Rating: M. Later chapters will be MA.
Adult material. If you are underage, you should go read another story.
Summary: This is a story that follows our favorite couple through their present (from the moment Clarisse asks Joseph to marry her), back to the past and then into the future.
Disclaimer: I own none of these characters - that privilege belongs to Meg Cabot and Disney. I simply tell their story for my own enjoyment.
Chapter 1: They Meet
He couldn’t believe his ears. He stood still motionless until he heard her say “Dearest Joseph”. At that point he stepped forward, slightly bowing his head out of respect and, on auto-pilot saying, “Yes, your majesty”
Then the words he never thought he would hear, “….will you take my hand in marriage?”
All time stood still, he couldn’t imagine that here, in front of all of these people, she was asking him, Joseph Romero, to marry her! He thought back to when he first came to know her.
35 years ago
Clarisse, I’d like to introduce you to Joseph, he’s the newest member of our security team. A bright, hardworking young man who comes highly recommended. Joseph had heard the words coming out of King Rupert’s mouth, but when the Queen turned from tending her flowers and smiled at him, he no longer paid much attention to what the King was saying about him. Fortunately, years of training had taught him his manners and he smiled pleasantly and bowed slightly and found the words, “Hello. Your Majesty” His eyes locked with hers for just a moment, but it was long enough for Joseph to know that her eyes were the clearest blue he had ever seen.
“Welcome aboard, Joseph. I certainly hope you find this to be pleasant home for you.” The Queen spoke with a perfect accent and manners as well.
“I’m certain I will thank you.” And with that, the tour of the grounds and his duties continued.
He saw her occasionally on the grounds during his normal duty time. He had not been in the royals' employ long enough to be given the responsibility of personally guarding one of them that came with time and experience. He had worked hard, though, in the hopes that some day guarding her would be his sole mission in life. Of course, getting to be near her a majority of the time would be one of those “fringe benefits.” He would occasionally see her and make polite conversation always trying to treat her with the respect due a Queen and the friendship due the wonderful woman behind the Queen he feared that not too many provided her with that type of relationship.
At first she had seemed a little put off by his forwardness, but once she realized (or she thought) that he had nothing but honorable intentions, she began to relax in his presence somewhat. Over time he had settled into palace life and began to take notice of the little things. Little things like the King and Queen did not get along necessary well; they had separate suites (although there was a secret passageway that linked the two); and the King was becoming increasingly agitated that they had not produced an heir yet (although to Joseph having separate beds could be a major cause of this).
One day he had found the Queen in one of the greenhouses tending to her roses. To the untrained eye (or one that had not spent as much time as he could secretly studying the queen), everything would appear normal. However, Joseph had seen small tears escape down her cheek and her wiping them away as quickly so no one would notice. Joe smiled to her personal body guard and asked if he could go in. “Be my guest she’s in a mood anyway. Perhaps you can bring her out of it- no one else has been successful thus far today.”
“I shall try.” And with that, he put on his best smile and stepped into the greenhouse.
“Hello your Majesty. Your flowers are absolutely magnificent.” He had used his low, calming voice and it had rolled off his tongue almost as velvet. She turned to him with her “Queenly” smile, but not before he noticed her wiping a tear away again.
“Oh hello, Joseph - thank you for your kind words. I’m afraid these roses are a passion of mine and I try to sneak away every moment I can to tend to them. I so enjoy their beauty and fragrance.”
“Then I should leave you alone to tend to your passion.” Again he gave her that killer smile.
“No, Joseph...please stay. I could use a ...‘friend’ right now.” She had hesitated before her use of the word friend, but he took hope in the simple fact that she had said it.
“Than I shall stay.”
She didn’t offer any more right then and so he picked up a spray bottle and began imitating her actions and tending to the beautiful roses. After a time, she stopped and said, more to the flowers than him, “I’m pregnant.”
“Why your majesty that’s wonderful news. The King is most happy, I’m sure.”
“Oh, yes he certainly is he now has his heir.” There was a strange tone to her voice and Joseph decided that he wouldn’t pressure her he may be treading on ground not meant for a lowly security guard to be walking on. Secretly fantasizing about his Queen was one thing getting involved in her marital problems especially when those problems involved a King was entirely another.
In a completely unexpected move, she turned to him and sought comfort from him. The tears were flowing freely now. He wasn’t sure what to do so he made a quick glance to ensure the security guard was looking the other way and put his arms around her and just held her until the cries subsided. When he felt that she was somewhat composed, he placed his finger under her chin and lifted it up slightly and asked, “Do you want to talk about it?”
Those eyes, those crystal blue eyes that were now awash with tears gazed into his dark, obsidian eyes for what seemed like an eternity to him but in reality was only a few moments. She seemed to be searching him deeply. For what, he wasn’t sure but he gazed back at her openly and honestly concerned only for the welfare of the woman in front of him.
“You know, Joseph, they say the eyes are the windows to the soul.”
“And what do you see when you look into my soul?”
“A friend…a real friend. One that I can talk to and be myself with.”
“You can your majesty.”
She smiled up at him now and quirked her lips into a lopsided smile and said, “Well, then perhaps, dear Joseph, you should call me Clarisse when we are alone just as a real friend would.”
He thought his heart would melt right then and there but he held his composure and calmly replied, “I shall try, your Majesty I shall try.”
A few more moments of silence elapsed before he found the courage to ask her again, “Do you want to talk about it?”
She seemed lost in her thoughts perhaps she was battling with herself about how much to tell him, but somewhere inside of her the decision was made. The decision that she could trust him and with that she began: “I’m sure you’ve noticed, Joseph that King Rupert and I don’t always get along.”
He nodded his assent quietly.
She looked at him, somewhat sadly and then continued, “I have understood, from a very young age, that it was my duty to my country to marry him and produce heirs to the throne.” More silence Joseph waited. “I guess I naively thought that we would fall in love there would be passion and romance ok, maybe after a certain age, I didn’t really think that, but I had always held on to a small glimmer of hope that it would at least be a small part of who he and I were.”
“Am I to assume that it was not the case then?”
She smiled that sad smile again, “You assume correctly.”
“Don’t get me wrong, Joseph. I am happy to be pregnant in that I have always loved children and the thought of having my own was always something I truly cherished. I just thought…”
“You just thought that they would be born out of love rather than duty…?” He let the words hang softly in the air between them.
Quietly she exhaled and then looked deep into his eyes again, “Yes, I think that sums it up very well. It is my duty and one which I shall perform to the best of my ability. It just saddens me that Rupert sees this only as an heir rather than a child. The child hasn’t even been born yet and already he or she is duty bound. I know that feeling well, Joseph and it is not a thought I treasure for my child.”
He had been at a loss of words to say anything at that point so he just reached over and put his hand over her hands which were folded neatly in her lap. He gently squeezed the top one looking deep into the windows of her soul and saw a sadness that made his own heart break.
She allowed the contact for a few more moments as it created a warmth inside of her that she had not felt in a long time…no actually had never felt before. She smiled at him, a sweet and sad smile and then reached up and gently cupped his cheek in what became her trademark gesture of affection between them. And thus, they say was the beginning of a beautiful yet tumultuous friendship.
He saw her looking again with those beautiful, crystal clear eyes at him expectantly, hopefully. Those eyes stating she hoped that she hadn’t waited too long that too much pain hadn’t been caused by her constant choosing of duty over self by her turning him down one last time only a few heart wrenching days ago. He couldn’t deny her anything no matter how hard he tried; and that had gotten him into more than his fair share of hot water and in uncomfortable situations over the years.
Back in time again
“I want you to become my personal bodyguard and I want you…no I ask you, as my friend to accompany me to the doctor for my first visit.”
Joseph hadn’t known what to think. First he was honored that she wanted him watching over her and he was terrified that he wanted her with him at a doctor visit especially an OBGYN doctor hell he wasn’t even sure he knew what those initials even stood for.
“But your majesty…”
“Joseph…I thought we agreed.”
“Yes ma’am. But Clarisse I hardly see how that would be appropriate. Shouldn’t it be….oh I don’t know anyone but me?”
She sighed and took on a look he had seen her put on when she was dealing with difficult trade negotiations or diplomats who needed coaxing. “Joseph, my dear, the law states that the Queen cannot visit a doctor of this type alone. There would be too much opportunity for gossip or other unsightly things that I don’t wish to speak about, if I were to be left alone in that particular situation.”
“But the King…surely he would want to be the one to be there?”
“He considers his role in this whole matter of producing an heir to be completed; and, besides that, I have absolutely no desire for him to be present during such an exam. Now please Joseph, it is not polite to make a Queen…or your friend for that matter…beg.”
“What about Olivia? Wouldn’t she be more appropriate?”
“I don’t want Olivia I have no desire for one of my servants to see me in such a state.” She placated now becoming quite tired with this exercise.
“But Clarisse, technically I’m your servant as well or have you forgotten?”
With that statement, a wicked smile lit up her face one that he had rarely seen on Clarisse and never on the Queen. “If memory serves me correctly, Joseph, your service to me is my bodyguard, correct?”
He warily replied afraid of where this was going, “Yes…”
“Then it is your sworn duty to “guard” my body to ensure that this doctor does me no harm correct?” She smiled triumphantly because she knew she had him.
Sensing defeat and deciding to ‘take it like a man’, he bowed low and replied, “But of course, your Majesty. It would be my honor to “guard” your body against anyone and everyone who would ever think to bring your harm.” As he rose, he smiled up into her eyes and once again was rewarded with one of her beautiful smiles. He shook his head and hoped that was enough to get him through this upcoming doctor’s visit.
A few days later….
Joseph still couldn’t believe he had been talked into this. He was here sitting with Clarisse awaiting her first appointment with her doctor he had no idea at the time just how much “quality” time he would get to spend with Clarisse and her doctor over the years and how close, actually, the three of them would become.
At first he was very uncomfortable and kept his eyes pinned solely on a plaque on the wall only briefly glancing at the doctor…and only to ensure he was being proper with his Queen.
“Yes, your Majesty.” Joe replied without even glancing her way.
“Joseph, please stop being so childish and come look.” Clarisse had tried to sound very serious but, truthfully, she was holding back the giggles wishing she could see his face when she made her not so innocent comment.
“Your Majesty…” He wasn’t sure of what to say as he didn’t want the doctor to witness him being disrespectful, however, he wasn’t sure what she wanted him to come and ‘look’ at.
“Oh Joseph, don’t be silly I want you to see Prince Pierre.” With that statement, Clarisse had taken his hand and pulled him towards her. He noticed that her stomach was exposed and that a gel had been applied. The doctor was running an instrument over her slightly extended stomach and it was producing a distorted picture that the doctor had to interpret for him. But once he showed him, Joseph was clearly amazed. He was witnessing life and not only that, but life inside the most beautiful woman he had ever met.
He knew he couldn’t speak at that moment for mere words didn’t convey what he was feeling and he knew that if he said what he was thinking, the Doctor would be privy to information that just couldn’t be shared with anyone. So instead, he squeezed the hand tightly that she had used to pull him towards her, silently thanking her for this gift.
As they got back in the car, Clarisse raised the privacy screen and then turned to Joe and teased, “Now see, wasn’t that worth the momentary embarrassment you experienced?”
He was still reeling from the experience, but decided to tease back, “Well, your Majesty, I never imagined the first time I got to see you with nothing but a skimpy robe on that there would be two other people in the room!”
They laughed together, but he noticed a definitely flush climbing up her face. She turned serious after a moment and raised her hand to cup his cheek again. “Seriously, Joseph thank you for being there with me today. I can’t imagine having shared that with anyone else.”
Chapter 2: Finally
The next few months found Joe spending most of his waking moments with Clarisse and many of his sleeping moments as she occupied many of his dreams. There was much to be done for the arrival of Prince Pierre and Clarisse wouldn’t rest until everything was perfect. With each passing day, the evidence of her pregnancy grew. Of course all of Genovia was excitedly awaiting the birth of the new heir to the throne.
“Walk with me Joseph?” The Queen had sought him out after her dinner.
“Of course, your majesty.”
He handed his earpiece and hat to Shades and offered his arm to her as they began their walk down the aisle. He knew Clarisse was nervous as he felt her hand shake ever so slightly as it rested on his arm.
“I know it is such short notice…but you were all dressed.” She smiled and enjoyed the laughter from the people gathered at the church. She had always used humor to hide her nervousness.
Back in time
She held his arm as they walked through the gardens. He could tell she was nervous, but he wasn’t sure about what. He decided that, as usual, it was best to give Clarisse time and she would talk when she was ready. Any efforts to prompt her would only result in the Queen mask slipping back on and forcing whatever was bothering Clarisse, the woman, back into the far recesses of her mind.
“I’m frightened Joseph.” She stated rather matter of factly after about an hour of walking had passed.
“Of what? You know I’m here to protect you against anyone who would do you harm.” He was rather hurt that she had even thought that someone could hurt her while he was on the job.
She laughed and turned toward him, “So are you planning on giving birth for me then?”
He stuttered and stammered so much that her laughter came again so much so that she had to sit down.
He sat next to her and finally words found him as she composed herself, “Well, Clarisse, I guess you did find one thing that I cannot do for you nor protect you from. You’ve got me there I shall resign post haste!”
She shot a look at him - there was a quick flash of fear in her eyes, but then she saw that he was teasing as well. She recovered quickly and shot back at him, “How about we make a deal then? Instead of your resignation, you agree to be with me when the baby is born if for no other reason to protect me from myself or perhaps, if all I’m hearing about childbirth is correct, you may need to protect the doctor from me!”
Now Joseph had become accustomed to the doctors appointments and even found himself looking forward to hearing the heart beat and seeing the unborn prince on the monitor during an ultrasound, but to be present at a birth now that was another thing indeed. He began to protest but saw that fear in her eyes again and remembered how the conversation started with her admitting to being frightened. He took her hand to reassure her and gazed directly in to her eyes. “It would be my honor your majesty; and for the first time, he kissed her hand.”
Tears escaped down her face. “Damn hormones… it takes every bit of control I have not to scream or cry almost every waking hour of the day!”
Smiling momentarily at hearing Clarisse uncustomarily cursing, he became serious again. “I just have one question what will the King say?”
“He won’t be here when Pierre is born. He left earlier today for a month’s trip to conduct trade negotiations and other matters of country importance.”
“More important than the birth of his first son?”
“Joseph, we’ve been through this. With Rupert and me, duty always comes first. It is the way it must be.” There was again that sadness to her voice, but before she dwelt on it any more or he had an opportunity to respond, she doubled over and inhaled sharply.
“Clarisse, what is it?” Joseph’s alarm was evident.
It was about a minute before she responded. She sat back up looking pale and whispered, “I do believe I have gone into labor. Joseph, please call the doctor and ask him to report to the palace and assist me in getting back to my room…please.”
He couldn’t believe how calm she was although in retrospect, he should have expected nothing less. “Aren’t we going to the hospital your majesty?”
“And have every press reporter, gossip and interested bystander witness this most private event. I think not! The doctor will come here and I will give birth in the comfort of my own home and bed. Now Joseph please we don’t have much time.”
For once the Queen had been wrong not that anyone in the general vicinity of her hearing would dare point that out. The labor had lasted for over 18 hours now and although it hadn’t been extremely difficult until the last few hours or so, her Majesty was beginning to tire and with that some of her control was beginning to slip.
“Joseph, so help me…if you tell me one more time to push I shall push you right out of this 3rd story window!” She almost hissed the words at him.
He had to check himself to keep from chuckling as that would not have been received well at that moment by her majesty. After one more push encouraged strongly by Joseph, the sounds of the future of Genovia were heard throughout the palace.
“Finally” was all Clarisse could muster as she lay back against the pillows.
“Finally” Joseph said as he too now felt exhausted and completely spent after over 18 hours. Although he hadn’t physically given birth to the prince, he felt he had done the next best thing…which was to endure and encourage a very impatient Clarisse.
“Finally” the doctor smiled as he took the baby and began lovingly attending to him as well as finishing up with Clarisse.
“Lord Archbishop I wish to take this man as my husband, if you please.”
“Finally…” the archbishop sighed and Joseph smiled.
Chapter 3: Willingly
The rest of the day had gone by rather quickly. The reception after the wedding continued as planned there were just two different guests of honor. Joseph and Clarisse had been perfect hosts and other than the first customary dance they had shared together, they really had been unable to spend any quality time together since they had exchanged their vows. Finally, the festivities had ended and the palace grew quiet again.
He took her hand and quietly they walked to her suite. He dismissed the guard outside of her doors and they stood there for a moment unsure of how she wanted to proceed.
She turned to him and smiled, “I guess we should talk, hmm?”
A mischievous grin crossed his face as he leaned closer into her personal space, whispering into her ear, “Well, talking wasn’t really what I had in mind, but if you’d like to talk, I’m certain I can accommodate that.”
A pleasant shiver ran down her spine as his breath grazed across her ear and neck; and, for a moment, she had forgotten what she wanted to talk about. She turned to try to look at him and found that her lips were directly opposite his. Years of waiting and wanting were pent upside of her as she closed the distance between their mouths. At first the kiss was tentative as each was exploring and learning the other. She felt her lips instinctively softening and Joseph deepening the kiss all coherent thought was lost at that point as her arms found his neck and their bodies molded together. When he broke the kiss, they were both breathless. He leaned in to whisper to her again, “I’m going to go to my room to get a few things and then perhaps we can ‘talk’ inside your suite? Even though I dismissed the guard for a bit, he will be back and I don’t think he should be witness to any further conversation between us out here in the hall, wouldn’t you agree?”
She could sense his smile as he spoke the words to her and couldn’t believe she had just been so totally lost in the moment that she had been practically making out in the hallway outside her suite. A blush crept up her already flushed face as she replied, “I think that’s a wonderful suggestion I’ll meet you inside in a bit.”
With a smile and a kiss on the cheek, Joseph promised to return as quickly as possible.
She stepped inside her suite and leaned back against the doors trying to catch her breath. All of her uncharacteristic impulsiveness of the day had just caught up with her. It had seemed like, no it definitely was, the right thing to do by asking Joseph to marry her. This is what she they had wanted for years and finally the timing had been perfect thanks to Mia and her quick thinking. As her thoughts started to drift to Mia and what a great Queen she was going to make, Clarisse caught herself and pulled her mind back to present moment. In only a few minutes, Joseph would arrive and she had no idea how the remainder of the evening was going to proceed. Shaking her head somewhat she said out loud to no one in particular, “This is why I shouldn’t be impulsive I definitely didn’t have time to think through this part of my evening….”
She walked into her dressing room certain of one thing, she needed to change before Joseph got back. Although she realized she had no idea what to change into. The nightgown she had been required to wear on the nights Rupert was going to visit had long since been discarded as they held less than pleasant memories for her.
As she opened her closet, she noticed hanging in the front were some beautiful new night gowns. She was certain Charlotte must have arranged for this and smiled as she touched the silky fabric of the material. Her heart smiled when she thought of the woman and then saddened when she thought about recent events...but, once again, she pulled herself from her thoughts this was no time and there was no place for unpleasant thoughts tonight. She had Charlotte’s devotion and Joseph’s love and that was all that mattered at this moment.
She carefully selected a dusty rose colored satin gown that dipped embarrassingly low in both the front and back. The lace covered most of the swell of her breasts, although covered would be an overstatement she thought as she looked at herself in the full length mirror. The spaghetti straps led down to the lace which met in a “V” shape about an inch or so below where her breasts rounded and then continued down a few more inches to where the satin joined and covered the rest of her well at least to her mid thigh. She ran her hands over the gown to smooth everything into place and felt and saw a flush creep up her entire body. It had been such a long time and she had never felt like this before. The butterflies in her stomach were different now than they were on the nights she knew Rupert was coming. Whereas the Queen façade would always take over to help her get through the time with Rupert, she knew there was no place for the Queen in her bed tonight. Only Clarisse and Joseph were to share tonight and shaking her head she realized Clarisse the woman had no idea what she was doing.
Out of habit from years ago, she went to lie down in the bed and wait for him, just as she had done for Rupert when he was coming.
Back in time:
She lay down in the bed smoothing the short white teddy that he insisted upon around her now prone form. She didn’t want to do this it had been a long time since she had “wanted” to do this… but he had decided that he wanted another heir…just in case, he had said.
“In case what?” she had demanded. She didn’t like the thought of him suggesting that something could happen to her son, Pierre who was now two years old, that could either making him unable or unwilling to take the crown when the time was right. She also didn’t like the thought of having to perform her “duty” on a regular basis until she conceived again. It wasn’t that he was unkind to her when they were making love it’s just that they weren’t making love. They were somewhat fond of each other but who had ever heard of “making fondness”? It just didn’t work. She had tried to be affectionate towards him but there was never any tingle inside of her when they touched. Their kisses were always very chaste and although he had always been a gentle lover, she just hadn’t felt anything that would allow her to want or desire to join with him thus it had become another duty that she had to perform.
But tonight was different she was in no mood for duty or service of any kind. She wasn’t sure if it was because she was angry with him from his earlier statements or if it was because of the deepening friendship between her and her bodyguard, Joseph.
Ahh…Joseph, they had shared so much over the past couple of years. The birth of Pierre had actually brought them closer than she ever thought possible. The way he had been so strong during those long, long hours of labor and they way she noticed him looking at her in awe and wonder and maybe even some jealousy the first time she offered her breast to Pierre to nurse. She had chuckled slightly as she had noticed the red creeping up his face as he couldn’t tear his eyes away from the feeding infant or her partially exposed breast and then how he had excused himself somewhat hastily.
Since that time he had always been by her side protecting the Queen and being Clarisse’s friend. Each time he had touched her even though it was mostly in the line of duty, she had felt those small tingles the ones she had never felt before. And now as she laid waiting for Rupert, she wasn’t sure she could convince the Queen in her to do her “duty” tonight.
She heard the doorway of the secret passageway open up and saw Rupert emerge. Rather than laying there and waiting for him to join her, as was their custom, she sat up and turned toward him.
“I don’t want to do this, Rupert. Not tonight not anymore. My duty has been done. Please no more.” She couldn’t believe she had just said those words she knew he would be angry and braced herself for the barrage to come.
His jaw tightened noticeably but he kept his calm. “Lay down, Clarisse. We are going to do this and you are going to comply willingly.”
Her temper flared now, “Like hell I will!” She started to get up, but he was next to her in a moment and had grabbed her wrists and pushed her back down into the bed. His body now covered hers but he was not moving simply waiting for her struggles to cease. When she finally realized that her struggling was getting her nowhere, she looked up at him and with anger in her eyes, “You may take me, your majesty, but it will not be willingly.”
He released her arms and his hold over her and leaned closer so he could whisper in her ear. As she listened to what he had to say no threaten was more accurate, tears welled up in her eyes and a look of resignation crossed her face. She swallowed hard and looked in his eyes seeing there the resolve to do exactly what he had just threatened; and, since she could not bear the thought of that happening, she pulled the nightgown over her head and lay back down.
Rupert smiled realizing he knew he had her. “Clarisse, my dear, I said willingly. Show me you’re willing.”
The tears had flowed freely now as she opened her legs and pulled him to her.
As he began to touch her only one thought kept running through her head…”Joseph, forgive me.”