron reappeared with toddler-free arms. He wasted no time in plonking himself down impossibly close to his boyfriend and gleaming up at him. God, Robert was in way too deep with this man.

“Everyone sees my dad as this─ this great man, this hero,” Robert said. “And why? He has his moments but I’m sick of him getting all this respect when he has none for me. He makes me feel like shit for just being myself.”

“Don’t think about his position for a minute. What about the people who matter? Your mum? Vic? Are they honestly that blind?”

“Vic couldn’t care less. My mum was a little surprised but I reckon she's alright with it,” 

“Then give them some credit. It’s not as one sided as you think,” Aaron said. “And if your dad goes to the press with all this dribble about how you’ve let him down, which you haven’t, then there’s no reason why you can’t give ‘em your side of the story.”

“Whatever happens, it’ll be a mess,” Robert sighed.

“Then I’ll help you… clean it up.” 

Aaron visibly cringed at his closing remark but Robert just stared at him with these irresistible heart eyes, already perfected after just a few months. He threaded his hand through the hair at the nape of Aaron’s neck and pulled him in for a soft kiss.

“Thank you.”

….. 

When Robert put his handbrake on and selected neutral it was way past dinner time, his stomach was yelling out in anger, and all he wanted to do was scoff down a serving of whatever their chef had prepared that night and curl up in bed.

Alas, life must go on. 

And it sure did. He’d managed to get all of 10 yards down the entrance hall when Sarah stuck her head around the corner and made a right fuss as she jogged over to him, her silk robe flowing behind her.

“You’ve had me worried sick, love,” she fretted.

“Sorry, my phone was off.”

Sarah just threw her arms around him and suddenly Robert was five years old again, crying because no one had spoken to him on his first day of school. 

She took him through to the kitchen and dished him up some Thai curry, knowing what he needed without a single prompt. She then prepared them each a cup of peppermint tea and sat at the island opposite Robert. As the steam coming from Sarah’s favourite mug warmed her face, she ached for her son to communicate with her.

“I’m really sorry,” he said.

“The only thing you should be apologising for is letting me think you were dead in a ditch,” Sarah told him. “And I’m sorry too, as it goes.” 

Robert finally looked up at her. “Mum, you’ve got nothing─”

“I’m sorry for whatever it is I’ve done that made you think you can’t talk to me about this.”

Robert blinked his tears away, screwing his face up as he put his loaded fork down.

“I’m not gay,” he said after a beat. “I like both.” 

Sarah just nodded, listening.

“His name’s Aaron.”

“And you like this Aaron? It wasn’t just sex?” Sarah asked, way too casually for Robert’s liking.

“God, no,” he grimaced, turning back to his curry.

Sarah gave Robert’s cheek a fond squeeze. “Invite him round for dinner.”

Robert snorted. And then he realised that his mum was being serious.

“Yeah, that will go down well.”

“I’d like to meet him,” she said, like that was the all the reason he needed.

“Hm, maybe at Dad’s funeral.”

Sarah light-heartedly swatted her son on the back of his head. “Bring him around on Saturday, alright? I’ll make sure your dad’s on his best behaviour.”

Well, it would seem Robert was exactly four days away from having his very own dinner party from hell. And he’d attended several banquets and gala dinners hosted by disgraced politicians so that was saying something.

Chapter Text

"Knock knock."

Aaron's eyes darted to his bedroom mirror to see Chas stick her head around the window. She was standing on his terrace with a fixed smile that told him she wanted something. 

'Ooh," Chas marvelled at Aaron's pressed navy suit, ducking under the windowpane and inviting herself into his bedroom. "You meeting the King?"

Aaron choked on the nervous air he'd been breathing out all morning. At least he now knew he looked the part.

"Something like that," he said. It's not like Chas, or anyone for that matter, would believe him anyway.

"Well tell Queenie I said hi, we go way back," she joked. 

It was funny how life turned out sometimes. He, Aaron Dingle, an excon who used to shove his trackies into his socks and walk around giving it the big I am, was having dinner with the Royal family. 

He'd even gone to a tailor's for the first time in his life because that's how much of a doubtful mess he was. Adam had said he was being dramatic despite not having a clue why, Aaron then told him to go back to selling overpriced hamburgers.

“So I take it you can’t watch Eve for me,” Chas said with a cough.

“What?”

“Eve. Can you watch her tonight? I met this bloke on the tube earlier, he had a missing tooth and kept scratching his bits but he only lives on the other side of Islington and I’m not getting any younger.”

Aaron shuddered. The vegan burger from the bar’s new menu that Adam had forced down his throat at lunchtime was threatening to come up more violently than it had gone down.

“Gross,” he said, his lips downcast. “And no, I’ve got plans.” To hammer that point home he rummaged through his drawers as the clock ticked.

“Please, love?” Chas pouted.

Aaron rolled his eyes, sighing as he gave up the brief search for his cufflinks. “Sure, let me just drop everything so I can watch your kid whilst you get your leg over. No, Mum, get lost.”

Chas was stung. And Aaron wished he didn’t care, but he did. He perched on the edge of his bed and patted the mattress next to him, Chas raised an eyebrow as she sat beside her son.

“If this guy has any sense he’ll wait for ya,” Aaron said, putting an arm around his mum. “Trust me.”

Chas enjoyed the rare moment for what would never be long enough before she suddenly lifted her head up, her eyeliner smudged. “You’ve not actually told me where you’re off to.”

"Yeah, nice try."

…..

Aaron left his flat through the front door for a change, a claustrophobic spiral staircase—that he’d fallen down too many times to count after a night on the town—leading down to the bar. He was on the last step when a plain middle aged man in a plain jacket with a plain face appeared out of thin air.

“Mr Dingle,” the man correctly identified. Plain voice. Aaron swallowed. “Paul Burton. Royalty Protection Group.” 

Oh. 

Paul flashed a badge that Aaron pretended to read. “The Duke of Wessex has asked for me to escort you to Buckingham Palace.” 

Double oh. 

Duke of Wessex was Robert’s official title, and this stony man was one of Robert’s official bodyguards.  

This wasn’t news to him but damn, Aaron will still be processing all of this on his deathbed. 

He gave a slight nod and followed Paul through the bar and outside to a glistening, blacked out Mercedes that probably cost more than his flat. Paul patted Aaron down from his shoulders to his ankles then waved an NDA in his sweaty face. It was the same protocol as the first time except it lacked Robert's lager-soaked breath giggling his ear and those intoxicated hands exploring his body.

"You know I've already signed one of these," Aaron pointed out.

"The King has requested that you sign another." 

Ah. Of course he had.

…..

Buckingham Palace—well, the private quarters anyway—was surprisingly… homely. 

For every momentous ceiling with the most intricate detailing, mesmerising mosaic crafted by the hands of some of the most distinguished architects to have lived, and splash of gold in each direction you looked in, there were family pictures on every wall and surface, books and magazines covering the coffee table, and the odd pair of dress shoes left discarded in the corner. 

Aaron had walked these red and gold halls one or twice, rushing to and from Robert’s bedroom during off-peak times on those days when they were both too lazy to check into an understated Hotel that could actually keep Robert’s residency behind closed doors. But Aaron had never seen them like this , almost welcoming him with open arms as the smell of homemade lasagne floated past his watering mouth.

A radiant Queen Sarah was the first Royal to greet him after Paul had dropped him off at the entrance. She gleamed as she kissed Aaron on each cheek, taking the bottle of vintage champagne he'd brought with him with a tut. 

"You shouldn't have, love," she chuckled affectionately.

"I only grabbed it from my mate's bar, so," Aaron said, straightening his tie. His nose twitched as he cringed at what was basically an admission of petty theft. Great start.

Eh, it could only get better.

And boy did it get better. Out of one of the many ceiling-height doors came Robert, sauntering into the great hall and looking a million dollars.

Before Aaron could properly eye his boyfriend up, King Jack appeared from the same door, considerably less welcoming than his wife. Aaron's head hung low as Jack walked on by and with a half-assed glance, barely acknowledging him. Aaron could feel the fervour coming from the glare Robert shot into the back of the King's head.

Sarah cleared her throat. "Let's pop that champagne, shall we?"

…..

Robert handed Aaron a lager as he re-joined everyone at the dining room table. He was sitting next to Aaron, with Andy opposite him, Vic opposite Aaron, and Jack and Sarah occupying each end of the table. There was a rigidity in the air that was like a pesky spurt of hiccups you couldn't get rid of.

Jack looked like he was about to burst a vein but so far so good, he was keeping stumpt apart from when he was chipping in every now and then to ask Aaron the bog-standard getting-to-know-someone questions. Where are you from? How old are you? What do you do for a living?

Aaron's from Yorkshire, he's thirty, and he works at a dodgy garage that's bound to go bust any day now. Jack, on the other hand, was a fuse box just waiting to blow in the storm, the storm being the mixture of port and brandy that was insulating his gurgling pipes.

"So, Aaron, Paul's told us you own your own bar," Sarah said, sitting up straight.

"Erm, not quite, my mate Adam actually owns it," Aaron clarified. "But since he spends most of his time helping his mum out on the farm, I rented the flat above from him."

"Sounds respectable. A young man doing his own thing in the world but not forgetting where he came from, just how it should be.” Jack put his cutlery together and unbuttoned his blazer. “And what about your family? What are they like?"

Aaron’s tongue prodded the inside of his cheek and he looked at Robert for an answer.

“Well, Aaron’s mum is a character. She recently came back into his life so they're still getting to know each other,” Robert said.

Victoria’s eyes widened as she listened intently, her mouth full of minced meat. Even Andy’s eyes flickered up from his empty plate.

“She’s alright though,” Aaron said. “She always just wanted the best for me, and she knew that wasn’t her. I grew up with my dad and step-mum instead.”

“And they raised you well?”

Aaron almost laughed at Sarah’s question. “No, not really. My dad died when I was a teenager and Sandra turned to drugs as a way to cope. Me and my sister ended up in care until I was eighteen.”

Jack looked like he was on the brink of a heart attack and Aaron had only scratched the surface of his family history.

All of the women Robert had been sniffing around in the past were in his realm. They were prosperous and traditional, titles being thrown at them whilst money grew in their four-acre gardens. On the contrary, Aaron’s mum spent the majority of his childhood earning a living on a stripper pole. Aaron was from a different world, admittedly.

“That’s hardly something you want people knowing, is it?” Jack said, receiving an odd look from Aaron who went quiet.

“You mean that’s something you don’t want people to know,” Robert barked.

“Can you imagine anything that’s been said tonight being associated with this family? We’d be a joke.”

Sarah shook her head at her red-hot husband. “You’re being a joke right now. Pack it in.”

Aaron took his napkin off his lap and balled it up in his fist, tossing it on the table. He then stood up so quickly that the scrape of his chair legs on the marble made the brewing argument come to a stand still. 

Robert immediately raised from his seat too. “Aaron—”

“Sorry, I— Erm, I need the loo,” Aaron said.

The Royal’s all hesitated for one very awkward second until Vic smiled. “I’ll show you where to go.” She, bless her, led Aaron through the door and out of earshot.

“What is wrong with you?” Robert hissed at his dad, leaning over the table as his tensing palms clasped the edge of the Oak. “You just insulted Aaron’s family straight to his face! And that’s you trying, is it?”

“I have tried! I’ve tried to act like this is all normal for your mother’s sake but come on, Robert, humour me here. I mean how would it even work? There’s no such thing as a Duke and Duke for a reason, this kind of lunacy would be mocked by the public.”

“This isn’t about what the public will think, this is about you still not being able to accept that I might end up marrying a man!”

“Still?” Andy said, gaining a voice all of a sudden. “He only found out the other day.”

“No he didn’t,” Robert said, scornful. He turned to his father as he addressed the room. “He’s known since I was fifteen and he caught me at it with one of the footmen. He’s spent every day since trying harder and harder to carry on like what he saw never happened.”

Sarah was too stunned to say anything, remaining statuesque in her seat as she took it in. Andy was glued to Jack’s steaming face.

The King blew. 

“Fine! Is this what you want to hear? I fired that footman before he was even off his knees and if you weren’t my son I would’ve done the same to you,” Jack roared, his eyes turning Robert to stone. “And for months and months afterwards I kept hoping that if I squeezed my eyes shut hard enough before opening them then I would finally wake up from this nightmare!”

Sarah stood up in a flash and slapped Jack right across his miserable face, the sharp noise deafening. “Get out of my sight,” she said, her voice calm. “This family is supposed to be about leading by example, being the first thing in the public’s mind when they think of Britain at its finest. Heaven knows why you’re the head of it.”

Jack took one last disappointed look at his youngest son and edged towards the door. “Exactly. Finest. What’s fine about some thug who comes from a family of—”

“A family of what?” Aaron cut Jack off as he reappeared. He leant on the doorframe and rubbed his blotched eyes. 

Chapter Text

Aaron shrugged his blazer off and leant back on the bench he'd found somewhere in the gardens, the odd gatekeeper or gardener giving him a strange look as they went about their shift. The seat's metalwork was cold on Aaron’s skin and it seeped through his white shirt. He made a fist and rested his chin on top of it, pursing his lips in a moment of peace.

Said moment of peace didn’t last for long. Of course it didn’t, he was only a few hundred feet away from the most famous landmark in the country, nay the world. Robert was approaching with his tail between his legs and a delicate china bowl in each hand. He had a contrite smile that warmed the tips of Aaron’s fingers.

“You can’t leave without dessert,” Robert said, handing Aaron the serving of trifle he’d brought outside for him. His knees clicked as he connected himself to his boyfriend’s hip, his eyes scanning the everlasting sights before them.

Aaron’s jaw twitched in its best effort to smile. 

“I’m sorry,” Robert said. “For what my dad said. You didn’t deserve any of that.”

Aaron picked up his spoon and prodded the layer of cream, hesitating. “It’s true though, innit?”

“No.”

“Your dad's right. It’s hardly gonna do you any favours for your reputation or whatever, being linked to me."

Robert shook his head. “I don’t care. None of that matters.”

“Don’t be daft, Robert, how can you not care? Don’t you get it? It’ll change everything for ya, and not for the better," Aaron argued, his eyes wet but no tears coming out.

“Aaron, come on. You were telling me only the other day that I shouldn’t worry about you. That you can handle it. Don’t bail on me now," Robert pleaded. He took both of Aaron's hands in his and squeezed them tightly. "Look, you can't change your upbringing. A-and I can't change mine. So we'll just have to deal with what happens next. Together. Okay?"

Aaron took a deep breath and stuck his head in his trifle, licking his lips. Robert knew that was as good an answer as he'd get.

"Don't take anything my dad says personally, by the way. He's a twisted bigot."

Aaron scoffed. "He's the most powerful man in the country, I can't exactly tell him where to shove it. People used to get banged up for that."  

Robert tittered, pulling Aaron close to him. And closer. And closer still. Aaron anchored him to the ground. He quickly felt the weight of Aaron’s heavy head on his shoulder and he rubbed Aaron’s upper arm tenderly. “Stick with it, yeah? I don’t want to lose you.”

Aaron let those words hang in the air, nestling his beard into the cashmere of Robert’s jumper. 

…..

The lines on Paul’s forehead softened when he finally spotted Robert and Aaron strolling around the thorn-covered corner, the blooming white roses swaying behind them. Their palms were clasped together and their fingers were intertwined. Paul felt the tension in his trained muscles begin to leak out of him.

Robert’s glee faltered when he saw his security guard. “I thought you were done for the night.” He unlocked his car, the Porsche flashing its hazards as it woke up.

”Chance would be a fine thing.” Paul crossed his arms, his feet shoulder-width apart. His aftershave scratched Aaron’s nostrils. “Some low quality photos have surfaced and the press are having a field day. It’ll only be a matter of time before Aaron’s name is in every household.”

Aaron gulped, his hand slipping away from Robert’s. They were soon left motionless at their respective sides of Robert’s car.

“Already?”

“You know how it goes, Robert. I’m surprised it took as long as it did.”

'What pictures?" Aaron asked, his voice small.

"The two of you in your flat. Nothing graphic. They were taken from across the street by the looks of it but they're clear enough," Paul explained. "Here," he said, pulling his phone out of his blazer pocket.

Robert snatched the device as Aaron's teeth scraped on his bottom lip, redness forming around the mouth in seconds. Through the window, Aaron was a nobody who could be seen smiling at, unmistakably, the Duke of Wessex as their knees touched on his royal blue sofa. If you looked closely enough Eve's plastic wand could be seen sticking out from behind one of the cushions. The picture was grainy but it hit them both in HD.

“Right, well, thanks for letting us know,” Robert said. “Now if you don’t mind, I’m taking Aaron home.” He opened his car door, focused on ending the night the way he’d planned which involved less fretting under the dark grey clouds of a looming media storm and more of his mouth travelling up and down Aaron’s arching body into the early hours of the morning.

“I suggest you both stay here where there’s protection,” Paul protested. “At least until this blows over.”

“But it’s not going to blow over, is it? This is it now,” Robert said, a little harshly but anyone who knew him well enough could tell he was just worried.

Paul sighed. “Robert—”

“I’m not on duty, alright? And you shouldn’t be either. I appreciate you picking Aaron up earlier but you can clear off now.”

“You’re right, I should be at home with my wife and kids, but I’m here because I’ve been doing this job for nearly thirty years and I know how it goes. Just do as you’re told, yeah?”

Robert went quiet after that and Aaron interjected the conversation. “Whoever took that photo was right outside my house, spying on us. He probably still is. My address is out there now and unlike you I don’t have a half a dozen guards at each entrance.”

Giving in, Robert chucked his car keys at Paul’s chest.

Paul internally rolled his eyes. “I’m not your keeper, Robert. I’m just doing my job if you’ll let me.”

Robert sulked off in the direction he’d come from and Aaron ran his fingers through his hair before accompanying him. One of the crisp white roses climbing up the stone was unable to hold on for any longer and let go, floating all the way down to the ground where it was flattened in a heartbeat by one of the soles of Robert’s patent Versace shoes.

…..

Robert snagged a bottle of Vintage Cognac from Jack’s treasured drink cabinet because he could. He poured himself and Aaron a double shot each and the two of them forced the copper liquid down without a single word being exchanged.

Aaron melted into the three-seater sofa (one of three that were laid out in a U shape) and he’d never felt so many materials on his skin at once; silk, leather, satin, cotton, all united on a piece of furniture that vomited royalty with its shimmering gold embroidery as the focal point.

He heard hushed tones coming from the adjoining room, which he could only guess was the King's office based on absolutely nothing at all, and watched Robert set his glass down with darkening eyes. 

Aaron went to tear Robert away but he too got reeled in. He’d never had a need to impress people but people weren’t the rulers of the island he was born and bred on.

"I don't get it. Aaron's dead common, nothing like who Robert normally goes for," came Andy’s voice, mid-conversation.

“So? You can’t help who you fall for,” Victoria testified. “And Katie wasn’t exactly in our circle when you met her, was she?”

“She still comes from an admirable, hard working family and she quickly proved herself. She belongs in this family,” Jack said.

“Unbelievable,” Robert spat. Reluctantly, he let Aaron pull his burning ears away from the crack in the door.

“Let’s just enjoy the rest of the evening,” Aaron said, his voice as silky as the brandy Robert couldn’t stop nursing.

Robert welcomed the distraction and he pushed Aaron back onto the sofa, putting his spirit glass down right next to the perfectly good coaster because he knew it would piss his dad right off. He climbed on top of Aaron, kissing him deeply, and his hands ran down Aaron’s body until they finished at his hips. The kiss was messy with the intention of leading beyond where it was currently at. Teeth clashed together and tongues fused into one.

Aaron’s fingertips tangled themselves up in Robert’s hair and tugged, catching Robert’s breath and replacing it with a moan that made him shiver. His itching hands gravitated towards Aaron’s belt buckle before Aaron suddenly stopped them in their tracks.

"They know you're with me now, you don't have to prove it to them," Aaron pointed out.

Robert palmed at Aaron’s crotch and kissed him impossibly harder. “Do you want me to stop?

“That’s not what I said,” Aaron breathed. “You’ve got a perfectly good bed in the other wing, ‘s all I meant.”

…..

The following morning Robert woke up with heat still whirling in the pit of his stomach. He stretched as his right hand snaked down his stomach, tracing the hairs beneath his belly button before making its way under his briefs. He took a hold of his semi-hard dick and whimpered into the golden light of his bedroom. 

His head fell to the right of him but when he opened his blissed eyes he was met with nothing but a cold, empty bed.

There was a faint knock on his door and two seconds later Victoria stuck her head round it. “Don’t forget you have a meeting with the chairman of that children’s charity in an hour.”

She gave a small smile and closed the door behind her.

…..

Aaron turned onto his street as he kept looking over his shoulder. He wasn’t sure what he was expecting to see but there was nothing. The air was still and the sound of day-to-day life in central London seemed to have been turned right down.

He slipped into Adam’s bar as spots of rain began to fall and it was dead. 

There was a waitress or two setting up for the day ahead as some psychedelic pop track wound up Aaron’s ear drums. Also, to his surprise, was his garish mother unloading the glasswasher in a blouse that had Adam’s logo proudly stitched on it.

“Ah, the wanderer returns. And still wearing yesterday’s suit, I see,” Aaron groaned as Chas stood up straight, polishing a gin glass with a stupid Cheshire Cat grin on her face. “What time do you call this?”

Aaron took a seat at the bar, massaging his face which he was sure had aged ten years overnight. “You got yourself a job then?”

“I sweet talked Adam round just like I said I would, said he wouldn’t regret it and battered my eyelashes at him,” Chas recalled as she reached into the bar cooler to grab a bottle of beer and cracked it open for Aaron. “On the house.”

“I’ll be having words with him then,” Aaron joked weakly. He twizzled the bottle around so he could see the label and pulled a face. Chas picked up on it and started dithering. 

“Oh, do you not like that one?” she quizzed, already reaching for the sliding fridge door.

“It’s fine, Mum, I’m not fussed.”

Chas loosened and piled a few more glasses onto the shelf behind her to fill in the dip in the conversation.

“Ey,” she perked up a moment or so later, her fingers fanned out as she leant on the steel bar top. “Guess what was all over the news this morning. Pictures of Prince Robert being all cosy with this bloke who is the spitting image of ya.”

Aaron wanted to laugh but he didn’t have the energy.

“Where do you think I’ve been all night, Mum?” he said, raising an eyebrow as he slouched into his stool.

Amusing as it was to watch his mum’s face go through as many different expressions as it could muster with three rounds of botox in it whilst she put two and two together and got madness, Aaron could really do without being in the firing line so he stood up in pursuit of the stairs to his flat.

“You? And the Prince of bloody England?” Chas sounded out. The sentence was drenched in disbelief.

Aaron's small steps amounted to nothing and he was left standing sluggish by the exposed brick with his hands in his trouser pockets. “Don’t think that’s his official title.”

“Seriously? That’s— That’s just mad.”

“Yeah. Yeah, it is,” Aaron agreed with a solemn nod. “Which is why I’m back here and no longer in Buckingham Palace listening the King tell me I’ll never be welcomed into their family because I come from a bunch of prostitutes, criminals and junkies.”

Chas’ heart sank just a little bit. She put her tea towel down, her ears and arms open.

“He made me feel well small. And Robert, yeah, he stuck up for me but as soon as things got real he turned into a petulant child. I like him, Mum, but I like only him. Just the two of us. I didn’t sign up for his nosey sister and his weird brother, and a million guards and PAs.”

Chas smiled sadly. “Of course you want moments alone, moments of normalcy, and you’ll get those. But like it or not you also signed up for all of that other stuff when you decided to be with him.”

“Mum—”

“Love, I know it’s a lot for you to take in but this is the first in line to the throne we’re talking about here. Don’t be hasty,” Chas said, trying to lighten the mood.

“The life I got a glimpse of last night, it’s someone else’s,” Aaron said, admitting defeat. A pool brimmed in the corner of his eye. “It was never gonna work, was it? Me and him. Probably best I move on, find someone more… What's the word? Common.” 

And with that, Aaron retreated up to his overcast flat.

Chapter Text

Throwing himself into his work was basically the same as throwing himself into the deep end of a concrete pool with no water in it, Robert figured. It hurt. Knowing that Aaron wasn’t happy hurt.

Victoria had managed to postpone the charity meeting but the afternoon came with a tiresome ceremony that handed out awards to fresh and upcoming employees in the Government like they were free candy sticks at a school fayre. Robert had made it through and come out the other side with the knowledge that he could make several young, government hopefuls silently shed tears into their vaul-et-vaughns if he was in a foul enough mood. Which he was.

He didn’t care, though. Instead, he swirled his whiskey around the glass as he was led to the White Drawing Room. It was one of the smaller state rooms in the palace, still having the charm but without the intimidation. The guard opened the double doors and a glint appeared in Robert’s eye.

Nicole stood up, tugging at her tweed skirt.

Robert dismissed the guard and gestured for Nicole to sit back down. “Didn’t think I’d see you again.”

“Well here I am. And I bet you can't guess why,” she said, her hands on her knees. Robert could see her pupils dashing to every corner of the room, soaking it in.

"My dad?" Nicole's nude lips smudged together and she gave a single nod, just in case it wasn't obvious. “He’s not giving up, then.”

"Felt sorry for the guy, it can't be easy being that much of a wanker." Robert snorted at the red-head's comment. "Thought I'd humour him."

Robert liked Nicole. She was a mess, truly, but Jack had of course failed to look beyond her family name and eight-digit bank balance when he'd introduced her to him. Robert had wined and dined her because why not? A private room in a Michelin star restaurant never hurt anybody. Nearly two bottles of champagne later and she was all over him, her perfume leaving traces in his hair. He'd made the mistake of opening his eyes as her lips sucked at his neck and that was when he saw Aaron for the first time, those blue eyes unreadable as the red-faced man shuffled from one foot to another. 

Nicole had followed Robert’s eyeline and laughed through the realisation that she'd lost Robert before she even really had him.

Robert could spend the rest of his life thanking Nicole and it would never be enough.

"Aaron's done a runner," he admitted after the memory had finished playing.

"Can't say I'm surprised."

"Cheers."

"It's a lot. For anyone, let alone someone like him," Nicole said sympathetically.

"So I should just wish him farewell?"

Nicole kicked her heels off and tucked her legs up on the sofa. "No, just give him time to get his head around everything. He'll come round."

Robert frowned. "Either that or my dad's little plan has worked."

…..

Focusing on the weight of the tin of dog food in his hand, Aaron bowed his head down as he sped up. Kevin trotted along beside him, jumping up every now and then at the smell of his dinner

Aaron's newly developed sixth sense of feeling the cameras on him—no matter how small or far away they may be—came to the forefront and it tingled. No, scratch that, it burnt. 

The sooner Aaron was back in his flat the better.

When he finally shut his terrace window behind him, Aaron closed his eyes for a second before being beckoned into the kitchen by his poor starving dog. He filled Kevin’s bowl then switched his phone back on with a sigh, plucking at his beard. Messages flooded through one by one and ninety-nine percent of them from Robert. Figured.

With fluttering thumbs and this... resistance coming from the bottom of his heart, Aaron blocked Robert's number. And boy did it take all he had.

…..

“Remind me how you and Aaron know each other.”

“My parents fostered his sister,” Nicole said, sitting up straight.

Robert raised his eyebrows. “Liv?”

“Mm. On and off for a good ten years, she wouldn’t settle anywhere else. Then a couple of years ago, as soon as she turned eighteen, she moved in with Aaron.”

“But your parents never fostered Aaron?” Robert queried.

“He was out of care by then,” Nicole explained. “He hated my parents at first, he’d wanted custody of Liv but he didn’t get it so he blamed them. Once he realised that Liv was doing okay he warmed up to us.”

Before Robert could ask any follow up questions Andy was standing in the doorway like a lemon, eyes dropping to the floorboards when he spotted Nicole.

“Sorry, I, uh— Dad wants to talk to you,” Andy sputtered. Robert groaned and threw his head back in annoyance.

Nicole took that as her cue and readjusted her jacket, sliding her feet back into her heels. “Well, it was nice catching up, Your Highness,” she gleamed. She slipped past Andy and down the corridor, followed by an expressionless guard.

Andy crammed his hands in his trouser pockets and hovered, strained.

“Is something going on with you and Nicole?” Robert said, cutting to the chase.

“You what?”

Robert held his cocky head high. “You couldn’t look her in the eye and she couldn’t get out of here quick enough.”

“You know, not everyone’s hiding something. We’re not all as cagey as you,” Andy said, spitting with spite.

“Spoken like a true guilty man,” Robert teased.

Andy shook his head in disbelief. “Are you insane? I’m married to Katie.”

“It’s written all over your face, Andy. Nicole’s not done trying to squirm into the family and since you don’t have a backbone you let her in. Did she drop her pants as quickly as Katie did?”

“How dare you,” Andy snarled. “You know what? I’m not listening to this.” He was ready to take off when Robert slurred one last remark.

“Okay. I’m sure Katie will be happy to listen instead.”

Andy froze with his back to Robert and Robert, as smug as ever, grinned. He was bang on the money and both brothers knew it.

…..

It was past two o’clock in the morning when Robert unsurprisingly found himself outside Adam’s, staring up at the second floor wistfully. Paul, who hadn’t washed his hands with Robert quite yet, leant against the Mercedes as he exercised his jaw, waiting.

“What’s the plan, Robert?” Paul asked. “Throw stones at his window like something out of the movies?”

“I just— I need to see him.”

“You’re just drawing attention,” Paul pointed out as clusters of people gathered under the streetlight.

Robert ignored him, despite Paul’s best efforts, and ascended the fire escape onto the terrace. He tapped on the window, adrenaline jackhammering into him, and when Aaron opened it Robert was struck. Aaron’s hair was free and he gazed at Robert with his bright eyes as the stars shone above.

Aaron’s t-shirt waved in the night-time wind. “Do you know what time it is?”

“Sorry," Robert said, the speech he'd stumbled over in his head on the way over failing him. Turning up on Aaron's doorstep in this yearning state wasn't something he wanted to remember in the morning.

"Why're you here?"

"Please don't give up on me." The plea left Robert's mouth in a whoosh.

"Robert—"

Robert cut Aaron off, desperate. "You— you keep saying that you can handle it. But you keep running."

"I'm not good enough for you," Aaron answered lamely. 

"That's rubbish."

Aaron rolled his eyes as he absently scratched his forearm. "Is it?"

"Yes. And even if you weren't, it doesn't matter to me," Robert stressed. 

“It matters to everyone else.”

“Forget about everyone else.” Creaking hinges and whistling winds slapped Robert across the face, he swung his legs around so that he was perched on the top step down to Aaron's room and latched the window closed behind him. “I like you, Aaron. A lot. You’re the only man I’ve ever spent more than one night with, you’re the only one who’s— who’s worth all of this.”

Aaron climbed the small number of steps up to Robert and they sat side by side. “How do you know?”

“Do you not feel the same?” Robert questioned. “Is that what you’re trying to tell me?”

“No, Robert,” Aaron said, exasperated. “You know my feelings towards you.”

“Do I?”

Aaron’s eyebrows furrowed, a splash of red being painted on his cheeks. His hand that had found itself attached to Robert’s dropped. “How can you say that?” Aaron cried. “I didn’t leave yesterday because I don’t feel anything for ya, I left because I feel too much for ya. It’s only been a few months and I’m in so deep, it’s scary.”

“So you were creating space,” Robert realised, his dry eyes blinking on auto-pilot.

“Trying to. Didn’t bank on you weeping at my window in the middle of the night.”

“Sorry about that,” Robert said, a weak attempt to be funny. Aaron exhaled through his nose. 

Aaron took Robert’s hand once again, his thumb tracing Robert’s knuckles. “What happens when this blows up? I’m guessing the fuse has already been lit.”

“Honestly? I don’t know,” Robert replied. Aaron bit some of the skin off of his bottom lip. “Sorry, I know that’s not what you want to hear.”

As his legs had begun to lose feeling, Robert shifted his weight anxiously. “I have a small tour around Northern Ireland starting the week after next. Come with me.”

“What?”

“Charitable service. Meeting people from different organisations, showing support, raising awareness. One of the biggest parts of my job,” Robert said. “It’ll be three weeks max. A lot of downtime.” He put his palms on either side of Aaron’s analysing face and kissed him tenderly, his lips still lingering when he pulled away. “Let the cameras film what they want and we’ll deal with it when we get back. Just me and you.”

Aaron’s eyes were lifted by his suitcase that had been carelessly chucked onto the top of his wardrobe when he moved in, there was a thick layer of dust covering it and Aaron’s mouth smiled until it ached.