I haven't shipped this in ages but I wanted to write this. Please review.


Clarisse fingered the petals of the rose, and then let it spring back to it's rightful place on the bush. She sighed lightly, and felt the heat of the sun burning the back of her neck. And she felt him, steps behind her.

She turned and shared a smile with him, and then they continued, him keeping his distance behind her. To spend time staring at him would have been both inappropriate and torturous. She was greatly confused by recent events and she needed time to think but of course, she couldn't escape what was troubling her.

She had never saw him like that, she had never viewed her Head of Security in that light. In her youth it had been snobbery and in her middle age, her marriage and duty had taken prime position in all her thinking but now both of those had receded. She had always appreciated his handsomeness, his intelligence and friendship – but to be attracted to him came as a shock to her, when suddenly she found herself in his arms in San Fransisco. She stopped again and turned to him.

"The garden is delightful, remind me to thank the Head Gardener," she motioned with an airy hand, "What's his name again?"

He laughed at her, low and amused. She felt a rush of heat to her cheeks.

"Don't laugh," she exclaimed, "You know how I'm terrible with names."

"Arnot," he laughed his response.

She continued walking, "Am I a terrible person? Poor Arnot..."

"No," he answered from behind her, "No, how could you ask that Clarisse?"

This was the problem of recent, light-hearted banter would change in a instant to serious, intimate conversation. Though Joseph had always been her closest confidant, and she had shared everything with him, things seemed to have a different energy since that dance. She laughed lightly and continued to walk but she felt him behind her, a constant presence. She wanted so desperately for him to fall in to step with her, in all the ways he could fall into step with her.

She stopped and turned to him, "A moment of self-loathing."

"You need to stop that," he caught her hand in his own and stared into her eyes. She withdrew her hand but not quickly. She would hate to hurt him, but to give in was unthinkable, or at least she pretended. She pretended it was unthinkable. But how she thought always, of him.

She couldn't remember having ever felt like this. And she questioned if she had ever felt desire before. They stared at each other.

"Will you walk beside me please, Joseph?" The words had escaped her mouth against her will.

"Always," he stepped into time with her. Her request had been, in her own mind, an ambiguous one.

"Are you glad to be home?" She asked him.

"Of course," he nodded, "There's no place quite like here."

"No," she agreed, "And Mia is settling in."

"And things are changing," he answered quietly.

She heard the tentative, unsure note in his voice and was surprised. She had held Joseph as the confident one, the one unwilling to let this tension slide.

"They are, aren't they?" She stopped him, placing her hand on his arm. He slipped his hand over hers and squeezed her fingers.

"Are you ok with it?" His voice became low, as if in asking he may be condemning himself to pain.

"No," she reached out to touch his cheek, "But I can't help it...which is the most frightening thing for me Joseph."

"So you're not saying no?" He asked boldly.

"Just not right now," she felt the sting of tears in her eyes, "I wasn't made for this, I was made for duty; not for feelings."

She smiled weakly and he laughed and they stepped into time again. And the moment was gone, as if she had imagined it in all it's emotional charging.

"The garden is lovely Your Majesty," he commented, the familiar relationship between served and servant returning.

There's room for improvement," she checked her watch, "We must make our way inside, I am meeting with Sebastian at 4."

she knew he watched as she walked inside, and comfort bloomed inside her. A confident hope.