Disclaimer: I don't own any of these characters since Princess Diaries 1 & 2, and its characters are the property of Disney, Buena Vista, and Meg Cabot. I make no money from this work of fiction.

WEDDING NIGHT NERVES

When the door closed behind Mia and Lilly, leaving Joseph and Clarisse alone for the first time in their marriage of eight hours, Clarisse was inwardly incredulous that she had indeed ASKED Joseph to marry her and that he had agreed. This was taking their friendship out of the shadows with a vengeance! Feeling rooted to the floor, Clarisse was almost wringing her hands, although she wasn't really aware of it. All she knew was that she just could NOT look Joseph in the eye. To be perfectly honest, she was very, very nervous. Joseph meant more to her than anyone else ever had in her entire life, and she had just recently realized that fact. This afternoon, she had spontaneously turned her life upside down, thrown over the traces of life-long training in high society's unacknowledged rules of behaviour, and married her former Head of Security. What if, after all she had put him through, after all the time he had waited and had dreamed of her - what if she disappointed Joseph tonight? She was OLD! She was no longer technically an inexperienced virgin, but theoretically and in many ways, she was just that! She had heard the rumours of his various conquests over the years. What if she fell short in his eyes compared with all the other lovers he had had? To her everlasting shame, Rupert had told her many times that making love was not one of her gifts ...

Out of her uncertainty and very real fear, Clarisse found herself picking a fight with her new husband. "Joseph, don't you EVER cast it up to me that I asked you to marry me!"

"I asked you to marry me first, Clarisse," he said quietly, studying her face intently. "In the gazebo a few weeks ago ..."

"No. Your precise words in the gazebo were 'It's time we took our friendship out of the shadows.' Well, I certainly did THAT this afternoon, didn't I?" Clarisse closed her eyes and clenched her hands at her side. What was she doing? This was ridiculous. She looked at Joseph again and tried to smile. "I'm sorry, I ... I don't know why I'm acting like this."

Now his smile was faint as well. "Mia and Lilly left a bottle of champagne on ice here," he said, moving over to it. Pouring two glasses of the champagne, he sat down on the couch, and patted the cushion beside him. "Come, let's just sit here for a moment and talk. It might relax BOTH of us!"

Clarisse sat down distractedly, accepting a glass even as she frowned and said, "Don't be ridiculous! I do not feel the NEED to relax, Joseph!"

"Oh?" Joseph questioned, taking a sip and again gazing at her. Clarisse had only picked at her dinner, not realizing that he had been watching her carefully, terrified that she had again changed her mind and was regretting having married him already. Perhaps this attack of nerves was indicative of her true feelings? Had she, perhaps, been swept away by the moment of Mia's triumph, and married him before realizing exactly what she was doing? He was almost afraid to ask, since her uncomfortable posture and worried look only increased his concern. Maybe if he could get her talking, if they could just return to their former ease of discussing things with one another ... or should he just pounce on her and kiss her senseless? As that thought crossed his mind, he had to grin.

Clarisse began to tremble slightly, and she quickly put her glass down before it was obvious. Oh dear, NOW what was he thinking?

"Clarisse, my dear, have you seen the musical Camelot?" Joseph asked, at last.

She stared at him, blankly. "Camelot? Why? I believe I have, but ..."

"Well ... tell me what the QUEEN is thinking tonight ..." Joseph teased her gently.

Clarisse's eyes fell again, then she took a deep breath and said, "What do you think people were REALLY thinking today? What do they think of me?"

Joseph had to grin. She was only concerned with what the public thought? Well, he could handle that. "Everyone says the queen is practically perfect in every way. The queen never loses her temper in public; she never swears, although some might contend that telling the Viscount to 'shut up' in Parliament one day was tantamount to swearing; the queen doesn't lose it, but rather she finds it ..."

"Mia told you that," Clarisse was leaning against him now, smiling ... his teasing was having its desired effect and relaxing her.

"Everyone also believes that the queen never goes to the bathroom ..." he stroked her cheek lovingly and she chuckled, "and, of course, the queen NEVER has an orgasm."

Clarisse sat up quickly, the colour draining from her face. Joseph looked at her, at first curious, then concerned. "Clarisse, my dear, what is it?"

In a small voice, she admitted that she never HAD had an orgasm. "Rupert told me that I must be lacking something. Joseph ... what if you find out, after ... tonight ... that you regret marrying me? You have had so much more experience ..."

"Clarisse!" It was Joseph's turn to straighten up in shock and stare at her. "What are you talking about? I've only EVER had eyes for you, since meeting you!"

"You have really never ... dallied ... with another woman since meeting me?" Clarisse asked, astonished. She regretted her quick comment immediately, seeing the hurt flare in his eyes, but she was still incredulous. He had been at the palace for over thirty years!

"You could ask Olivia or Priscilla if you do not quite trust me on this, Clarisse," Joseph said at last.

Clarisse couldn't hold back her smile at that. "One never questions, Joseph," she said softly. "One only need give the maids leave to talk, and talk they will. They know everything."

"I knew that ... I wondered if you knew it."

"Oh, I knew. That is why I did not give them leave to talk. I could only stand to know so much."

"Poor darling," Joseph tenderly cupped her face in his hands. "Now you have me OPENLY at your side, as support, as a helpmate, as a lover, as a friend and as a husband."

Her hands came up and covered his. "I've never needed anything more than I need you, Joseph. I - I love you. I'm madly, deeply, completely in love with you, and I think I have been for a long time. I just didn't realize it. I'm sorry I made you wait ..."

"I would have waited forever. Clarisse, my dear, I have waited years to express my love for you openly. Today all of my dreams and desires have come true. When we were younger, I dreamt of possessing you and showing you the depths of my love for you. Now that we are older, my love has not lessened. Rather, it is stronger than ever. But no longer do I wish to simply possess you. Now I want to love you, openly and publicly, to the best of my ability, to bring to you some measure of the happiness you have brought to me over the years, to walk proudly beside you and to have the right to hold you close through all that life will bring to us from now on. The public vows today were the culmination of the vows I made to myself when I first realized that the feeling I had for you, my queen, was an abiding love."

"Oh, Joseph ..." Clarisse sighed, and when he searched her eyes, he realized most of the shadows were gone. There were still, however, a few lingering concerns, he realized.

"Clarisse, I must admit that I, too, am slightly nervous. What if you ..." he hesitated, then decided to let her know all his thoughts, "what if you find that I do not come up to your ... standards ... as a husband?"

She smiled a bit at that, but the faint worried frown remained. "That is not at all likely. Joseph, about what Rupert said about me ... What if ... what if I am ... frigid?"

Joseph answered that with a deep chuckle, then took her fully into his arms and proceeded to disabuse her of that notion! Their lips met, gently at first, then with growing pressure as both realized the restraints between them were indeed gone forever. Clarisse 'lost' it as his hands and lips coaxed a response from her that she had never imagined possible. Clarisse and everyone else in Genovia, with the possible exception of Joseph, had never suspected that under her cool and proper exterior lay a passionate and fiery personality just waiting for the right touch ... Joseph's touch ... to be freed.

-

The next morning, Clarisse started to get out of the bed, saying, "We DO have the coronation to plan, you know."

Joseph chuckled and tried to pull her close. "Oh, no, my dear. The next few days are strictly for US. In fact, Mia hung a 'DO NOT DISTURB' sign on the door, I threatened Charlotte with instant dismissal if she contacted you before Wednesday unless it was a matter of life and death, and the rest of the staff, including your lady's maids Olivia and Priscilla have been told it is a matter of 'Don't call us, we'll call you' when it comes to being in touch with us."

Clarisse continued to resist him, and fretted for a moment. "But what will people THINK?"

Joseph shrugged. "That we are in bed, making wild and passionate love twenty-four hours a day!"

Clarisse blushed, but chuckled a little reluctantly. "Either that or that we are so old that we have passed out with the unaccustomed exertion!"

"Merely sleeping in order to gain strength," Joseph said, then added wickedly, "for our next session!"

"Joseph!"

"All right, I'll go back to my first suggestion, and say we'll make wild and passionate love ... as long as possible!"

Giving in with a light laugh, Clarisse allowed him to draw her close. "In that case, let's make it last a lifetime. Oh, Joseph, I can't believe I was so silly as to be nervous ..."

"You could never be silly, dearest," He kissed her deeply, then raised his head and said, "I'm most certain that queens are NEVER silly!"