Disclaimer: Walt's (May he rest in peace) and Meg Cabot's. Not mine. Never was, never will be.
Summary: The loss of a son is hard on any woman, Queen or not.
Author's notes: A huge thank you to CJ! You really were my anchor in my struggles with this story and kept me sane… and from deleting the whole thing on several occasions, though I doubt she even knew that.
Another thank you goes to tayryn for beta-reading. snoochies
She sighed with relief as she closed the doors behind her. It had been a hard week, harder than usual, but now it was over. Of course another one would begin the very next morning, but Sunday evenings were hers for relaxation and winding down. It was time she reserved for herself so she could leave the Queen persona behind if even just for one evening a week.
Clarisse sat in her favorite chair and after placing her glasses on the bridge of her nose, reached for the book she'd been trying to finish for some time now. Fiddling with the bookmark she reluctantly acknowledged that she wouldn't get any further tonight; she was too tired to concentrate on it. Still feeling the need to do something at least, she pulled out her needlework and switched on the TV. Expecting the usual Sunday evening comedy show, Clarisse was surprised to see the news on.
At the bottom of the screen Clarisse saw a box that informed her that this was a 'special report - live'. The anchorwoman was reporting about a horrific accident that had just occurred on one of the mountain roads leading to the capital. The Queen took off her glasses and rubbed her eyes. She briefly thought about the victim of the accident and hoped that the family would have strong supporters that would get them through the rough time they were bound to have ahead of them. Then, placing the glasses back to the bride of her nose she took the needle and continued to create a rosebush.
While stitching Clarisse half-listened as the anchorwoman spoke of the poor weather conditions on the mountain roads at this time of the year. Absentmindedly Clarisse nodded. Only two weeks earlier she'd been visiting her winter cottage for a long weekend and on the way back the roads had been in terrible condition. She then sighed as she noticed she was running out of lime green thread. Well, that would just have to wait till later then. She would continue with the sage green.
"This will be an incredible loss to both our country and our Queen who only seven months ago lost her husband, King Rupert, may he rest in peace."
Confused about what the woman was saying Clarisse put down the needle, her attention now completely glued to the anchorwoman.
"The big question is who will now succeed Queen Clarisse?" the woman on the screen said.
Clarisse could barely hear the woman anymore or see pictures they were showing of her son as terror began to spread through her body. Fighting to breathe she stood up, the needlework flying from her lap. Clarisse watched as the woman asked questions from a reporter on site through a phone connection. The man explained in detail what the accident looked like and what the state of the car was at the moment. He explained that the paramedics were on the scene but attempts to revive the crown prince had proved futile and he'd been pronounced dead two minutes before.
Falling on her knees Clarisse wrapped her arms around herself, curling into a ball. Her head was swimming from the lack of oxygen and shock. She felt blinding pain ripping through her body and she somehow registered a scream escaping her. At once a guard entered her room asking her what was wrong while searching the room for any hostiles. Seeing nothing but the TV on and the Queen in obvious distress he urgently called Joseph to the scene, but before he could get all the words out, a man wearing a leather jacket rushed past him and to the Queen's side.
It was only then that the guard realized what the news on TV was about. He looked on for a few moments as the Chief of Security tried to calm the Queen and find out what had happened.
Joseph had been making his evening rounds around the palace when he'd heard a bloodcurdling scream coming from direction of the Queen's chambers. Barely even recognizing it as hers, he had already started to run when he'd been contacted by a guard posted by the Queen's doors. Seeing the Queen on the floor, curled up and weeping, had both shocked and scared him to his very core. If only he could calm her down enough to find out what had happened. Tentatively, he placed a hand on her back all the time talking to her, trying to coax her into at least telling him if she was physically hurt.
Joseph, still on the floor next to the distraught woman, looked up at him and then followed the younger man's gaze to the TV screen. Several pictures of Prince Philippe, either alone or with one or more members of the Royal Family were displayed. What stopped him, though, were the numbers displayed above each picture. 1957 - 1999. "Oh, God almighty."
After several seconds during which he allowed his emotions to rule him he began to give orders. "Everyone out!" Then speaking to the guard who had first entered the room, he added, "Make sure everything's secure, triple check everything. Call to St. Matthew's to make sure security there is tight and Father Pierre is secure."
Joseph didn't even bother waiting for the young man to acknowledge his orders before returning his attention to the Queen. He gently helped the shell-shocked woman to the couch and then asked if he should switch off the TV. She didn't seem to be really paying much attention to what he was saying but he did it anyway. He doubted she needed to hear the details at the very moment.
Now sitting on the sofa, Clarisse started to slowly rock herself. Her Chief of Security wasn't quite sure how he could be of help. He felt that he should do more but wasn't quite sure what. Gingerly, knowing he was treading a fine line, he put an arm around the grieving woman and drew her to him. She was shaking and mumbling words he couldn't quite decipher. Holding her more strongly, Joseph felt at a loss. His Queen needed to be comforted but his own conflicting emotions made it difficult at the moment to distinguish between what was appropriate and what was not. While he was sure the Queen would not object to any comfort given, he wasn't so sure she would later appreciate having been seen so vulnerable. Even by him. He decided that Charlotte would be better equipped to give the Queen the comfort she needed. The young woman was a very recent addition to the palace but he'd seen the connection and mutual respect the women had for each other. Joseph called for another guard. When one entered, Joseph ordered him to go and find Charlotte.
"Inform her of the situation," Joseph added as an afterthought.
The guard looked slightly unsure. "What situation, sir?"
Joseph noticed that the Queen tensed, as if waiting for the words. The air was heavy with dread and anguish as he looked at the Queen's profile and said the words, "Prince Philippe has been in a car accident. He… He didn't survive."
Clarisse fought against tears again and Joseph shifted his gaze to the guard who was still standing in the room. The man was visibly shaken as the news sank in. "Go on, now. Find Charlotte," Joseph repeated after a moment. The younger man nodded sharply and exited the room.