Time-period: between PD1 & PD2
Couple Clarisse & Joseph
Disclaimer: Based on the Disney movies. Books written by Meg Cabot. I'm only having a little fun with some of the characters
To my beta-reader. Thank you so much for correcting my mistakes! *Big hug*
The story was written for a forum challenge. There was a list of words to choose from, and the word chosen for this fanfic was "humor".
The Palace of Genovia was quiet. Except for the security personnel, most of the inhabitants of the palace had retired for the night.
Several architectural plans of the palace were spread out on the huge table at the back of the library. Joseph studied the plans intently, looking for indications of the secret passages meandering through the palace. The security team had systematically modernized the security of the palace with the approval of the Queen and according to her Head of Security's detailed instructions. These passages were the one area of the palace security that was still neglected. He always felt uneasy about this possible flaw in his otherwise tight security system. It was also important to him to be aware of all possible escape routes from the palace, should the need arise.
Still not finding the specific plan he was looking for, Joseph decided to once again search through the records. He remembered that King Rupert had once told him that there were architectural plans or maps drawn up many years ago that showed all the passages, and that they were kept as part of the library collection. Joseph opened his laptop and signed onto the palace network. He opened up the database containing the library catalogue and entered a few search terms. After the results had been scanned, he wrote down the location number of one of the older plans, dated 1894. To his delight, Joseph finally found the casing of the particular plan he was looking for in the bottom drawer of the cabinet containing Genovian maps and plans.
Back at the table, he carefully slid out the old plan from the casing, and pulled a face as the powder of the degrading yellowish paper came off on his hands. As cautiously as he possibly could, not wanting to cause more damage to the paper, he unfolded the plan and spread it open on the table. Joseph's face lit up as the maze of passages unfolded before his eyes. He recognized the passage that the Queen often used to secretly listen to and peek at the Parliamentarians when she was not attending that particular session. He traced the passage with his finger to where it ended at the entrance of the well known palace chapel. The small chapel was sometimes used for private ceremonies and services and Joseph had found Queen Clarisse there on occasion in solitude, especially during the time after the death of her husband and youngest son.
What he didn't know, and was intrigued to see, was that a second passage led from the chapel. According to the plan, the entrance to the passage was just behind the altar. He traced the passage with his finger, making mental notes. What made the task difficult was faded ink due to years of deterioration of the paper. It had caused some parts of the drawing to disappear. Rather than wasting any more time trying to figure out the vanishing information, Joseph decided to investigate. He replaced all the plans and locked the cabinet.
Before going to the chapel, he went to the security control room to inform his second in command, Shades, where he was going. He then fetched a strong flashlight, a few pieces of white chalk and a rope from the security storeroom. Once in the chapel, he carefully moved his hand over the stone wall behind the altar, looking for a sign of the entrance to the passageway. When one of the stones moved, Joseph pushed hard and with a hollow sound, the wall started to move slightly, eventually opening up as a revolving door. Joseph inspected the mechanism of the door from inside the passage and out, and when he was sure that the mechanism would work both ways, he carefully closed the door behind him. The passage had obviously not been used for ages, as it had a musty smell and looked dusty and dark. Joseph was pleased that the flashlight was able to give enough light for him to familiarize himself with his surroundings. He made a huge cross on the door with the chalk, indicating his starting point. Joseph followed the passage, marking the walls with chalk arrows as he progressed. The passage snaked through the palace, making it difficult to keep a sense of direction. When he finally reached a dead end, he first thought of turning back, but in the light of the flashlight, faint markings was revealed against the plastered wall. The markings formed an arch, an obvious indication that a previous doorway had been sealed sometime in the past. His curiosity aroused, he moved his hand over the markings. He felt sure that it must have been a previous exit into the palace garden. Some of the cement dust drifted into the air, causing Joseph to cough as he inhaled some of the dust. He leaned against the wall to brace himself and more of the plaster came off. Realizing that the plastering job was weakened by years of decay and possibly a bad original mixing job, Joseph felt sure that it would be fairly easy to break through the wall. He flung his body against the hard surface, and more cement dust came away from the wall. To his surprise, the bottom part of the sealed opening started to crumble, breaking outwards. To open up a hole big enough for him to crawl through, Joseph kicked at the sides of the opening with his boots. He couldn't see where it might be leading due to the thick cloud of dust that drifted around him.
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It was long past midnight, but Clarisse couldn't sleep. She was propped up in bed trying to read. For the past half an hour, she had heard indistinct scuffling and scratching noises. Not being a particularly scared person, she wondered what could possibly be the source of the commotion so late at night.
"Maurice, do you think there are rats in the palace?" Clarisse questioned her white poodle, sleeping undisturbed in his royally decorated basket. She looked over her glasses at the walls and roof but couldn't quite make out where the noise was coming from. Maurice opened his eyes and wagged his tail at the sound of his mistress' voice. "Why don't you go and see what or who is responsible for this annoyance! Not much of a watch dog, are you?"
Maurice groaned and put his head back on his paws, shifting into a more comfortable position, obviously not disturbed by the noise at all.
All of a sudden there was a loud crashing sound, and Clarisse looked up, staring in alarm in the direction of the noise. As if in a dream, an opening appeared in her bedroom wall and debris lay scattered all over the floor. Maurice jumped up and began to bark. Clarisse was shocked into immobility. A dusty cloud formed from the dark hole in the wall. As soon as the dust started to settle, a grey apparition emerged through the opening and stood up, looking like a creature from a horror movie. The shock of seeing the human shape materializing in her room got her out of her state of stupor. She jumped out of bed, grabbed the bed clothing to cover herself and scrambled backwards against the furthest corner of her room. She wanted to scream and call the guards but her throat felt constricted and she could not utter a sound.
The human form started to cough profusely, and to her horror, Maurice stopped barking and ran forward towards the apparition. Realizing that she had to act, Clarisse edged forward to her bedside table in an effort to reach for the panic button.
"Clarisse, don't," a wheezing voice instructed, and the familiarity in the voice stopped her movement immediately. "I am so sorry, I didn't know…"
"Joseph, what on earth…?" Clarisse felt her legs give out from under her, and she sank onto the carpet next to her bed, grabbing onto the mattress.
Joseph came storming forward, wanting to help her up, but she stopped him before he could reach her with a definite and loud, "no!"
Joseph stood aghast, not knowing what to do. He was as shaken and mystified as she was. That the passage might end up in the Queen's chambers had never crossed his mind. His only concern at that moment was for Clarisse, who was obviously in a state of shock. Seeing her on the floor and knowing he was the cause of her predicament was too much for him to bear. "Clarisse, I am so incredibly sorry!"
She drew herself up from the floor and sat down on the bed, staring at the wall and then at Joseph in bewilderment. Then she suddenly burst into fits of laughter, and Joseph reached for her again, wanting to take her into his arms. She lifted her hands in a gesture to prevent him and got out between giggles "don't you dare… touch me!"
"Your Majesty, are you hysterical?"
"Probably…" she confessed, trying to catch her breath between giggles. "Go and look in the… mirror…" she managed before she was once again overwhelmed by laughter, wiping tears from her eyes.
It dawned on Joseph what his appearance might be like. An unsure smile tugged at the corners of his mouth and he turned around to walk to Clarisse's bathroom.
An urgent knock on the door forced Clarisse to gain control, and she reached for her dressing gown and slippers.
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Three very concerned-looking security guards were waiting at the entrance of the queen's chambers. Obvious relief washed over their faces when the Queen emerged from her room and closed the door softly behind her, apparently composed and unscathed.
"Good evening, gentlemen," Clarisse acknowledged them courteously.
"Good evening, Your Majesty. We apologize for disturbing you at this time of night. The guards at your door alerted me to some disturbance in your room and to the dog's barking," Shades informed his Queen in a manner not unlike that of her Head of Security.
"It is quite all right," Clarisse responded in a comforting tone of voice.
Shades held his mouth piece closer and in a hushed tone notified the security personnel in the control room, "The Eagle is safe, I repeat, the Eagle is safe". He cleared his throat and Clarisse looked at him questioningly.
"Ma'am, I tried to contact Joseph but he didn't respond. He informed me earlier that he was going to investigate one of the hidden passages in the palace."
"Oh, I see." There was a hint of amusement in the Queen's eyes as she pondered Shades' words.
Shades couldn't help but admire the woman standing in front of him. Even in her light blue dressing gown and slippers, and at this late hour, she seemed regal, absolutely calm and in command of the situation. That something had happened was crystal-clear. According to the guards there had been thunderous noises coming from the queen's chambers.
"Do you want me to try to find Joseph or maybe try to contact him again, Your Majesty?" Shades tried again, hoping that she would disclose what had caused the commotion minutes before.
"No, that won't be necessary. There was indeed a slight incident in my room, but nothing to be concerned about." Clarisse looked at the two guards flanking Shades and gave them an approving nod. "I appreciate your quick reaction. Could you gentlemen kindly guard the entrance, and Scott, if you would please come in?"
The guards looked almost disappointed but moved back immediately, taking their normal positions. Shades stepped into the queen's chambers while Clarisse closed the door firmly behind him.
In the bathroom, Joseph was staring in disbelief at the mirror. His whole body seemed to be covered with grey dust. Even his eyebrows had changed into a bizarre shade of grey. It was not surprising that Clarisse didn't want him to touch her. His embarrassment was acute and he felt the blood rushing to his face. If it wasn't for the grey dust covering his face, he would surely be beet red. He opened the tap at the washbasin and started to wash, trying his best to make himself more presentable. Hanging on to the sides of the washbasin, he breathed deeply a few times, forcing himself to calm down. When he emerged from the bathroom eventually, he was as cool and collected as always.
"Much better!" Clarisse smiled approvingly at Joseph, "I can even recognize you now. Shall we see what can be done about the mess in my room?"
"I didn't realize you were here already." Shades looked surprised as he stared at Joseph. "How did you…?" Clarisse's words suddenly registered, "a mess, Ma'am?"
"Yes. As I mentioned before, we have a small situation." She started to walk towards the hole in the wall.
Shades was able to add two and two together very quickly without any explanation. He looked at Joseph and then at the queen, perplexed that she was not angry with him for causing so much damage to her bedroom wall.
"We will unfortunately have to wake Charlotte to bring refuse bags and a broom maybe so that the room can be cleaned up before tomorrow morning. I do not want to watch 'Eggs with Elsie' on television in the morning and hear that there was a secret passage found leading to the queen's bedroom."
"Ma'am, I will personally hang anybody in the courtyard by their toes if they mention a word of this." Joseph solemnly promised.
"And I will assist him, Your Majesty." Shades added in support of his friend.
"Good," Clarisse chuckled and turned away from the two men. "Let me call Charlotte. I am also desperately in need of a nice cup of tea." She walked to her adjacent study, leaving the men to decide on a plan of action.
"Shades, is your friend, the electronic wizard, to be trusted?"
"Are you talking about the one who helped us to set up the security monitors and cameras in the building?"
"He is. Especially as far as her Majesty is concerned. Like all of us, he is in awe of her."
"Good, because if any of this gets out, she won't be pleased at all, and it will be off with his head."
"I will let him know," Shades smiled. "I am amazed that she is not more upset!"
"Her Majesty has dealt with many crises in her lifetime. This little incident can be handled fairly easily. She usually deals with this kind of situation with a sense of humor. I did frighten her though and I am really sorry for causing her distress."
"I wish I knew her as well as you do!"
"Yes," Joseph agreed indulgently. 'Not likely', Joseph thought. If Shades only knew how close he really was to his beloved queen, his darling Clarisse.
"Anyway," Joseph continued, "I was thinking that we should put in a secret door that is unnoticeable from this room. It will be much easier if we can open it with remote control rather than using some old mechanism."
"Do you want to open up the passage?"
"Yes. It is a great escape route for the Queen. I am sure she will agree."
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Charlotte came rushing to the queen's chambers when she got the telephone call. As soon as the guards came into view she slowed her steps, walking nonchalant as if she carried refuse bags, brooms and other cleaning utensils to the queen's room everyday. She acknowledged them with a friendly nod before knocking on the door. Queen Clarisse seldom summoned her in the middle of the night, unless it was a real emergency. She had been shocked wide awake when the queen had given her the outlines of what had happened and also had apologized for not waking Mrs. Coot to help with the cleaning. The queen had explained that she had thought it better if the incident were kept quiet until they could work out the finer details in the morning. There was seldom a dull moment in the palace, but even Charlotte had to admit that this situation was highly unusual.
Once inside, Charlotte studied the faces in front of her. She was really concerned for Joseph, but as usual, he seemed unfazed even though he was the cause of all the fuss. Shades seemed a little out of depth, as if he was having a hard time not to laugh and at the same time being worried by the state of the queen's room. Charlotte finally relaxed when she looked at the queen's face. Although it was often difficult to determine Queen Clarisse's state of mind behind the mask of calmness and charm, tonight she could detect the older woman's sense of merriment. She knew how quick the Queen could be at summing up situations and Charlotte wondered if she didn't already recognize the positive side of what had happened. She was well aware that Her Majesty would love to escape from her room unnoticed on occasion.
In between some bantering and quips, the four people quickly devised a plan of action and in no time the place looked a lot better. Charlotte and even Queen Clarisse herself held the bags open while the men scooped up the rubble and threw it in.
"This passage you have discovered reminds me of a legend, unconfirmed of course, involving King Rupert's great grandmother." Charlotte, Shades and Joseph were immediately intrigued as they listened to Queen Clarisse. "She had what was called, in those days, "a favorite" amongst the residing gentlemen in the palace. It was rumored that she received nightly visits from the then resident priest. Until this day it had been a mystery as to how he got into the queen's chambers since they were apparently sometimes heard but never seen. The rumor finally reached the ears of the then archbishop, who had the good sense to move the priest to a parish far away from the palace. Needless to say things in the palace turned back to normal soon after. Rupert dismissed this story as typical gossip by the maids. But I now have to wonder if this was indeed the truth… and who was responsible for closing up the entrance."
Charlotte giggled. "The lady's maids do seem to notice everything don't they?"
"Yes, and tomorrow will be no different," Clarisse looked a little concerned. "Charlotte, will you kindly inform Alice and Celia that I want to lie in tomorrow morning and do not want to be disturbed. Also grant them special leave for a week or two, as I will be redecorating."
"Where in the palace will you be staying while you are 'redecorating', Ma'am?" Joseph asked with dancing eyes.
"Pierre's room is always ready, Your Majesty."
"Yes, of course. Thank you, Charlotte."
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After the room was tidied up, Shades and Joseph moved Clarisse's dresser in front of the damaged wall just in case someone got into the queen's room in spite of all their precautions. The two guards at the door were dying of curiosity, but when Charlotte and Shades eventually emerged from the queen's chambers, they passed the guards as if nothing out of the ordinary had happened. Shades was to call off the guards in an hour's time, to give Joseph the chance to make his exit unnoticed, and for the two men to get rid of the rubble.
Finally alone, Joseph asked Clarisse if he could make use of her shower, as he did not want to risk meeting someone on his way to his room in his current state. Understanding his predicament, she offered him clean towels and an old t-shirt of Rupert's that she found in her cupboard.
Feeling much better after his shower, Joseph found Clarisse, looking out at the moonlit garden, seemingly deep in thought. She didn't hear him walking on the soft carpet and jumped a little when Joseph circled his arms round her middle, pulling her back against him.
"Oh, you're finished."
Joseph placed a soft kiss in her neck and she leaned into him, closing her eyes. With his mouth close to her ear, he said softly. "I am so sorry I frightened you and caused so much damage to your bedroom. Could you ever forgive me?"
The vibration of his voice against her skin sent waves of tingles shooting through her body, and she did her utmost to stay in control. She couldn't let him off the hook that easily. "You are already forgiven, dear," she said softly, "but forgetting is a different matter."
Joseph turned her around in his arms to look in her eyes, not sure of the meaning behind her words. When he saw the mirth in her eyes, the muscles in his face relaxed visibly. "You almost had me worried there."
"So you should be!"
"In other words, I may never be able to live this down."
"Well, just think of the wonderful dinner conversations this little incident will make when Mia or Pierre comes to visit."
"How could I possibly resist? Unless of course if you can convince me to develop a selective memory."
Joseph's eyebrows went up, not sure what she wanted. When Clarisse started to caress his cheek with the back of her hand, Joseph understood immediately. "Did you have something like this in mind, Your Majesty?" He took her hand away from his cheek and turned it around to place a gentle kiss on her wrist, moving his lips slowly towards the palm of her hand. He folded her hand into his. "Well, my dear?"
"Oh hmmmmm, I don't know. I can still recall every detail!"
With a smile playing around his mouth, Joseph pulled her closer, starting to enjoy her little game. He took her lower lip between his, and tugged on it gently for a few seconds. Joseph moved away a little and watched satisfied as she moved her tongue over her lower lip. "And that, my dear?"
Clarisse chuckled. "It was very nice, dear, but I'm not convinced yet."
Joseph squinted as he looked into the dancing blue eyes in front of him. "So you want more do you?" Joseph bent forward, and with an overwhelming onslaught, he rained a trail of kisses against her neck and jaw line before finally kissing her full and hard on the mouth. Clarisse moaned her approval and moved her hands across his back, drawing him closer against her body. He slanted his mouth over hers, kissing her deeply. When they finally broke the kiss, Joseph took her face in his hands, and moved his thumbs caressingly over her temples. "How am I doing my darling?" Joseph asked huskily and a little out of breath.
"Splendidly,… just wonderfully." Clarisse sighed contentedly and leaned against him. "Joseph?"
"How quickly did you say the passage and door will be finished?"
"I didn't, why?"
"I was just thinking that the passage is opening up possibilities for us to continue what we started in San Francisco. I just thought that…maybe you could…?" Clarisse stammered a little, for once not quite being able to express her deepest feelings and longings into words.
"When you talked about Rupert's great grandmother, I had hoped that the thought crossed your mind." Joseph could feel the laughter in her body as he pulled her closer into his embrace. "I would be honored to come to you."
"You know me too well. I sincerely hope the archbishop won't get to know about us."
"If he ever does, I don't think he'd mind. He had always trusted your judgment and has your best interests at heart."
"Still, I would be mortified if he finds out."
"Clarisse, I'd much rather kiss you than talk about the archbishop."
"How can you say th…" Joseph silenced her with his kiss, wanting to make the most of the little time they had left. He moved his lips over hers and forced them apart for a lingering, deeply sensual kiss. He felt her instant response and heard her involuntary moan as he started to explore with his tongue. Joseph lifted his lips from hers, seeing the gleam of love and yearning in her half-open eyes. "Oh how I wish to see you like this every night." He untied the knot of the belt of her dressing gown, and started caressing her warm body through the thin material of her nightgown. He kissed the lines next to her eyes, the freckles on her nose and the corners of the beautiful mouth.
Clarisse whimpered softly as he reached the sensitive spot below her ear, and he marveled at her reaction. Wanting to feel his skin against her, Clarisse pulled the t-shirt from his trousers and moved her hands underneath to explore his chest and back. She could feel his muscles flex against her hands.
Joseph was aching with need and he had to call a halt to her warm caresses. "If you keep that up I won't be able to stop, my darling."
Clarisse stilled her hands and leaned her head against Joseph's. "I wish you could stay tonight. I don't want us to stop." She reluctantly took her hands away from under the shirt and smoothed the material over his hips.
"Believe me, my dear, there will be no time wasted to get the work done. I cannot wait for us to be together."
"I just can't believe I'm feeling like this at my age. What is happening to me, to us?"
"We're in love. It's that simple. Finding the passage seemed to have sealed our destiny."
"It does seem like providence, doesn't it? But can loving in secret be enough for you, Joseph?"
"At this moment, my dear, it is the greatest gift I could hope for. Let's just take it one day at a time."
Clarisse snuggled into Joseph's embrace. Her future seemed full of hope. For the first time in a very long time, Clarisse felt truly content and happy. She was filled with love and gratitude for her son and granddaughter. There was the promise of Mia continuing the Renaldi rule and securing stability for the country of Genovia. Then there was Joseph, the man who she loved with her whole being. For such a long time he had filled her days with his presence and her dreams at night. In San Francisco, they had confessed their love for each other on one magical night. And now finally, after the unexpected and extraordinary events of this night, there was the glorious promise of her dreams of intimacy becoming reality in the many nights to come.