I haven't shipped this in years, and I have stories from this pairing unfinished. I can only try to do them, and I probably never will, I just kind of dried up on the C/J front. I am always busy. I hope you enjoy this. Nothing belongs to me, all of it to Disney and Meg Cabot. Please enjoy.

She had not been prepared for such a startling turn in events, her mind, her heart had never endured such monumental suffering. And her body felt more than unbearably weak, more than frighteningly unable. As she stared into her reflection in the glass of her dresser mirror, gilded gold and pretty she felt she were offending it with such a reflection. The pain that coursed, undiluted and poisonous through her veins, had found itself a canvas on her face. Etched lines of pain crisscrossing her frown, contorting her brow. Even her make up, applied by her dresser had done nothing to conquer such a disastrous countenance. She feared she wouldn't be able to pull herself together at all and the collisions of emotions in her brain made thought incoherent.

"Mama," her son stood at the door, bedecked in a black suit. It hung grudgingly on his body, as if it didn't belong there; and it didn't, not for this funeral, "Mama we need to go."

She turned to him, prepared to say "I can't," or "what will I do?" but instead she nodded, the plights of words too heavy to say being swallowed in a breathless gulp.

Pierre turned at the door, for he seemed to have used all his words and in his place there was Joseph. But he wasn't the same, he was muted by her pain. Blunt in her vision.

"I can't do this," she whispered, feeling the blood in her body plummet from her head to her feet. She stumbled slightly, bile rising in her throat. He rushed forward, holding her by her elbows to steady her.

"Clarisse," he help her up straight, "Clarisse you have to. For Philippe, for Pierre and for the country."

"I can't do it," she shook her head, "My little boy, what will I do? I can't possibly do this. I don't want to-"

"You can," he touched her cheek, in a desperately restrained manner. He hoisted her up against his own body, allowing her to lean against him. He offered his arm and she entwined her own around it.

"You must walk," he cajoled her, pulling her against his shoulder, "And when we get out into the foyer Pierre and I shall be there, and everything will be alright."

She took his offering gratefully, clinging to it with the determination a drowning person might cling to a rope. She rested against him as he guided her from the inner rooms of her chambers into the outer room, where she knew that behind the door crowds waited. Her Ladies Maid, distant Family members she didn't care about nor cared for their presence, Charlotte chewing nervously on her bottom lip and behind the main doors, in the glittering sun people lined the streets of the city. Avid and patient, to mourn the loss of their Prince Royal.

The staff of the palace lined the foyer, dressed in apt mourning clothing. Some cried silently, Philippe had been popular, accessible. Other's curtsied, bowed with a slight hindrance. He had been adored but she, she couldn't offer them that. Instead she averted her eyes, steadying her gaze on the parquet before her. Counting each step with proud achievement; if she made it to the door, she would be greatly pleased. Joseph supported her with diligence, with discreet assuring calmness. His hand slipped to the lower of her back as he led her outside, into the stifling weather. It would not do to hold her upright at the moment.

The sun mocked her, it's blazing heat dancing in the morning sky.

"At least it's a beautiful day," Pierre whispered, watching the seething, murmuring crowds behind the gates of the palace as the cars sped toward the cathedral, "He loved good weather."
"I know," She let the words tumble out, landing uncomfortably at her feet. She composed herself, lifting herself from her slump as the crowds heightened and they came nearer and nearer the church. They moved as one mournful, black sea.

She turned to Joseph, "Did you do…"

"Yes," he handed her the roses he had been carrying, though in her stupor she had not noticed them, "I picked them from your garden."

"Thank you," she managed a wan smile, "He loved roses."

"He did, Mama," Pierre smiled as the car came to a slowing, painful halt on the tarmac. Though it was early, it was promising to be a painfully hot day.

The eulogy was pretty, the music was bearable - everything was bland, blurred and unrealistic. She sat at the front, flanked by her beautiful son and the man she loved. But feeling unbelievably stifled, yet horribly lonely. She was a crucible of gurgling emotions.

Outside, she thanked public mourners feeling as if she was not in her own body. An entourage followed her, Joseph holding her up, her old friend, the Bishop, following her. And Pierre, somewhere and nowhere all at once. She didn't want to follow the coffin, ominous and dank to the family tomb. Unless someone would wake her up from this terrifying dream. And yet it was just a short walk, 100 yards and it was interminable. She felt as if she had climbed mountains by the time she had came to stand before the grand marble. She did not cry though, instead she counted her steps wishing she could fall into Joseph's arms - or just lean against him.

There was something indefinite about the tomb, the Renaldi family tomb with generations of Kings and Queens and blessed blood found their rest. The earth had finality under sods of grass, but the tomb had doors - only doors. They offered no security. No finality and all she wanted was some true, real finality.

She was exhausted, saddened beyond belief and yet she could not dare to dream that she would find any solace at all in the hours following the morning. The noon was looming but never quite reached her. Instead she sat in the chair in her chamber, cradling a mug of cold tea.

"Clarisse?" She looked up, concentrating on who it was. Her eyes were tired and her mind even more so.

"Joseph," she bowed her head, staring into the liquid in the cup.

"Darling," it was an involuntary affectation but he pressed on, " Can I help you?"
"Sit with me?" She motioned to the seat, "I don't promise I shall be good company but…"
She laughed dryly and drew her hands over her eyes as he sat, removing his jacket and shoes.

"Don't you have things to do?" She questioned, swallowing again. She wanted to say that she wanted nothing to go on again, that the loss of her son was so paramount that nothing in the world should move but even in her horror she knew that such a wish was unrealistic - but the feeling was real.

"Not if it does not include you," he said quietly, "Not today at least."

"I don't want the world to go on," she said suddenly, leaning forward and cradling her face in her hands, "I don't think I can carry this on. What shall I do?"

"I phoned Helen," he answered, "Both Pierre and I spoke to her. She says you may fly out to see her, whenever it suits you."
"It's been 2 weeks," she continued, staring at him blankly, "And I cannot get used to not hearing his voice in the mornings, awakening me. Or him playing tennis. Or his womanising. I miss it all. And they made him lie in state and I-" she trailed off into tears, sobs wrenching through her body quite unwillingly. It was the first time she had cried in these weeks, she had wept initially, but more out of shock that grief. Now it was all encompassing, regretful grief. If only she had prevented him from driving in the rain, if only she had arranged for him to do something with her that night. If only she had been stronger and had told them all she wanted him not to lie in state, so she could say goodbye properly.
"2 weeks is nothing," he shook his head, "2years will be nothing. "

"and I don't ever think this pain," she let tears fall from her eyes undeterred by propriety, "will ever go away and that petrifies me more than anything."

"It won't but you will live with it," he reached over to touch her knee," We will live with it."
It was inappropriate, the 'we' of that statement - the plural. They were just friends. And though she loved him, though she wished that she could have him for a lover she did not.

She, in a moment of absurd clarity reached forward to rest her head on his shoulder; so they found each other in an arch. He reached up, his fingers running through her hair as her tears fell onto his shirt. Burning his skin. His lips came into contact with the skin of her neck, unsure at first in a brief kiss. An almost nonexistent kiss. He pulled her from where she sat to hold her against him in a an awkward embrace on the sofa. His lips never leaving her neck, his hands holding her shoulders.

She rested peacefully against him, feeling somewhat more exhausted in a positive sense - in a possibility of sleep.

"Don't leave me" She pleaded, "I can't sleep."

He said nothing, he did not kiss her because he would not blur those boundaries, the fleeting romanticism of the kisses on her neck fed their appetites enough for now.

"I won't Clarisse," he cradled her to him, "I told you I wouldn't."
"I mean forever," she stared intently into his eyes, "I mean you must never leave me. Ever."

"And I mean I won't, ever."

And oddly, wholeheartedly she believed him as she fell asleep in his arms.

Please review,

Yours,

M

Xx