Title: I found a fragile package in the mail.
Summery: One shot. C&J towards the end. Joseph and Charlotte help Clarisse with some of the daily mail. Joseph and Clarisse have a serious conversation about past hardships. Not as boring as it sounds.
I hope you guys enjoy this! It's a long lost story I started sometime last year and finished only recently. Well anyway…
Deep breath in…deep breath out…here we go...
Joseph stood at attention next to the only entrance into the Royal Office of Queen Clarisse. He bowed his head slightly to glance at his watch, it was 7:43. Within the next two minutes, Her Royal Majesty would appear at the end of the hallway, arriving thirteen minutes after her breakfast, and making her way to her office to begin the day's work. If Clarisse Ranaldi was one thing...it was prompt. Every morning, Joseph arrived and waited by the door to greet Clarisse when she came, and she had never once been late. He was about to glance at his watch again when he heard the unmistakable sound of Clarisse's high heeled shoes as they clicked down the hallway, a sound that Joseph knew well. As she grew closer Clarisse smiled at Joseph, and he greeted her just as he always did, with a good bow and a kiss to the hand.
When he arose once more, he lifted his wrist and looked at his watch. He eyed her from behind the watch as he said, "Seven forty-four...cutting it a bit close this morning, aren't we madam?"
Clarisse shot him her best dangerous grin and said, "What can I say? I live on the edge." Then she walked past him into her office.
Joseph chuckled as he gave a nod to Clarisse's assistant, who seemed to always be on Her Majesty's heels, "Good morning, Charlotte."
"Good morning to you, Joe," Charlotte greeted with a genuine smile.
Joseph, along with Charlotte, then followed Clarisse's example and walked into the office. Work was the usual: mounds of paperwork, followed by mounds of letters to read and perhaps sign, once those were all cleared, Clarisse's desk was then made the home for two or three more mounds of paper work. Joseph and Charlotte did what they could to help. They would read some mail and pass along whatever important information was gathered from the document. However, there were not too many ways they could really be helpful due to the fact that most documents needed to be signed by Clarisse's own hand. Nevertheless, they both did what they could.
At one point, Joseph ran across a card that was sent by the Pyrus Elementary School. The parchment was extravagantly decorated with drawings of dogs, cats, and flowers with happy faces. Also on the page, Joseph found countless stick figures (with impossibly long necks) smiling back at him. In the corner was a square richly decorated which Joseph assumed to be the Genovian flag. Next to the flag was written 'Thank you for being our Queen. We love you!' On the bottom right hand corner it was signed, Ms. Rose and her kindergarten class.
Joseph smiled softly as he studied each picture. He determined that his favorite was a very long green and purple lizard-like creature that was stretched out along the left wall of the card. He could imagine some little boy, bent over this drawing, pressing hard on the paper with his crayon, making sure that every bit of that dragon was colored in. Joe's smile grew.
"The Spanish Prime Minister inquires about your decision in regard to the touring program he proposed," Charlotte said after she looked up from the letter in her hands.
"Don't do it," Joseph advised without looking up, "the last thing you want is a bunch of Spaniards running around." Here, he lifted his gaze to look at the two women before continuing, "Don't get me wrong, we're nice enough people...but we'll eat you out of house and home if you give us the chance."
The ladies shared an amused smile. "Then how come we've never been 'eaten out of house and home'?" Clarisse asked.
Joseph got a very serious look in his eyes as he responded, "Those refrigerators are fully restocked everyday. I mean...I'm good, but I'm not that good! I am, after all, only one man. But we're talking about bus loads and bus loads of tourists. Use discernment, Your Majesty. That's all I'm saying."
Clarisse and Charlotte both laughed.
"Charlotte, put that letter in this pile and I will dictate an appropriate response later today, after dinner," Clarisse said.
"Yes ma'am," Charlotte said with a chuckle as she obeyed her monarch and placed the letter in the requested pile. Charlotte loved mornings like these because the dialogue between Joseph and Her Majesty was always entertaining...and today was no exception. Both of them seemed to be in high spirits, which made Charlotte's day. She loved seeing them joke and laugh with each other, and in some cases, they might even flirt a little with one another, but if that ever happened it was always done unknowingly...which made it even more entertaining for Charlotte.
Before Clarisse could return to her work, Joseph wordlessly leaned over and tapped her leg with a piece of paper. When she looked at him, Joseph handed her the card from the kindergarten class and then turned to get a new letter.
Joseph grabbed another letter but didn't open it. Instead, he watched Clarisse's expression as she studied the card. Upon realizing what it was she was holding, a warm smile graced Clarisse's lips. She admired each drawing individually and then read the message at the top. Her grin increased. She looked up at Joseph, who was smiling at her, and gave him a warm smile in return.
"Charlotte, see to it that I personally respond to this letter as well. Thank you."
Charlotte took the card and looked at it herself. "Oh..." she said after a short while, "kids are so adorable."
Clarisse smiled at her, "I know."
After that, things grew quiet for the most part. Letters were read and a few comments were made. For a long while, the only sound in the room was the tic tock of the grandfather clock that stood on the other side of the room. At one point Charlotte rolled her eyes and gave a rather loud sigh. She picked up an envelope of junk mail and threw it Frisbee-style across to the trashcan. The envelope hit the wall and then fell into the can.
"Nice shot, Charlotte," Joseph applauded.
Charlotte smiled, not realizing that both Joseph and Her Majesty had watched her actions, "Thank you," she said simply.
"What was that Charlotte?" Clarisse asked.
"It was just some junk mail." Then turning to Joseph she said, "I don't know how it was missed during the scan."
Joseph just hiked his shoulders indicating that he didn't know either.
"Scan?" Clarisse asked, "What scan?"
"All of the mail that the Palace receives goes through a scanning process before it's actually taken to whomever it was addressed," Charlotte explained.
This was news to Clarisse; she turned and looked questioningly at Joseph.
"They do it so that only things that are actually important get put on your desk. Like they do for everywhere else, businesses and companies will send mail to the Palace advertising for whatever business or service they offer. What they think the Palace of Genovia would do with laundry mat coupons is beyond me, but they send them anyway. And we have a whole group of people that sort through the mail each day and throw away those sorts of things. Much like Charlotte just did, though not as impressively," Joseph added, winking at Charlotte.
"Where do they do this 'scan'?" Clarisse asked.
"We have a room dedicated to it on the first floor. You wouldn't believe how much mail goes through there everyday," Charlotte said.
Clarisse gestured towards the pile in front of herself, "And I thought this was a lot. Perhaps I should find a time to go to that room and thank those who do my scans."
Joseph and Charlotte both looked up from their separate letters and gave each other an amused grin.
Clarisse noticed their expressions, "What?" she said, "What are you smiling about?"
"Are you sure that you want to go there, You Majesty? I mean, it's not exactly 'tidy' in there," Charlotte said.
"Oh tush, it can't be that bad."
"Charlotte sugar coats it, Your Majesty. It is that bad. Envelopes to the ceiling! People who work in there must go through intense training at a small camp in the alps of Switzerland before they can even set foot in the mail room."
Charlotte snorted at Joseph's exaggeration and Clarisse just gave him an unbelieving smile.
"I went there once," Joseph went on, "to talk to someone who was inside. Before they even opened the door, they tied a rope around my middle in the case that I should get stuck and they would have to pull me free again. They deserve medals...those brave souls."
Charlotte was laughing harder than anyone had the right to laugh while sorting mail. Clarisse bit her lips together, trying to look as stern as possible as she glared at him and shook her head slowly, as though she were disappointed in him for making up such a detestable lie. But she couldn't help letting out a few giggles. This was one of her favorite sides of Joseph. His humor was odd, but it always made her laugh.
"Nevertheless, Charlotte, make sure to allow me a time during tomorrow's schedule when I can go and thank those 'brave souls' personally."
Charlotte nodded, "Yes, Your Majesty."
And so it continued. Letter after letter was read. Dotted-line after dotted-line was signed. Finally, only a few minutes after the Grandfather clock struck one pm, Clarisse signed her name for the last time that day, and Charlotte started gathering the piles that had been made. Clarisse dropped her pen and leaned back in her chair. She closed her eyes with a sigh and began to rub her, now very sore, right hand. Before long, Joseph had taken that hand and began to massage it with his own. Clarisse smiled at him thankfully. He often went far beyond the call of duty to insure her comfort and she was grateful to him because of it.
Charlotte filed some of the papers away and carried the rest with her, "If there isn't anything else, You Majesty. I have something to attend to before the Parliament session tonight."
"Of course, Charlotte, and thank you," Clarisse said with a grateful smile.
Charlotte bowed her way out of the room and pretended not to notice the way Joseph was carefully and tenderly rubbing the hand of his Queen. Once she left the room she made sure to close the doors behind her, giving the two still inside some privacy in case it was desired.
Clarisse opened her eyes to look at her Head of Security as he stuck diligently to his work of massaging her hand. His eyebrows were low as he concentrated on her hand. He squeezed her finger slightly and then slid his grip all the way to the point of each finger, keeping the pressure on the finger at all times. It felt marvelous to her overworked hand. She sighed quietly before saying, "Thank you so much, Joseph. You and Charlotte both lend a helping hand to me more so than you really have to. And I appreciate it."
"It's our pleasure, Your Majesty. Charlotte adores you and will do anything for you if you merely asked it," Joseph said as he still kept tenderly rubbing her hand.
Clarisse looked him in the eye, though he wasn't looking at her, and asked, "And why do you do it, Joseph?"
Joseph stopped rubbing and looked up at her. Even though the pleasure of his massage had stopped, Clarisse didn't regret the question, she genuinely wanted to know. She waited, but kept the eye contact steady.
He looked at her and he seemed to smile a little. "I suppose I have a less in-depth answer to that…" his eyes narrowed slightly and he tilted his head a little, "…or perhaps…an answer so much more profound that it is easily mistaken for something lesser."
Clarisse arched an eyebrow at this slightly poetic statement, "And what would that be?" she asked.
He brought her hand to his lips and kissed it gently. "Because you're worth it," he said simply. Then he inhaled audibly before adding, "And I'd like to think that, if our roles were reversed, you would do the same for me."
"That I would, you can be sure, King Joseph," Clarisse stressed the never-before-used title with an amused smile. She began to chuckle slightly at the noticeable shade of red that covered the man's face. He gave a rather awkward smile then looked away sheepishly. She went on, "I think I rather like calling you that. I think I'll do it again…"
"Please don't," he said.
"Why? Don't you like it?"
"It sounds so…wrong."
She smiled at his modesty. "I don't think it sounds so wrong. I think you would have made a fine King. And you already host a rather kingly demeanor with the men on your security force. They respect you because you have all the qualities that a king needs. You're noble, just, and courageous; but you're also kind, selfless, and gentle."
Joseph gave her a strange look, "I'm not sure about the last one. My men have never seen me gentle."
"You're gentle with me," Clarisse offered.
He looked at her and smiled softly, "You're different," he stated.
"And how is that?"
He reached to grab both of her hands. He stared at them while he tried to decide whether or not he should say what he wanted to say. He didn't know how she would take it. He looked up at her with a certain look that implored whether she really wanted to know. She watched him expectantly, indicating yes, she wanted him to continue. He breathed in…and spoke,
"Because you're valuable and…well…Clarisse, you've been broken so many times. You've done your best to piece little bits of yourself back together again, but…the more something brakes the more fragile it becomes. And you've been broken so many times before, that you need to be handled with great care."
He inwardly held his breath not knowing how she would react. Would she be mad?
The truth was, when he first started speaking, yes she was offended. He was saying that she's been shattered so much that, even though she's brought herself back together, she can never be of the same use as she was before. So she's got to be put away, where no one can touch her, and let her lick her wounds in peace. Well that was far from the truth, far from it! Yes, she's been hurt! Yes, her heart's been broken many times before! But she has always gotten right back up again. She has always pulled herself together and overcome the problem. And what's more, she did it entirely alone! No one helped her! No one leant there hand to pick her up again! No, she pulled herself out of that wreckage! How dare Joseph talk about how tender she was, as though she were some impersonal porcelain doll! Where was he during all those heart brakes?
Then Clarisse's inward rant came to a screeching halt. She was being irrational. She had asked where Joseph was. Well that was a foolish question. He was right there. He was always right there. When Rupert was ill, and Clarisse would be sick in worry; Joseph was always with her, staying up with her all the nights when she couldn't sleep cause of her worries. He was in the room with her when the doctor solemnly came out of Rupert's room to deliver the news that the King had passed. It was Joseph that didn't leave that room for a day and a half, weeping with her. When Philippe died in that horrible accident, Joseph was the one to deliver the news in the tenderest way that anyone could. Oh, how blind she had been just a moment ago when she thought that she was alone in that suffering. Yes…he had always been there.
And he was right; because of all the things life had dragged her through…she was very tender. And she needed to be handled with care. She knew for sure that she couldn't handle another heartbreak. More tragedies would leave her devastated. She knew she needed to be handled with care, and she knew that Joseph would be that handler.
It had been a long pause and now Joseph felt for sure that he had offended her. He let go of her hands and could already imagine the feel of one swiftly make impact with his cheek, and could imagine the loud smack that would sound out around the room. He could already see in his head her hurt expression and hear her shaky voice as she would stand and peer down at him saying, "How dare you label me fragile! As though I can never get up after being knocked down! Well you sir are wrong! I can get up, and I can do this too!" And another slap would hit his cheek which she would follow up with something like, "How's that for fragile!"
He cautiously asked, "Are you angry?" and he inwardly braced himself for the slap he knew was coming.
But she didn't slap his cheek. In fact, she did something very different to his cheek. She stroked it.
She could tell he wasn't expecting her tender gesture. The way he flinched when she extended her hand to his face told her he had thought she was going to react a littler differently. But she just stroked the side of his face and said, "Thank you Joseph, no one's ever said anything like that to me in all my years. No one's ever acted like they cared about my heart. No ones ever said that they wanted to treat my heart with the tenderness it now requires. It means a lot to me to know that you'll see to it that it's treated gently."
Joseph, still a little shocked, just stared at her as she spoke and tried to get the scenarios figured out in his head. Was this really happening and he just imagined the slap? Or did he really get slapped and now is just imagining this. But then Clarisse did something to set him strait. He knew now that he was not imagining because she was leaning in now and kissing his cheek…and he would never have imagined that she would do that! So it must be real.
Clarisse pulled away and said thank you one more time. The look on Joseph's face was one of astonishment as he watched her move away from him. Then, as though finally caught up with reality, he reached swiftly for her forearm and kept her from moving any further away. Still looking rather dazed, he leaded in and placed a small kiss to her lips. They pulled away from one another a few seconds later; it was, after all, a small kiss. They looked at each other in silence.
Finally Joseph cleared his throat and said, "I know that we just established that you're fragile, but…do you think, perhaps, that was a little too gentle?"
Clarisse smiled and gave her head a little nod.
Okay guys, this is a story that I started a super long time ago but never actually finished. Well now I finished it off and I gotta say…I took it a totally different direction from where it was supposed to go! The whole story was originally going to have the same kind of feel that the first half had. But then as I started writing it turned out to be a little more serious and then a lot more romantic towards the end. So tell me if you like the way it turned out. Let me know what you think!
Thanks a lot, you guys!