None of these characters belong to me, they belong to Meg Cabot and Disney. Note: to anyone who owns Victor/ Victoria on DVD, how do you access the Blake Edwards hidden interview? Please R&R and tell me, because I was trying to find it and it isn't happening!

Thanks for all your reviews and I'm sorry it took so long, I got writers block and I didn't want to let you down by writing a rubbish chapter. I was also in London, so………….

Clarisse raged through the consulate the next morning, going frantic over Mia's antics at the beach. Joseph implored her to calm down as she sat down at her desk in the library. She glared at him. God, he wanted to kill the princess for doing this to her but he had to remind himself, she was only fifteen - he made a mental note to remind Clarisse of that later on.

He stood in the shadows as Clarisse reprimanded the princess severely, which he thought she took pretty well for a fifteen year old. Clarisse could be tough, but Mia had certainly tried her patience and she was quickly losing it. She was harsh, harsher than he expected her to be, after all this girl was her granddaughter, as much as she also may have been the heir to the throne.

He had literally dragged her away from the consulate that day, help her release some steam. He often wondered if she forgot her human side he'd so often witnessed. She could be so compassionate, so loving, so fun and he wondered where that side had gone, even if everything was so hazy - he still remembered her having fun, laughing, being Clarisse - the Clarisse he missed dearly.

But little by little he could see the self assured Clarisse slowly emerging and he hoped that soon, she might just be back. She was smiling more often now, even though she was still weighed under by a tremendous amount of work and pressure. She was more light hearted now, more un reliant on drugs and narcotics and time tables and organisers to get her through the day. She was slowly reintroducing herself to him, and the relationship he'd loved so much that had taken years to build. His love for her, throughout the period were she forgot who she was, had never wavered. Actually his love had only grown and somehow, he felt that with her it was the same. He hoped, no he knew that now, they could survive anything and come out the other end, hurting but still needing each other.

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"thank you", she said wearily as he handed her the cup of tea. She smiled up at him, brandishing the polystyrene cup in a leather gloved hand.

"no trouble", Joseph answered, sitting down on the bench beside her and pulling his coat tighter around him against the harsh sea breeze.

"you know", Clarisse sighed, " I didn't figure on this being so hard".

"what do you mean?", he questioned, turning to face her a little more.

"I mean-", she paused trying to piece together an answer that might just seem coherent, " I mean the whole thing of training her to be a princess, I expected everything to fall at my feet, to do as I will it and control it -as so often I do. But these past few months have proven I don't always get what I want. Does that sound selfish and conceited?"

He looked at her, studying her for a moment - taking in her worn appearance. Piecing together an answer for that could take forever - especially when it was her. Especially when she appeared so erratic, so unstable.

"no", he said slowly, " no, I think it's natural - it's nature to want everything to go right but to remember she's a child, simply trying to do what you bid of her - perhaps you are too tough on her". she looked up at him, anger flashing at his too true words - but deciding he was right backed down, knowing it was most defiantly a losing battle.

"I am aware I am tough on her but she is to be the next ruler of my country…… I have already said this", she reminded him, taking a sip of her lukewarm tea from the spongy cup and shivering.

"she is your granddaughter Clarisse, as I have already said and remember that - don't treat her like you were treated when you were her age", he said, firmly but softly.

"I'm not that monstrous", she reprimanded, " however it may seem". He laughed softly at how pan she was, even in what seemed like a dreary situation. She smiled slightly, shaking her head and turning a little red.

"no, of course you're not monstrous - just a little, how do I say this - hard on her", he laughed, taking her hand gently. She smiled as he did, a genuine smile - something that hadn't graced her features for a long while.

"I know she's young but her behaviour was a little irresponsible - even if the picture the press painted wasn't particularly accurate about her beach shenanigans", she said lightly, chucking the cup in the plastic bin next to her.

"it wasn't accurate whatsoever, and this morning was the first time you've ever took the side of the media, and you were wrong", he said calmly. She took that from him, he was the only one ever allowed to tell her she was wrong - she could have done something better, or improved her attitude in a very volatile situation.

"what do I do?", she questioned, taking him by surprise. She often took his criticism, but she never asked for his solutions - that was defiantly a different Clarisse.

"you go and apologise", he smiled, laughing at the look of disdain on her face.

"a queen never apologises", she reprimanded, smiling slightly.

" ahh, but a grandmother does, my dear".

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Clarisse smoothed her ball gown over as she stood in front of the mirror. She had put on weight and for that, she was glad. She filled out the dress that had once clung off her when she had tired it a few weeks ago. Her face didn't look so drawn or so old, it wasn't the make-up, - it was feeling good that made her look young again. She felt fine for the first time in months and she supposed it showed. She felt that she could think straight, get through an hour without crying or taking pills or losing it with someone or locking herself away.

So, Mia wasn't taking the crown and she was a little disappointed but she understood. Somehow she had the niggling hope that perhaps she just might accept her title after all. She had faith in the girl, having grown to know her. In fact, she felt closer to her than she'd ever felt to anyone, spare Joseph and her sons. She had after all, suffered the humiliation of being found to have no drivers licence with her clumsy driver of a granddaughter, she'd tried her first ever corn dog, she'd witnessed Joseph suffer at the hands of Mia's horrendous dancing - and she loved her, no matter what her faults.

She had faults, natural one's that Clarisse had never been allowed to have. To Clarisse, Mia seemed human, capable of fault, capable of tremendous love and empathy. Clarisse knew, she herself was capable of them but somehow they seemed evasive. It hadn't been her generation or her class to be allowed to have faults. Queen's where never allowed to have faults but they did - just like everyone.

Clarisse had, perhaps realised just how much of herself she seen in Mia. They were both scared of what people thought of them, they were both desperate to make even the smallest difference to the world - they both loved Joe, even if it was in two different ways. They both felt invisible some times, even if Clarisse was know the world over, the real Clarisse was still invisible. Mia felt invisible, said she was invisible but Clarisse saw different and she wanted to show her granddaughter that - tell her she seen her every day and knew how she felt.

She startled a little as she was tore from her thought when someone knocked at the door. It was him, Joseph. He walked in, a little agitated but looking devastating whatever the case in his tux. She looked at his reflection in the mirror - laughing at the fact he'd not waited to be invited in.

"come in", she smiled, turning to him. His reaction was endearing but somehow, his face looked sullen.

"what do you think?", she question, twirling around in an all together flirty manner.

"beautiful", he managed, " but Clarisse, Mia's not turned up". She smiled at him, softly emitting a laugh and nodding her head knowingly.

"definitely my grand daughter", she laughed, slipping on her evening gloves, " runs away from everything that scares her".

"yes my dear, but what will we do?", he questioned, more than bemused by her serenity and calmness. He had to agree with her on that, Mia was most defiantly Clarisse's granddaughter - she had a penchant for running away. She was looking quite heavenly, something that he often looked forward to when there was any royal function. Her ball gown, a colour that really could not be named or described fitted her perfectly, accentuating every curve, clinging to her perfect skin - she really was quite beautiful. He lost himself for a moment, taking in her appearance - how the tiara and the jewels around her neck only served to make her eyes sparkle even more.

She finally, looked healthy. Colour had returned to her cheeks, clearly flushed by his obvious adoration. Her smile, growing more real and genuine and beautiful by the moment.

"would you be kind enough to go and see if she's at her house, Joseph?", she questioned, adding last minute touches too her make-up and snapping him out of his reverie.

"yes", he nodded, making his way to the door.

"Joseph!", she laughed, stopping him in his tracks, " that's after you escort me to the ball". He laughed gently and as she reached him, he couldn't resist. He grabbed her shoulders, running his hands down her arms and holding her elbows - making her shiver. She looked at him, never losing his gaze, not avoiding his eyes as she had taken to doing. Instead, her eyes danced, giving him hope - making him feel warm and content. He kissed her then, burning, searing, passionate. She closed her eyes, engulfed in his presence.

Lipstick marks were all but forgotten about.

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Clarisse grinned almost childishly as her granddaughter ran up the stairs closely followed by a manic Paulo and a harassed Charlotte, leaving water marks and puddles behind her. She knew it! Mia had accepted and now, she could finally breath. She wasn't letting the family lineage down, or the family history or custom, because Mia had done what was right by both herself and everyone and Clarisse could happily function with another tremendous weight off her shoulders. Joseph smiled at the calmness on her face as he stood beside her.

"I'd say you where glad", he smiled, offering his arm to her. She laughed, gleaming at him.

"oh, I've never felt so glad in all my life", she sighed, leaning into him as they walked down the dark corridor, clutching his arm a little tighter as she yawned, contentment washing completely over her.

"Mia's speech was quite something", he commented as he swung open the door of the staff kitchen.

"oh yes!", she beamed, lifting up the overly large skirt of her dress and sitting down at the wooden table, "quite wonderful".

"celebration?", he questioned, pulling a bottle of half drunk Chianti out of the fridge and taking two glasses from the shelf. He knew she had to return to the ball as soon as Mia was ready but he figured some time alone with her was in order, just to let her celebrate her granddaughters triumph without everyone watching.

She eyed the bottle he was clutching suspiciously, grinning wickedly.

"you're being terribly charming", she teased, " but I don't know if your intentions are entirely honourable. You may be trying to get me drunk or at least merry". He laughed, raising an eye brow as he sat down next to her, offering her the bottle. She took it out of his hands, but didn't pour any into the glass he'd placed in front of her. She eyed him up, scrutinising him with a gleam in her eyes. He enjoyed it, that he could admit. She leaned forward, catching him a little off guard as her lips descended on his. He startled but only slightly, immediately dominating a rather heated kiss. She detached her lips momentarily, kissing the side of his mouth and pressing her cheek to his. He gripped her, raising both of them to their feet as the seat he was sitting on clanked on the floor against the stone tiles.

"thank you", she whispered, breathlessly. He smiled, his hands twisting around her waist. She kissed his neck, his face, anything she could. His hands wandered, earning moans and whispers.

He could feel himself losing control and knew he had to stop, he didn't want that, not in the kitchen. He wanted it to be right for both of them, after all, how long had it been. To long in his opinion and he knew probably in hers as well. He didn't want to make love to her here, not where he felt it would mean nothing. He stopped as his hands moved the zip of her dress, his hand slithering over her bare back. He startled her and himself with the passion of his actions.

She pulled away as she felt him resist, glad to some extent he did. He looked almost mournful though, pouting silently. His face hardened with tremendous desire and love. Breathing slightly heavier than usual as his hands tremulously wandered.

"ha", was all she could say, trying to even out her breathing and straighten up her dress. He gently turned her round, his hand gently running over the back of her dress, zipping it up.

"the maids will know it has been tampered with later on", she laughed, shaking slightly.

"they wont be undoing it later", he growled in her ear. She closed her eyes, trying to resist the urge of disappearing with him just now. It had been so long, so long without him - so long pushing him away.

" I had to stop, if you or I had went any further……….", he grinned, resting his chin on her shoulder and whispering in her ear, " not in the kitchen of all places".

"too old, Joseph?", she quipped, turning and running her had along the buttons of his shirt as she lifted the wine from the table and took a gulp. She was trying to calm herself down. She quite shocked by her actions, never had she risked being caught with him - when so easily at that moment she could have been. Charlotte, Mia, Frank, Shades, Anton….. The list was endless. She needed to cool down, relax as the headiness swirled around her.

"no", he laughed defensively, taking the wine from her hands and taking a drink, to calm his sudden nerves and passion that had taken him by surprise. She laughed, peeling, rich laughter as it echoed through the stone kitchen - music in his ears. He realised, that for the first time in nearly two years they were having more than false fun together. She was laughing at his jokes, kissing him with the passion she'd always harnessed but rarely displayed, drinking with him, holding his hand, relaxing under his scrutiny, letting him undo and do-up her dress.

"thank you", she suddenly whispered, her voice thick with emotion as she cupped his cheek, " thank you".

"don't thank me", he whispered, turning into her and kissing her palm, " no more thanking me or apologising. It's what I'm for, I'm here to take your bad temper, your wonderful sense of humour, you wrath….your love".

" I would say thank you……", she trailed laughing slightly as she kissed his cheek, " but I love you instead".

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As Joseph took Clarisse in his arms from Sebastian Motaz, she smiled at him, pressing herself more than informally against him.

"be careful, your Majesty", he smiled, " he had the same idea I had, but now the garden is occupado", he continued, motioning towards Mia and the young boy that was leading her out into the garden. She laughed.

" the garden, Joseph?", she quipped, " not much better than the kitchen".

"ha", he smiled, running his hand down her back and up again, " but much prettier".

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They danced, a lot longer, a lot more intimately than they intended with each other. Mia and her friends were beginning to get restless, Mia asking Clarisse if she could change the music. Clarisse finally gave in, - definitely not the most conventional of independence day balls. She could understand her granddaughter and was really so jubilant, she didn't want or care to argue. It was settled, everything was fine and that relieved her tremendously. She could help Mia become the queen she was capable of being - with the help of Joseph and the wonderful people around her.

However, Clarisse was in fact glad for Mia's restlessness. She was tired, no, exhausted in fact. Her head felt heavy and the weight of the silk encasing her body made her bones ache. She wanted nothing more than to get her dress off and put whatever pyjamas the maids had left out for her on. The make-up on her face was beginning to feel grimy and she couldn't wait to remove it. She couldn't wait to curl up in bed - hopefully with Joseph. She smiled wickedly at how she was acting - like a school girl caught at something she shouldn't be doing.

She leaned slightly into him closing her eyes a little. He could feel her growing tired in his arms, and he smiled as she tried to mask a yawn with an elegantly gloved hand. This was the last dance and he was glad because he could feel how tired she was.

"you're tired", he stated gently, not missing a step in the intricate waltz they were performing.

"yes, but not to tired", she smiled suggestively, her eyes dancing with delight. He couldn't help but grin. She was so happy, so care free and it made him feel wonderful. He knew this was the Clarisse that had disappeared soon after he'd met her, after she endured Rupert's' torture for the first time. He was so grateful to Mia for taking the crown, for easing her of another worry. It was going to be good, he could tell now. Hopefully no more times where he had to convince her she was worthy of anything but to suffer.

"we should maybe make an exit", he smiled, guiding them over to the edge of the dance floor nearest the main doors as Mia's music started to reverberate round the room. They dropped the pretence of dancing, instead making nonchalantly for the doors. He Walking close beside each other. Joseph, using his clout and authority not for the first time to aid their relationship waved away the butler and the guards sitting at the security desk. They nodded slightly, quickly obliging to make their way to the staff quarters. Joseph, however did not join them.

He stayed with her, as he always had for years and as he always intended to. He made love to her, until the early hours of the morning graced them.

It wasn't until the sun crept into her room, sneaking its way through the drapes and under the doors that he felt content. He felt sure that as she lay, blissfully sleeping in his sturdy arms that he could always help her.

She stirred, trying aimlessly to bury her head in his chest as the sun disturbed her slumber. A moan and a sigh later she opened her eyes, looking up at him as her eyes met his.

"hello", he growled, tightening his grip on her.

"mhmm", she mumbled in response, not quite awake yet.

"sleepy", he whispered, sliding down further into the silk sheets that were sticking to their clammy bodies.

"yes", she smiled, moving herself up a little to rest her head just below his chin, running her hand gently up and down his chest in contentment. She kissed his neck and then rolling half of him, her leg still resting over his lower body propped herself up on her elbow so she could look at him more intently. She smiled slightly as she reached to rub the lipstick mark that had managed to get behind his ear somehow.

"lipstick", she stated, kissing where her rubbing had made his skin red and irritated.

"yours, of course", he laughed, turning on his side and pulling her to rest with him.

"definitely mines", she smiled, obliging to his gentle command to change her position.

"good, I'm glad", he smiled, brushing a stray lock or hair that had wandered from her normally perfect hair-do. She smiled lovingly at him, looking suddenly emotional.

"I love you, you know".

"I know".

She had always know, so had he. But they were learning now to know it without avoiding it, or disregarding it. To Clarisse, he was everything. He was what made her feel human and that was something she could never lose.

Finished! Yeah, yeah! Again, I'm so sorry it took so long, thanks for being so patient and for all your wonderful reviews.

Yours,

M