Title: Umbrella

Author: sitarra

Rating: no clue but not R

Disclaimer: I own nothing, as usual. The title belongs to Rihanna from her song 'Umbrella' off of her Good Girl Gone Bad album. I used exerts from that song as well. All songs used in this story are not my own. Please don't sue.

The summary is from 'Cowboy Up' by Jill Johnson from her album The Woman I've Become. Also, I was inspired by a moment of Murphy Brown in season four, episode Birth 101, when she gives birth to her son. I don't own the concept.

I highly recommend all the songs mentioned.

Summary: 'Who is willing and brave enough and not afraid to cowboy up?'

A/N: This story is a companion piece to "Mercy on Me." There will be one more that follows this one. Think of them like "Pirates of the Caribbean;" one is a little before 2 and 3 but 2 and 3 are back to back.

The years in this story are 1963, 1964, 1968, 1969, 1986, 2001, 2002, and 2007.

IMPORTANT: Once again, please pay attention to all DATES and TIMES. It is important because if you don't, you will get confused. And please, if you don't read songs in stories, please DO. It's important to understand the vibe of the story.

This story is in a different fashion than Mercy on Me. It'll start off in the present but then move to flashbacks and go back and forth throughout the entire story. Also, some dates from Mercy on Me don't match this story. I'm aware but I don't feel like going back again and fixing everything.

ANOTHER IMPORTANT NOTE: Princess Diaries 2 NEVER happened. It's just easier that way and I don't buy the whole story that Clarisse would be forced to step down or that she would do it so early. That's based on how pretty much every monarchy works.

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"Welcome to the greatest show, greatest show on earth you've never seen before. Here the fairytale unfolds. What's behind the smoke and glass, painted faces? Everybody wears a mask.

"You're riding on a shooting star with a smile on your face, but soon the shine fades. And you're left out all alone wonderin' 'where did they all go?'"

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June 9, 2007 -- Genovian Palace

Charlotte thanked the delivery man as he dropped off the package. The man tipped his hat and smiled toothily at the younger woman when he received his tip.

Charlotte knew without looking at the card who the delivery belonged to.

*** **

"I suggest you spend your time wisely this summer, Mia," Clarisse was telling her granddaughter as Charlotte entered the room. "There is still much you need to learn and I will be very busy this month."

"But it's summer, grandma," Mia argued. "I have a short attention span during summer."

Clarisse shot her granddaughter a warning look. Mia was quick to respond.

"But for you, I'll do my best." Charlotte entered Mia's view with the delivery. "Ooh, those are pretty."

Charlotte set the vase of English violets down on Clarisse's desk. "These just arrived, your Majesty."

Clarisse let a small smile grace her lips as she pulled the card. She opened it and wrote something on it before placing the card in a desk drawer. Curiosity got the best of Mia.

"Who are they from, grandma?" She moved closer to investigate.

Clarisse had returned to her work as though nothing had happened.

"That's none of your business." Somehow, a tiny smile was on the edge of her lips. That didn't go unnoticed by Mia.

"Ooh, I think someone has a secret admirer," she teased. Clarisse only hummed and continued to look busy.

Charlotte chose then to intervene. "Your Majesty, Parliament begins in fifteen minutes."

Clarisse looked down at her watch and was startled to see the time. "Thank you, Charlotte. I suppose I'd better be heading over there, then. Mia…"

"I'll get busy," she said, already aware of what her grandmother was going to tell her.

Clarisse smiled and said, "Thank you. I'll see you later." And with that, she was out the door.

Mia quickly turned to her grandmother's aide. "What's the deal with the flowers?"

Having long given in to the teenager, Charlotte barely flinched at the question.

"For as long as I've worked here, the queen receives a vase of English violets every June ninth," she explained all she knew. "And no, I don't know who they're from."

Mia's mouth gapped open, her question still on the tip of her tongue. She still looked contemplative.

"Don't bother asking, Mia," Charlotte advised. "She won't tell you and you know it."

"But you know I can't resist a challenge." Charlotte's look remained firm. "All right. Well, grandma said I should become familiar with Genovian history. What's the best way to learn about Genovia?"

"The palace library and news archives," Charlotte answered with no thought. "There is certainly plenty at your disposal. Though I can't say that everything's in order."

Mia nodded and began to head towards the door. "Thanks, Charlotte."

*** **

Meanwhile, Clarisse still had her mind on the English violets.

Every year for the past forty-four years, she had received those same precious flowers on the eve of her wedding anniversary. Only one person knew the attachment behind those flowers. Well, one living person. She doubted her father was sending her flowers from beyond the grave.

That one person continued to keep their oath.

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Everything's changing

But you're the truth

I'm amazed by all your patience

Everything I put you through

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June 9, 1963 -- the lake

Clarisse absentmindedly threw rocks into the late. Her whole life would change tomorrow. She would be the wife of a prince and next in line for the throne. So much more would be expected of her.

And she wasn't sure if she could do it.

Her feet told her to run. Her mind told her to stay. Her heart was in turmoil.

She had a duty to so many people, her country included, but she wanted to throw that away.

She only wanted to have a duty to one person.

Clarisse sighed heavily and heaved the rest of the rocks towards the lake. They each landed with a loud plunk.

"I never should have met him," she told herself aloud. "If I hadn't, this wouldn't be so difficult."

"But if you hadn't, then you wouldn't have made me the happiest man alive during our short time together," came a voice from behind her.

Clarisse turned around, losing her footing as she did. She didn't know if she was more startled by another presence or the fact that he actually spoke to her.

He handed her an English violet. She accepted it automatically.

"Joseph," she breathed.

He smiled, not surprised by her shock. When he'd last seen her, he walked out on her vowing to never again speak to her. However, as he'd later told her, the pull of her was simply too strong.

"What are you doing here?" she asked him, slowly walking towards him. "I thought you joined the army."

"I did but I don't leave for a few months yet," he explained. "I wanted to see you one last time before you officially belong to someone else."

She had approached him by this time and dared herself to take his hand. "I'll never belong to someone else," she vowed to him, her eyes staring straight into his.

He didn't bother to say anything.

"How did you know I was here?" she asked.

"Richard told me you weren't at home and this was always the spot we came to," he explained. "I have a feeling he wants me to talk you out of tomorrow."

"Well, don't you?" Clarisse blurted out. She soon realized her error and began to correct herself. "I mean… well, not to say that… you don't…"

"Calm down, Clarisse," Joseph laughed. It wasn't often that he saw her flustered. "I know what you mean."

She showed a faint smile but avoided his eyes. She *did* want to be talked out of it. She wanted Joseph to say he needed her too much and that he was going to take her away from all of this. They would start their life together somewhere with their own house and their own land…

"If I knew it was the right thing," Joseph continued, breaking Clarisse from her thoughts, "I would attempt to talk you out of it."

She looked up at him. "It's not the right thing?" Her brow creased in confusion.

"Despite what you think, you *have* made up your mind."

She pushed away from him in disgust.

"You sound just like my father. He said the same thing to me the other day."

"Clarisse, think about it," he pleaded with her. He stepped closer to her and found her hands once more. "I'd convince you otherwise if I thought you would listen. If I managed to convince you and we ran off together, you would feel guilt the rest of your life."

"Like I'm not feeling guilt now?" she asked him rhetorically. Her eyes flared at the assumption. "I've deceived you and now I fear I could never possibly love Rupert, the man I'm supposed to be marrying tomorrow. That is guilt I shall live with the rest of my life. Don't tell me of guilt."

Joseph brought his hands up to cup her face. He wondered if she was aware of what she'd just told him. "Forgive me, Clarisse."

He could see the tears in her eyes and knew she didn't want him to see that. But he refused to let her break eye contact.

"I didn't come here to upset you," Joseph murmured.

"You haven't upset me," Clarisse sniffed.

Joseph pressed his forehead to hers and said, "Liar." At that, Clarisse cracked a smile.

"I'll have to get better at it, then," she concluded. Even if she did, she knew he would always be the one person that could see right through her.

Her smile soon disappeared and her tone grew serious. "Why did you come here?"

"To give you my best wishes and tell you that no matter how much it kills me to let you go, I know it's the right thing."

Her brow creased but she said nothing. He continued.

"You have the opportunity to go on and become someone great, Clarisse. You have the opportunity to change Genovia and her people," he explained. He'd given it a lot of though since he last saw her. She had a chance to become a wonderful human being. And the chance to have more than he could ever give her. "I'm not about to take that away from you, Clarisse."

A tear escaped from her blue eyes. "But I'll lose you if you don't."

"You'll never lose me, Clarisse," he promised, his voice cracking as he said it.

Around them, the wind picked up as dark clouds rolled in. if they felt the rain, neither one acknowledged it.

"Promise me, Joseph," she demanded. She clutched at his arms, holding him firmly in place.

"I will always be here for you, to talk to, to complain to. Nothing could ever break my loyalty to you," he vowed. They both blinked through the falling rain. "I made a promise to you when I first met you and I intend not to break it. Do you remember that promise?"

Thunder clapped around them and lightening illuminated their faces but they didn't notice.

"You said that no matter what the future brought we would always remain friends," she recalled with ease. "Distance could never separate us, only make our love grow stronger."

"I also promised to love you forever," Joseph added, his voice growing soft. "I have not broken any of my promises. At least, I hope I haven't."

Clarisse shook her head. Rain water poured down her face and flattened her hair. Her dress stuck to her but she didn't care. Come tomorrow, she wouldn't receive the chance to do this again.

"You haven't," she assured.

Taking a chance, he leaned in closer to her. His lips tentatively touched to hers, gauging her reaction before he tried anything further. Allaying his fears, she held tight to him. She responded to his kiss, kissing him back eagerly. Her emotions were running on high. She wanted all of him, all the time. But she knew that could not be. He was right; she did have an amazing opportunity in front of her.

But she truly wished she didn't.

"I will always love you, Clarisse," Joseph murmured when they parted. "Always. And I will always be your shoulder to lean on matter what. Day or night, just call and I can be here."

"I can't ask that of you."

"You're not asking; I'm offering. You're a part of me now, Clarisse. If I can't be your lover, then I will be your friend. I will always be looking out for you, protecting you."

She looked at him with watery eyes. She'd never met a man so sweet before, so… selfless. Perhaps she was right; Richard should have never introduced them. Joseph was simply too sweet to let go.

Slowly, she smiled. "Then I shall let you protect me."

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So go on and let the rain pour

I'll be all you need and more

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Disclaimer: Songs in this chapter are 'Save Me from Myself' by Christina Aguilera from her album Back to Basics Disc Two and 'Umbrella' by Rihanna from her album Good Girl Gone Bad.