A/N: FINALLY, FINALLY finished! I'm sorry I've been lax in updating but life, work and illness got in the way but I did want to finish this!
Thank you to all my readers and reviewers- you all rock! Hopefully you will be around when I write my next story!
The Princess Diaries doesn't belong to me!
Meanwhile downstairs, Joseph, Sebastian and Shades were surveying the ballroom with satisfaction, as it had, according to Joseph's instructions (with a few added embellishments from Mia, he surmised) been set up as a flower decked mini chapel, with several rows of seats set up on either side of the white carpeted 'aisle', as well as several long white tableclothed tables waiting on the opposite end of the room for the reception.
Joseph had figured that since they had had the big white wedding (although it had originally been Mia's white wedding and Clarisse hadn't worn white), their second ceremony would much simpler, smaller and far more intimate... and it would also be a chance for their nearest and dearest to see that they were still together and their relationship was better than ever.
"So what do you think, Boss?" Shades (Scott) asked, slightly nervous despite the fact that Joseph hadn't been his boss for over a year and they were great friends, but his former boss grinned at him, not at all bothered at their previous relationship. "It's not too much?"
"It's perfect for tonight- you've all done a great job and I appreciate that you did all the groundwork while I was in Europe."
"Thanks a lot for that," Shades muttered mock disgustedly. "If I'd known wedding planning was part of your job description, I would have second thoughts about taking your job!" but the three of them laughted, knowing he was joking. "At least it will be quieter than Queen Mia's," he added and Joseph nodded.
"Yes, that's the most important consideration, although Mia's was appropriate for her position."
"And you enjoyed it because you WEREN'T the centre of attention?" Shades teased, knowing he could get away with it.
"Yes, although there are times now..."
"That's what you get for marrying royalty," Shades said smartly. "Besides... I never thought you were a shy man."
"Only on certain occasions."
"Social occasions?" Sebastian inserted with an impish smile.
"What is this, pick on Joe day?"
"Maybe it's a little payback for leaving us to do all this wedding preparation," Shades said slyly and Joe only rolled his eyes. "Anyway, tonight you are definitely the centre of attention so you can't complain, particularly as this was all your idea!" he chided and Joseph laughed.
"Alright, alright, I won't complain... but tonight is definitely going to be different and much, much quieter than last month!"
The reception back at the palace again continued to display Clarisse's class and good taste, and while it wasn't quite as extravagant as the previous year's reception, it was still just as beautiful.
Joe longed to shrink back into the shadows as they mingled with guests prior to sitting down to dinner, as he had when he was Clarisse's HOS, pretending that he was invisible to everyone except his charge, but Clarisse's arm through his prevented him from going anywhere, not that he really wanted to.
Most of of the guests were gracious and pleasant- as they had been the previous year- but there were still some who leered at Clarisse and ignored him but Joseph didn't care- he was finally secure in the knowledge that Clarisse loved him and had married him, and he felt comfortable enough to exude that confidence...especially with an occasional loving squeeze from Clarisse.
They were seated at the same table, although on opposite sides of the circular table (not that it stopped them from exchanging looks across the table) but the were seated with those they were close to ("I made sure of THAT when I arranged the seating," Clarisse had said with a smile), including Pierre, Charlotte and the Motezes- and Joseph relaxed enough to contribute confidently to the table conversation.
After dinner, there were the typical toasts- Nicholas, his best man, Sebastian and Helen- before Nicholas led his bride out onto the dancefloor for their first dance, followed by Sebastian and Clarisse. Joe was enjoying seeing the two couples dance (and subsequently swap) but before he had the chance to ask Sheila, he felt a tap on his shoulder and he turned to see Mia grinning at him.
"Come on Gramps, time for you to fill your dance card... starting with me!"
Thankfully, Helen and Patrick, Pierre and Charlotte and Sheila (who was now dancing with Nicholas) were all dancing, as well as Clarisse and Sebastian and several other couples, so Joseph didn't feel quite as self conscious as the rest of the ballroom watched them, but he still felt a little obvious and Mia could sense it as the dance progressed.
"Don't worry, Grandpa," she said suddenly and seriously, startling him.
"I'm not worried," he responded immediately, but then felt compelled to add more as she gave him a skeptical look. "I just feel...a little obvious."
"I know this has been difficult for you," Mia looked sympathetic. "You were never really groomed to be the husband of a member of the royal family- and a Queen, no less..."
"I did have some idea of what being married to your grandmother would entail."
"Still, it would have been difficult."
"Yes, in some ways, but I haven't regretted a thing and I never will... I've always wanted to be married to Clarisse," he said honestly, slightly abashed but knowing that Mia deserved to know. "I won't let you or Clarisse down."
"You don't have to worry about ever letting us down," Mia looked sober before her expression lightened. "But I'm so glad you're part of my family now, officially."
"As am I," came a voice from behind them and they both turned to see Clarisse, resplendent in an icy blue and white suite, standing there with a radiant smile on her face. "I'm very glad abut that... I know it's your day, darling, so you should get what you want... but... to use some slang... may I cut it?"
"Of course," Mia backed away immediately with a smile. "I'm sure there are plenty of available dance partners for me."
"Like me," Nicholas suddenly appeared at her side and they exchanged a grin before he whirled her away, leaving Clarisse and Joseph standing in the middle of the room, remedied immediately but Joseph stepping forward with a cavalier bow.
"Would you like to dance?"
"Seeing as I just cut in on you and Mia, yes... I would like to dance," she said with a sly smile and there was a brief pause before he smoothly swept her into his arms and they melted into the crowd.
"This has been a beautiful day, you did a wonderful job with all the planning and preparations," he said admiringly after a moment and she blushed as she rested her cheek against his shoulder. "You shouldn't be embarrassed- you have done a great job!"
"I would do anything for my granddaughter, especialy since her father is...no longer with us and I spent the first 16 years of her life ignroing her..." her lips trembled a little- both thoughts were still very painful for her to think about- before Joseph rested his finger against her lips.
"Don't, sweetheart, it's all in the past... and while you will never forget Phillipe, we both know that you stayed away from Mia to PROTECT her... again, something a good grandmother would do and you are definitely a good grandmother," he said firmly and her eyes were shining suspiciously as she smiled back at him.
"Thank you... you always know what to say."
"That's because I know you very, very well," he playfully tapped her nose. "Now, why don't you and I enjoy the rest of this dance and the next, and the next..."
"Aren't you going to let anyone else dance with me?" she looked innocently at him and he growled as he pulled her closer to him.
"They've had plenty of opportunities to dance with you over the years... now you're mine!" he breathed into her ear.
"Good," she responded pertly. "Good... that's all I want now."
The afternoon flew by, the palace still a hive of activity as the staff ensured that the last minute preparations for the ceremony that evening were completed (they didn't want to let Joe or Clarisse down) while the bride and groom were, respectively, resting in Mia's suite and playing cards with Shades and his former colleagues; and while Joseph was severely tempted to call her via Mia's mobile, he fought the urge- it would only make tonight even more special, although not talking to Clarisse was difficult...
Everything was organized but he still ran through the list in his head, just in case- James the Archbishop (an old friend of both of them, although more so Clarisse's) was presiding over the ceremony, their guest list consisted of their nearest and dearest (and definitely very few parliamentarians) and the other details- food, flowers and music were also all sorted and now all he had to do was wait until tonight...
Clarisse meanwhile spent some of the afternoon resting on Mia's bed (she wasn't even allowed to return to her suite), surprised that jet lag had finally hit her (she had never suffered it before on the many trips she had taken) but also enjoying a relaxing afternoon of not worrying about anything... She been "officially" retired for 13 months (although she had seriously accepted it in the last six months) and she was finally beginning to enjoy it.
When she emerged from the bedroom late in the afternoon, Mia, Charlotte and Sheila, along with two sets of ladies maids, were flitting around, in and out of the suite, all of them clearly relieved when Clarisse emerged.
"I thought the bride was the only one who was supposed to be nervous," she teased as she perched on the edge of a chair, feeling surprisingly calm- this second wedding may have been a surprise, but after the year they had had, they did deserve to celebrate... and she wasn't nervous because it was Joseph's idea and hopefully there would be as few guests possible.
"We're not nervous, Grandma, but everything has to go smoothly, otherwise Grandpa will... well, he won't kill us but he'll be disappointed."
"He won't be," Clarisse said firmly. "I barely know what's going on but I'm certain that everything will run smoothly and Joseph won't say anything... if he does..."
"No, you don't say a thing!" Mia looked slightly alarmed. "We don't want you to split up on the evening of your second wedding!"
"Mia, I'm only joking," Clarisse soothed with a smile. "I'm sure Joseph will feel the same way... all that matters is that you are all here celebrating with us."
She paused for a moment- she could sense that Mia wanted this to work for their sake- before she continued.
"We do appreciate all of this, thank you."
"You two are so worth it," Clarisse and Mia said in unision and Clarisse couldn't help but blush modestly.
"Thank you... so what do I have to do now?"
"Shower," Mia immediately pulled her up. "All your necessary tolietries are in the batrhoom and when you come out, the hairdresser will be here... and oh, you don't want to get THEM wet," and, to Clarisse's surprise, she slid off the wedding and engagement rings.
"Go," Sheila pushed her gently towards the batrhoom and Clarisse willingly almost floated towards it, feeling surprisingly bare without the rings on her hands but still... her stomach began to fill with butterflies and she suddenly realised she WAS nervous.
An hour later, Clarisse found herself standing in front of Mia's full length mirror, gazing at herself in the mirror- the hairdresser had been and gone, having done her makeup and hair, as well as attaching a small fascinator in her hair, with a small veil which, when pulled down, would cover her face discreetly- and she was now dressed in the dress Joseph had chosen.
It was just the same as the dress from last year, except with it was shorter, cream coloured and there were jewels scattered across the bodice of the dress.
"Joseph certainly knows what he's doing," she heard from behind her and she turned to see the three women standing in the doorway, all dressed in their best (although Mia's dress, in Clarisse's opinion, was far too short and tight)- and beaming at her.
"You look beautiful, Grandma!" Mia said enthusiastically as the other two chimed in their agreement.
"You've always been beautiful," came another voice and Pierre stepped into the room behind Charlotte and walked towards his mother. "I'm glad you're remarrying someone who appreciates you for who you really are."
"Thank you, dear," Clarisse blinked furiously- it wouldn't do to cry before the ceremony- before she glanced at the three women and realized that she would have to choose a maid of hnour. But before she could say anything, Charlotte quickly stepped in.
"We've already decided about your maid of honour, Your... Clarisse... Mia should be it, as Sebastian is Joseph's best man, as before."
"We have already agreed on this, and we don't mind being guests," Sheila added as Clarisse arched an eyebrow.
"I really don't have a say in this, do I?" but her words were softened by the smile on her lips.
"But who is going to escort me up the aisle?" she suddenly felt panicked- the year before, she and Joseph had walked down together, but this year...
"I am," Pierre said proudly as he crooked his arm out to her and she slid her arm through. "I didn't do it the first time, but I'm not going to miss this time!"
"Speaking of, it's time to go downstairs," Charlotte said after glancing at her watch.
"Only a few more minutes of freedom, Grandma," Mia said with a sly smile. "How do you feel?"
"Perfectly fine," Clarisse said calmly, although she was secrely relieved that Pierre was escorting her as she felt that she wouldn't be able to walk very far without her knees buckling with nerves. "Alright..." she let out the deep breath she had been holding in. "Let's do this!"
The trip down the stairs to the ballroom seemed so long yet she couldn't help but feel that the trip hadn't happened at all as Clarisse found herself standing in front of the closed ballroom doors, Pierre at her side, Mia in front of her (Sheila and Charlotte had snuck in without giving anything away to Clarisse.
"Are you alright?" Pierre asked solicitiously and Clarisse smiled.
"Just a little nervous...it's crazy, seeing as though we've been married for a year, but..."
"That's as it should be... you and Joseph are wonderful together and it's a beautiful thing, seeing the love you two have for each other...I'm glad you're happy, Mama."
"I'll be even more happy when you''re happy," she said pointedly and he only laughed.
"You're just going to have to be patient..." before the doors in front of them opened, and while Mia blocked some of the view, Clarisse gasped softly as she saw the ballroom- it was wonderful!
"Ready," she affirmed, squeezing his hand as Mia stepped forward to the music- of course, it was 'Here comes the Bride'- and they slowly followed her through the doorway.
From then on, everything became a blur for Clarisse, although she did note the small group of guests (and the flowers) but as soon as she set eyes on Joseph, waiting with Sebastian and James at the end of the room, near the small stage, her eyes remained on him for the rest of the journey and, when she reached where he was waiting, there was a momentary pause as she tried to steady her nerves before smiling at him and taking his arm.
"You look beautiful," he whispered in her ear. "Am I in trouble?"
"About all of this?"
"Why would you be?" she smiled radiantly at him before they both realized that everyone was waiting on them, and they almost reluctantly turned to James.
"We have come together to celebrate a union that began not last year but many, many years before..." began the Archbishop...
The rest of the ceremony was almost a complete blur to both of them- although they both repeated their vows loudly and solemnly, but the biggest surprise came when Joseph turned to her with a gold ring and, glancing inside, she realized that it wasn't the ring she had been wearing for the past year... this one had an inscription...simply "Darling" and it took all her energy not to burst into tears as he slipped that ring, as well as her engagement ring, back on her finger.
Everything suddenly became clear again when James pronounced them "Husband and wife" and encouraged Joseph to kiss his bride... and this time, it wasn't Clarisse to had to lean in for the kiss, Joseph had no compunction in wrapping her tightly in his arms, whispering "I love you" into her ear, before giving her a long, sweet kiss, the clapping and whoops of joy around them a dim memory.
It was a long time before they managed to sneak into a corner for a moment, after greeting and talking to their guests, but they finally did it and Joseph turned to her with a warm smile.
"You look beautiful."
"You've said that."
"I'll say it again... did you mind all of this?"
"No, I loved it," she touched his cheek with her hand. "I knew you were a romantic but this... this definitely takes you to a whole new level!"
"I just figured..."
"I know, and you don't need to explain... although I would be interested to know how you managed to contact Mia and Sebastian while we were in Europe."
"There are some things you don't need to know," he pretended to look haughty for a moment before beaming at her again. "But I just wanted this to be a new beginning for us, as well as a celebration- it has been quite a year!"
"Hopefully we don't have to do this again on our second anniversary?" she joked and he laughed.
"Only if things get really rocky again between us!"
"Which they won't," she looked at him with suddenly inflamed, passionate eyes and he knew that she was being honest. "I realized this afternoon that I'm finally enjoying retirement... I wish I had thought of it earlier!"
Joseph was about to respond to that when Mia suddenly spied them and called out:
"Newlyweds! Isn't it time for your first dance?"
"That girl, she is never going to grow up!" Clarisse murmured under her breath but Joseph only chuckled as he led her out into the middle of the ballroom and held her close as the music started playing.
"You love her just the way she is, and we both know that," he said after a moment and Clarisse nodded.
"True... and tonight... I'm just so happy tonight that I don't care about anything!"
"That's the spirit... although you hopefully care about me and where we're going for our honeymoon?"
"Of course, darling... where are we going?"
"How does the beach house sound to you?"
"That sounds perfect... and maybe after a week there, we could drop in at the cabin?"
"Maybe... although I thought we could use that as our winter retreat."
"Then that's what we'll use it for..." she said contentedly, gazing at him lovingly for a moment- she loved this man so much, and they had been almost to hell and back in the past year, but they were still here, they were still together, they had worked out their problems together, and that was all that mattered... before she suddenly, impulsively leaned forward and kissed him in front of their guests, ignoring the wolf whistle that inevitably erupted from either Shades or Mia.
Joseph was grinning when they finally broke apart.
"What was that for?"
"Just because you're you and I love you."
"I love you too... but I thought Queens weren't supposed to show emotions in public?"
"Queens aren't supposed to... but there's nothing about FORMER Queens not being able to show emotions in public?" she teased him with a sly smile before leaning forward and kissing him again.
"Wow...you certainly have changed..." but the grin told her he loved the change.
"Sweetheart" she gave him a broad, happy, radiant grin. "... you haven't seen anything yet!"
"Well, I'm certainly looking forward to seeing more of this side of you!"
"We've got all the time in the world, and I like that thought," she said as she leaned into him and he smiled.
"I like that thought too... all the time in the world...as long as we're togther, that's all that matters."