Flashback: Past, Present and Future

Disclaimer and rating - see first part.

Chapter 11: Just for Tonight

Joseph took her hand and led her on the same path to the secret passage way that he and Charlotte had taken only a week or so before. When they arrived unnoticed into her suite, she broke out in a fit of giggles.

“What is so funny, my darling?” He asked, realizing that he didn’t get to hear her laugh, and especially not giggle, enough.

“I was just trying to imagine what must be going through poor Mia’s mind. Wondering how my shoes got into the greenhouse. I also can’t believe that I was just that impulsive and carefree – I’ve never done anything like that before in my life.”

“I’m certainly glad to hear that; and may I recommend that you do that more often? I know I’m certainly willing to oblige m’lady whenever the desire to be impulsive threatens.” His eyes gleamed as he responded.

She closed the distance between them, putting her arms around his neck. “Well, you certainly bring many desires out in me – my impulsiveness being only one of many.” She kissed him passionately for a moment, breaking away before she gave into another desire again. “So – what are we going to do to retrieve my shoes, without having to explain to Mia how they got there?”

He caught his breath from her kiss before he smiled and responded. “Well there are some advantages to having the head of security as your husband.”

She feigned mock surprise. “Why Joseph – I would never ask you to use your resources to determine when Mia was away from her room to sneak in and retrieve my shoes.”

Now he was the one laughing as she had clearly thought of a plan in the short time from the greenhouse back to their suite. “Which is why, my love, you would never have to ask. I will be happy to provide this service for you. Of course, I must make you aware that the price for retrieval will be very high indeed.”

She moved in close again, delightfully invading his personal space. “I’m sure we could arrange a barter of some kind. I’m sure there’s something that I have that you would…shall we say…like to get your hands on. Perhaps we can arrange a trade?”

She smiled as she felt his body respond to her nearness and his breathy reply. “I’m sure we could arrange something. I’ll make it my priority first thing in the morning!”

They both laughed again, feeling years younger than either had felt in a long time. Both were anticipating the adventure of tomorrow and the coronation that was now only a few days away.

“Shall we retire for the night?” He asked as he began taking off his clothes.

“Yes, I think that would be good as we have a busy day ahead of us tomorrow. I’m just going to wash my face and do all those wonderful things that women must do for ‘natural’ beauty. I’ll be back in a few moments.”

When she returned in her night clothes, she pulled back the covers to get in and noticed that Joseph wasn’t wearing anything. “Are your pajamas missing this time?” She asked.

He chuckled a bit remembering how he couldn’t find his robe the morning after their wedding night. “No, my love, I actually prefer to sleep in the buff and I think it would be great if you do the same.”

He had expected a laugh or some teasing from her and then that she would hopefully comply; but the look that went across her face was anything but expected. She had a haunted look in her eyes as she replied, “I…I can’t, Joseph, and ask that you don’t either.”

Now he was concerned. “Clarisse, whatever is the matter? With the exception of the last couple of nights, I’ve slept in the nude almost every night of my life since I became an adult. I don’t understand. If you’re uncomfortable with sleeping that way, I understand that. I don’t see, however, why you would have a problem with me doing it.” He waited for an explanation. He waited in vain.

“Joseph, I can’t explain…just please, put some boxers or something on…please!” She seemed almost desperate now.

He was really confused now and perhaps slightly annoyed. Only married two days and already she was trying to change him – without even a good explanation. “Just so I understand…its ok to be naked with me in the greenhouse, but just not in our own bed? That doesn’t make any sense, Clarisse.”

She was defensive now. “That’s different, Joseph. If we were making love, I’d have no problem with the fact that your clothes were off; or taking mine off, for that matter. But this is different. So, I ask you again, please – please put something on.”

He didn’t understand it; and, it didn’t make sense. However, he decided that if either of them were going to get any rest tonight, he would oblige her. “Ok, Clarisse, you win this - just for tonight; but, the discussion is not over. I need a better reason to change a lifelong habit other than…well other than your say so. I’m not trying to be difficult, but you have to understand we’re in this together. I’m a fairly reasonable man; but, occasionally I need things explained to me. You do know you can tell me anything, don’t you?” He added the last bit as he felt that there might be more to her demands than merely a dislike for sleeping nude.

“Of course I know that, my love.” She tried to be convincing, but a life time of watching her convinced him that she didn’t wholly believe it. After the drama over Charlotte and then his escapade with Clarisse in the greenhouse, he was tired. He decided to save the discussion for another time. He got out of bed and went to the dresser to get some boxers out and put them on.

Climbing back into bed, he said, “Come on, Clarisse, let’s go to sleep. We have a busy day tomorrow.”

She looked like she was about to say something, but decided against it. She crawled in to bed next to him, kissed him gently on the lips and turned over spooning her back up against his chest. She heard him sigh slightly and then put his arm over her side and settled in to sleep.

Back in time

King Rupert had been sick for a while now and Queen Clarisse had been handling most of the duties of the monarchy. While she was thriving in the role, she was anxious most days between being worried about Rupert and his unexpected illness, Phillipe and his preparing to take the crown which had involved leaving a woman and child he loved behind in America, and over decisions she made that affected the people of Genovia. They were burdens that weighed on her daily. She had come to rely heavily on Joseph during that time as he was caring and compassionate – while still respecting that there were lines that must not be crossed.

One day Joseph had advised her that King Rupert had asked him, along with some other security staff members, to handle a private matter for him in London. As he told her, he was asking with his eyes if she would be ok if he left for a few days. Knowing that Rupert would only want the best handling any personal matters he had, she assured Joseph that it would be alright if he agreed to the King’s request. “I’ll try not to do anything to destroy the country while you are gone.” She teased. He kissed her hand and left for London later that day.

That evening Rupert had requested her presence in his suite. It was late and she was already dressed for bed, but she put on her robe and followed the escort to the King’s room. She noted as she walked in that Rupert seemed to have gotten worse in the last few days. His eyes were darker and set further back in his head – his skin seemed to have lost its color as well. She walked over, sat down next to him on the bed, and took his hand. “Is everything alright? Do you need anything?”

He smiled a weak smile up at her. “Everything is better now that you are here.”

She blushed a bit. “You’re such a tease. Seriously, are you ok? You look really tired.”

He replied, squeezing her hand. “We have become good friends, haven’t we Clarisse?”

“Of course, Rupert. Why would you ask such a thing?”

“And I have kept the vow that I made to you many years ago regarding Joseph, have I not?”

She began to get a little concerned at the mention of Joseph’s name. They hadn’t spoken about her friendship with Joseph since before Phillipe was born and she had made him vow to never threaten to send him away again. “You have.”

“I know he owns your heart, but we are still man and wife, correct?”

She started to argue with him, but thought it not fair to fight with someone so ill – even though he seemed to be baiting her. “Yes. It has been in name only for many years, but yes. And, Rupert, I have honored my promise to you. I have been with no other.”

“I know that, Clarisse. I know that physically you have not, but you cannot deny that emotionally you are attached to another.”

She sighed and decided to change the topic as this was not a discussion that she wanted to have with anyone – let alone her husband. “Please Rupert; is there something I can do for you?”

He smiled at her avoidance of the topic, but let it go as that was really not his primary reason for asking her there tonight. He knew she loved Joseph – even if she wasn’t willing to admit it to herself. “Yes, my love. You can grant a dying man his last wish.”

She pulled back – startled at his acknowledgement that he was dying. “Rupert, please don’t talk like that. You’re going to get better and you’re going to rule the people of Genovia again. I’m doing the best I can…but you, darling, are their King.”

It was his turn to sigh now. He pulled her back down to sit beside him and ran his fingers over the small hand that was still captured inside of his. “I am dying, my dear. I have not improved and the doctors have no idea what is making me so sick. My heart is getting weak and I know my time is not long.”

Tears threatened her now as she silently shook her head no. While their relationship had not been a typical marriage relationship, they had forged a strong friendship over time and she cared for him as one good friend would care for another.

He continued. “I’m asking, my love, that you grant me one last wish. It occurred to me recently that you and I had actually never spent an entire night together in each other’s arms. And, before you object, I’m not talking about sex, darling – just sleeping together. I want to hold your natural beauty in my arms for just one night. Please Clarisse; say you will grant this wish for me – just for tonight.”

She didn’t know what to say. She wrestled with herself. She wanted to grant his wish, she almost felt she owed it to him. If for no other reason than he had kept his vow regarding Joseph. Joseph – that was the other reason. Even though she wouldn’t admit it out loud, she had grown to care deeply for him; and, she would feel as though she were betraying him if she spent the night in another man’s arms – even if that man was her husband. She inwardly shook her head…now that was some screwed up logic if she ever heard it! She looked at him again. He looked so pale, so…needy.

Finally, she made up her mind. “Alright, my dear, I will stay with you – but just for tonight, ok?”

Nodding, he agreed “Just for tonight.”

She started to get in bed when he interrupted her.

“Clarisse, may I ask one more favor?”

“I suppose. What is it?”

“Please let there be nothing between us tonight. No bad memories, no buried anger, and no clothing.”

Now she was shocked – even on his sick bed, he could be…well – unbelievable. She schooled her features, though, as she responded, “I don’t think that will be necessary. Besides, I’m not sure that it would be wise in your current state.” She had offered some humor, but he did not take the bait.

“Please Clarisse?” He was as serious as she had ever seen him. She finally decided that she would grant him this request. She knew he was too weak to really try anything; and, she realized that Joseph was away so he wouldn’t even know she had spent the night here. She momentarily wondered if that’s why Rupert had sent him and the other security men on a special mission. She decided it would be best not to dwell on any of that right now. She just felt…not duty, but rather compassion towards the man lying on the bed; and wanted to do this for him.

Not taking her eyes off of him, she untied her robe and let it fall to the floor. She could have sworn she heard him gasp and then hold his breath as she pulled the gown over her head and dropped it next to her robe. “Oh God, Clarisse. You are just as beautiful as ever.”

She blushed as she pulled back the covers. She was shocked that he didn’t have anything on. “Rupert, where are your clothes?”

He chuckled. “I’m afraid I used most of my remaining energy to divest myself of my briefs before I requested your presence. I told you, I wanted nothing between us tonight and I didn’t think I could convince you to help me with that particular task.”

She chuckled as well. “You’re probably correct. Although, you haven’t had much trouble convincing me to do as you wished tonight.”

As she got into bed, he replied. “I’m 2 for 3 so far – I only have one more request.”

She turned toward him, “I thought we were talking about one wish. I’m not a genie in a bottle here to grant you three wishes.”

He laughed at the picture she had just painted. “Perhaps if I rub you just right, you will be?”

“Rupert! For someone who claims to be dying, you certainly are full of spunk tonight.”

“Only because of my desire to set things straight, my love.” He was very serious as he spoke.

She turned so she was facing him. “There is nothing to set straight, Rupert. We made our peace a long time ago – I made my peace. We became dear friends which we were destined to be. Everything else…well, it just got in the way.”

“You are as sweet and forgiving as ever. Of course, I expected nothing less from you. You have always been grace and duty personified.”

“Rupert, I…”

“Shh...there’s no need to say anything. Let me take care of you tonight, Clarisse. Let me take care of you as I should have done in the beginning. As I should have done all those years I thought only of myself.”

She was confused now. “Take care of me? Rupert I don’t understand. You’ve always provided for me – more than I could ever need.”

“Not for those needs, Clarisse - for your needs as a woman.” As he spoke the words, his hand traced a path from her cheek, down the hollow of her throat, resting just above the swell of her breast.

She couldn’t find words – all she could muster was, “Oh…I…” The words disappeared as his hand continued down her breast, slightly cupping it and tracing a circle pattern on the tip with his thumb. Her body betrayed her heart as her nipple hardened in response to his touch. Her mind was spinning. She had to stop him. This wasn’t right. She put her hand on his.

“Rupert – as sweet a gesture as this is, it’s really not necessary.”

“Please Clarisse. I want…no I need to do this. It’s just for tonight. I’m hoping it will bring me peace – knowing that I did this for you – something that I should have always done, but never did. And, if I haven’t lost my touch, it should be an enjoyable experience for you as well.”

“Rupert, I…I can’t.” She realized that, up to that point, she never had. True to her word, she had never been with anyone but him; and, as he had pointed out, he had never been concerned with her pleasure during the few times that they were together.

“Please, Clarisse. I’m begging you. Just relax and let me take care of this – let me take care of you.” As he spoke, he began caressing her again. He gently pushed her over from her side to her back and began lightly touching her stomach and her breasts. She watched him, studying his face, as sensations that she had never experienced before began coursing through her body. Her eyes closed as she fought away all other thoughts and, for once in her life, focused only on herself. She was certain she would regret this and, more than likely, sooner than later; but, at that moment, the most pleasant tingling was flooding through her veins. She opted for some temporary relief from the stress and pressure her life had become filled with recently – even if it wasn’t from the man she truly loved and desired.

He watched as her breathing changed as he began his task. He marveled at how her body responded to his touch. He was under no illusion that it was because he was the one doing it; but he was determined to bring this marvelous woman the pleasure she so richly deserved.

Her chest was rising and falling at a rapid pace as her breathing as well as her pulse had quickened. When his hand traveled lower to her apex and began teasing the curls, she gasped and grabbed his hand. She opened her eyes to look at him.

She saw his eyes sparkling and his mouth turned up in a smile – not in jest or mockery at her inexperience; but rather genuine appreciation for the emotions she was experiencing.

“Just relax, my love. Just go with it. Release any inhibitions you have and enjoy this. You deserve this.” She silently nodded, released his hand, and closed her eyes again.

He gently separated her legs a bit to allow his hand better access. He began to gently tease and probe – intently watching her face to gauge the pressure and location of his touch. It didn’t take long before her body began to twitch slightly and her movements increase as the pressure began to build. He murmured encouraging words in her ear talking her through the spiraling emotions. Her body finally rose off the bed against his hand as she was granted her final release. There were tears glistening in her eyes as she opened them and looked at him. She started to thank him, but he put a finger to her mouth and then gently kissed her forehead. “Now sleep, my dear; and, thank you for granting my wishes tonight.” He turned her so her back was to his chest and pulled her close. He left his arm draped over her side while he gently caressed her stomach. He whispered in her ear, “It was just for tonight.”

She closed her eyes and fell into a satisfied sleep. He followed closely behind as he was lulled to sleep by the sound of her breathing and the gentle rising and falling of her chest as she slept.

When she awoke the next morning, she sensed something wasn’t right. She tried to turn over to speak with Rupert – to thank him for the beautiful gift that he had given her last night. His arm lay heavily on her side. She tapped him in an attempt to wake him, but he didn’t respond. With some effort she turned in his embrace. She tried to gently wake him again – still no response. Now she was getting worried. She realized, with a start, that he wasn’t breathing. As a matter of fact, his body was chilled even though they had been under a comforter all night.

All of a sudden, it hit her, he was dead. He had made his peace and then let go. She pulled herself out of his embrace and began shaking as the tears flowed freely down her cheeks. She had no idea how long she sat there crying. Crying for Rupert; crying for her children who had just lost their father; crying for her people who had lost their king; and, crying for herself – for what this meant for her life. She would now have to serve as Queen until Phillipe was ready. She would now have to mourn the loss of her husband – her king – her friend.

Deciding that she had wallowed in pity long enough; though she was still in shock, she pulled her shoulders straight showing her determination. She leaned down and kissed his forehead and then went about dressing him in his night clothes. It would not do to summon anyone to his room and have him found in a state of undress. It was not proper and she wouldn’t have anything taint his name. It was with some effort that she accomplished this task as he was of considerable stature and was in no condition to lend any assistance to her efforts.

After she dressed him, she tucked him back in, kissed him one last time on the forehead, pulled her robe around her body and crept quietly through the secret passageway to her room. She would need to prepare herself for when the news was broken to the family and the nation that their King was dead. It would not be a good day.

Present day

She awoke from her dream with a start, surprised to find her cheeks were damp with tears. She hadn’t thought of that night in so long. She assumed it was all of the talk about the coronation or Joseph asking her to sleep with him nude that had prompted the memory. She silently wiped her tears away and tried to relax in Joseph’s embrace. She had never told him about that night. She wasn’t sure he would understand why she would have agreed to Rupert’s requests that night. She couldn’t risk upsetting him again. Their relationship was still so new. Even though they had been friends for a lifetime – this was different. She wasn’t prepared to lose everything again. She heard him quietly whisper, “Is everything alright, my love?”

She made herself smile, even though he couldn’t see her face in the darkness, to help her be convincing. “Of course, dear. I’m sorry if I woke you.” She put her arm over the one he had draped over her side and pulled it even closer to her frame. She could have sworn she heard him sigh as he responded, “It’s ok – you didn’t wake me. Now go back to sleep.”

“Yes, love, that’s what I’ll do.” But she knew that she would not give in to sleep again the remainder of this night as she was afraid of where her dreams might take her.

Joseph, too, remained awake. He had been awake since he felt the first tremors of Clarisse’s nightmare. He knew she was keeping something from him, but he didn’t know what; and, he didn’t know how to convince her that she could trust him with anything. She had trusted him with her life for as long as he could remember…what could require more trust than that? He kept telling himself that he would confront her soon; but, for now, he would let her have her secrets…just for tonight.