Disclaimer: I don't own these characters, and I make no money from this work of fiction!
Lionel grinned nervously at his Uncle Sebastian, and resolutely kept his hands at his sides instead of raking them through his hair the way he wanted to.
"Your aunt Sheila promised your mother that we would keep an eye on you," his uncle said solemnly. Then he winked, "but I'm sure we can come up with some cute girls for you."
"I want this job, Uncle Sebastian," Lionel repeated patiently, even as the colour rose in his face. "And I, uh, don't need to meet any cute girls right now. I, umm, well, I'm sort of, you know, well ..."
"You saying you're ... not interested in girls, Lionel?" Sebastian frowned suddenly.
Now Lionel's face was suffused with colour. "No! No, of course not!" he stammered. "No, I just, well, I'm kinda interested in someone already ..."
"Oh, well, then, that's all right. Does your mother approve of her?" Sebastian asked.
Wretchedly, Lionel confessed, "She, well, she doesn't know ..." This was embarrassing! If he hadn't needed his uncle to put in a good word for him for this particular job this summer, you can bet he would hightail it right back to university and attend the summer session!
Grinning broadly, Sebastian clapped the young man on the shoulder, hard enough to send the slender youth staggering. "Good for you! You'll be a man, yet! Need to keep the women in the dark about some things, eh? So ... you want to be a security guard for Queen Clarisse. Joseph is a tough man to work for, you realize?"
Lionel nodded. "But he's the best in the business, and I want to learn from him!" he blurted out.
"He is, that. He's been Head of Security for the queen ever since she married King Rupert, may he rest in peace."
"King Rupert, may he rest in peace," Lionel obediently murmured with his uncle.
Lionel's mother had been annoyed when her younger sister had managed to "snare" such an important man in Genovia as Sebastian Motaz. Why, he was now the Prime Minister of the country, and had been for over ten years! Still, her annoyance hadn't extended to refusing to allow Lionel the chance a few months ago to practically BEG his uncle to use his influence with both the queen and Joseph as Head of Security to hire him on for the summer as a security intern. And he had told NO one the real reason he wanted this job desperately. THAT was a secret he was keeping to himself, and he had vowed he would NEVER reveal it, even under torture!
"You know, Lionel, my boy, this will be a very eventful summer," Sebastian mused, "what with the Princess Mia's arrival this morning, and her twenty-first birthday party tonight. Parliament convenes tomorrow, as well, which will make this a full first week in which to begin work. But if you're sure, I will take you to meet Joseph now. I believe the Princess' plane was to land about an hour ago. Joseph will be at the palace already."
"I'm VERY sure, Uncle Sebastian." Lionel said. And he was. Very sure, and very, very eager to get to the palace.
"Another thing ..." Sebastian said as he collected his jacket and signalled for his driver to bring the car around to the front, "Did you know that an old ...acquaintance of yours is ALSO at the palace this summer?"
Lionel's eyes widened in surprise, and he felt a sudden fear clench his stomach. Surely it wasn't someone who had guessed his secret ...?
Sebastian was smiling broadly. "Yes, she started yesterday."
Lionel relaxed infinitesimally. He was almost certain that no 'she' he knew would ever have guessed that which he intended to reveal to no one.
"Olivia." his uncle eyed him keenly. "Tell me, is she the REAL reason you wanted this job so badly? I know she's a little older than you are ..."
"Olivia?" Lionel almost squeaked. "OLIVIA? SHE'S here?" Horrors! Olivia was his older sister's best friend. She always tended to make a big fuss over Lionel, teasing him unmercifully until he had thankfully removed himself from their village three years ago to attend university. It had seemed to Lionel in the past that she had used her eyes and ears as skilfully as a trained spy to ferret out his whereabouts and even his very thoughts! Having her around THIS summer, so close, was NOT a good thing. He gritted his teeth. Well, forewarned was forearmed! "Wait a minute," he caught his uncle's arm. "She's ... she's not in security too, is she?" That was not to be born!
"Good heavens, no. She's a woman! No, she's one of the new lady's maids for Queen Clarisse."
"I see ..." Lionel's mind was racing. He had to find a way to stop Olivia from finding out his secret, especially when she was working in such close contact with the queen! Dare he put his hopes on the possibility that in the three intervening years since their last encounter, she had forgotten about him? No. He knew he wasn't that unforgettable, but Olivia reminded him a little bit of a bulldog. She planned to worry him to death, he just KNEW it. He wouldn't put it past her to have heard from his sister that he was coming to work here, and arranged to be hired on herself. Girls!
The Prime Minister's driver jumped to open the doors for the two men, and Lionel sat beside his uncle, his fingers twisting nervously in his lap.
"Uncle," he said, suddenly, "Can you tell me more about Joseph?"
"More?" Sebastian was startled. "Like what?"
"Well, how long was he working in Security before he got to be Head?"
Sebastian grinned. "Looking ahead to taking over his job, are you? I like that! Showing confidence in your own abilities. Let's see if I can remember ever HEARING that. You know he was the Head long before I was ever interested in politics." He pondered that silently for a while, then shrugged. "Can't really say. I understand he was at the palace for a few years before Queen Clarisse and King Rupert, may he rest in peace, were married."
Lionel considered that information even as he murmured the obligatory statement with his uncle. "And what about the rumours about him and ..." Lionel's voice faded away as his uncle turned on him with a scowl.
"RUMOURS! Nothing but spiteful, poisonous rumours! They are merely long-time friends! Everyone knows that! The Queen is loyal to the memory of her dead husband, and would NEVER put the throne of Genovia in peril by any HINT of scandal! Best to remember that, boy, if you plan to work here this summer!"
Lionel slumped into the seat, but he felt as if a great weight were lifted from him. He had hated to think the rumours might be true, despite the insistence of his mother's lady's maid whose cousin was a cook in the palace that there was a possible romantic interest between the queen and Joseph. He had never known the maids to be wrong before, but obviously in this case they were. That was another research project he had given himself for this summer. How reliable WAS the maids' gossip? Then he remembered something else. "Uncle Sebastian? What should I call him? It sounds, well, a little disrespectful to call him just Joseph. Shouldn't I call him Mr. ... umm, what IS his last name? I've never heard it!"
Looking thoughtful, his uncle said, "You know, I can't say that I ever have either! We'll just let him tell you what he wants to be called. We'll meet with him right away, as I took the liberty of calling ahead to warn him." His wide smile told the young man he was being gently teased.
Lionel smiled back, thinking that now he had ANOTHER summer project -- finding out Joseph's last name!
In no time, Lionel and his uncle were at the palace, and, after speaking with a footman, they were ushered into the security office. Lionel looked around with interest, seeing the TV screen flashing pictures of different rooms every thirty seconds, hearing the low hum of the microphones and alarms set up in various parts of the palace and the grounds. Someone was hunched over a machine in the corner, and Lionel found himself wondering why the man was trying to work with small wires in a darker corner of the room wearing sunglasses.
Then Joseph himself walked in, greeting Sebastian and eying Lionel intently. Sebastian introduced his nephew, and Lionel held out his hand, stammering, "I'm so very honoured to meet you, Mr. ... umm ... Mr. ..."
"Joseph will do," the man said dryly. "Or Joe. On no account call me Joey."
There was a sound curiously like a snort from the corner of the room. Lionel turned, but the man in sunglasses was seemingly paying no attention to them. Joseph's face was impassive.
"J-Joseph," Lionel almost whispered. Then he took a deep breath and said in a rush, "Please, as you know, I want a job for the summer. I'm studying Political Science at university and I'm taking Security Measures for the second year, and want to major in that next year, and you're the best in the business, so if you'll just let me be an intern here so I can learn from you ..."
"Yes," Joseph almost drawled as he interrupted Lionel's spate of words. "Your uncle mentioned that you were coming today. You have everything you need for a four month stay?"
"Not ... not with me. You mean, I really have the job?" Lionel's face was flushed and his eyes bright with eagerness.
"Any reason why you should not?" Joseph's eyes seemed to bore right through Lionel.
Feeling like a bug on a pin, Lionel squirmed. Joseph wouldn't know why he REALLY wanted the job, would he? Surely not! "N-no," he stammered again.
"Have someone fetch your things. You know this is a very busy few days, and there's no time like the present to get started. You may follow me around for the rest of the day to learn something about our security measures here at the palace."
"Thank you, Mr ... Thank you, Sir!" Lionel beamed, pumping Joseph's hand vigorously. "You won't regret this, I assure you, Mr ... umm, J-Joseph."
"I trust not," Joseph extricated his hand. He turned to the man in the corner. "Shades, Lionel and I will be checking the wiring in the ball room, as I noticed it was fuzzy yesterday."
The man known as Shades merely grunted and Joseph, not waiting for anything further, nodded his good-bye to the Prime Minister and started out the door. Lionel scrambled after him, then ran back and grabbed his uncle's hand, grinning speechlessly at him before scurrying out again after Joseph.
All that day, Lionel shadowed Joe, as he began to call him. Right on Joe's heels wherever he went, Lionel had no idea that his over-eager zeal quickly began to irritate the older man. Lionel asked a million questions and hardly waited for the answer to one before asking three more. Yet Joe's patience seemed unlimited and Lionel's admiration for his new boss grew by leaps and bounds. The technology available for security in the Genovian palace was second to none anywhere, and Lionel realized happily that he was going to learn more this summer than he had ever dreamt.
Although Lionel had asked very early on when he would actually get to meet the queen face to face, Joe had simply said she was much too occupied at the moment, and any meeting would just have to wait for a day or two. Lionel accepted that, although he kept mentioning his desire to meet Queen Clarisse every hour or so. Joe made no response after his first statement. A few times as they went down halls, Joe was forced to put out his arm to push Lionel back from somewhere he was not supposed to be, but other than a steely look, there was no outright reprimand.
Once Lionel caught sight of Olivia with two other girls her age. He scuttled past in Joe's wake, but frowned when he realized that Olivia had not looked surprised to see him. He heard a murmur behind him then a burst of girlish laughter, and he gritted his teeth. He would pay her back, he vowed, he would get even somehow!
It was very exciting for Lionel to see the entire security force at work that evening with everyone coming for the princess' birthday party. He had been delighted to be equipped with a communication device just like the others, and didn't even resent it when he was pushed carefully aside once more when Joe went to meet the queen upon her arrival. Instead, Lionel was overwhelmed at actually seeing Queen Clarisse up close. He was actually glad he did not have to speak with her right then, for he was sure he would trip over his tongue were he to try. He simply stood by the wall with a rather silly smile on his face, and studied the lovely queen as she airily announced to Charlotte and Joseph that queens were never late, everyone else was early.
Very shortly, Lionel saw Princess Mia for the first time, and his breath was taken away by her poise. For a girl a few months younger than he was, she carried herself with such confidence! Of course, it was no wonder, as supposedly she had been taught by the queen herself. Lionel truly believed no one on earth was more grand or elegant than Queen Clarisse. Inwardly he sighed, wondering if HE would ever be able to show half as much confidence in himself as the young princess showed in herself! Later, during the party, he was delighted to see that the Princess was indeed human, as she turned abruptly and bumped into a footman, knocking her tiara off her head. He was so delighted that he had not been the one to cause the accident that he melted back into the woodwork, missing what Viscount Mabrey was muttering to himself after replacing the princess' tiara on her hair.
By mid-morning the next day, Lionel was almost used to the feel of Joe's hand on his chest, pushing him back a bit. The young man wondered how else he could learn other than by sticking close to the other man, and so he continued to bounce back every time. At one point, a rather excited Charlotte hurried up to Joe and they consulted in low voices. Lionel edged closer, but couldn't quite hear. Naturally he knew Charlotte, who had been a member of the Genovian Attache Corps before the queen had promoted her about ten years ago to her present position as personal assistant, or right hand, or secretary, or whatever her position was actually called! Lionel assumed Charlotte still WAS a member of the GAC, in fact, never having heard otherwise. Perhaps he ought to look into joining that elite group NEXT summer, once he had this summer's experience under his belt! If Charlotte ever stopped working for the queen for whatever reason, and if he was a member of the GAC, there was a good chance that HE might be picked next to do Charlotte's job, especially with this summer of security work behind him!
Then, as a couple of maids passed, Lionel overheard one saying incredulously to the other, "She said that? The queen REALLY told the Viscount to SHUT UP in front of Parliament? I can't believe it ..."
Lionel stared after the two giggling girls openmouthed, then turned back to Joe and Charlotte. He HAD to report this ridiculous statement, he just HAD to. "Sir? Mr ... umm, Joe, sir, please, I just heard something that cannot possibly be true ..."
Charlotte sighed as she looked at Lionel without really seeing him. Joe's face was grim. "If you heard what I've just been telling Joseph, you heard right." Charlotte said. "Queen Clarisse DID say 'shut up' right out loud in Parliament, although it was not directed at the Viscount Mabrey deliberately."
"She has been under an inordinate amount of stress lately," Joe murmured impassively.
Lionel looked at the older man. Did he sound ... TENDER? CARING? No, it must be his imagination running away with him, the fault of all those ridiculous rumours he had heard over the last few years. Joe wouldn't have sounded caring in that way. He must have been simply making a statement about her majesty ...
"Your uncle was quick to explain to the members of Parliament that it does not necessarily mean what some of the older members thought ..." Charlotte continued speaking to Lionel, a frustrated look on her face, "but that's not the worst of it. It's the REASON she said it! Princess Mia is understandably VERY upset ... the queen is meeting with her right now. Because of Viscount Mabrey, those hide-bound old men in Parliament have invoked an ancient law, and now the princess must be married within thirty days or she forfeits the throne! We thought this summer would be busy, but NOW it will be ..."
Joe held up his hand and Charlotte stopped speaking immediately. Lionel stepped close to make sure he missed nothing of the man's gestures and speech patterns. He had spent an hour last night in front of the mirror trying to imitate Joe. "Princess Mia will do her duty, as befits the granddaughter of Queen Clarisse," Joe said mildly. "Perhaps you should begin amassing some pictures of the possibilities ..."
"Yes, I'll do that right away," and Charlotte was gone.
"Charlotte seems very efficient," Lionel said.
"Not only seems, she IS very efficient," Joe said, a distant look in his eye, "Never underestimate her."
"Joe?" Lionel spoke a little hesitantly. Instantly Joe's intent gaze was back on him. "I ... could you tell me what happened?"
"I understand that there is another claimant for the throne. One Lord Nicholas Deveraux. His uncle, the Viscount Mabrey, is the one bringing the claim forward in his name. I should like a chance to chat for a bit with the lad myself. Perhaps ..." and his voice trailed off. Then he cleared his throat. "Well, at any rate, Lionel, you may be assured that there will be much going on in the next month. It will not be dull."
Once again, Lionel seized his chance. "Joe, when may I meet the queen? I ... well, I think it is ... important, don't you? That she knows who is part of the security team?"
"Not really. She knows I am in charge. That is sufficient." Joe showed no emotion, and Lionel missed the small gleam in his eye.
"Oh, but ... well, actually, you see, it's just that I ... well, I've never met her ... and, well ..." Lionel stammered, his face going bright red.
Joe's face relaxed into a smile and he put his hand on Lionel's shoulder. "Tomorrow," he promised, and with that, Lionel had to be content.
The next day, he presented himself to Joe, his face shining with eagerness. "You promised!" Lionel reminded him. "Today I get to finally meet the queen!" This was his life-long dream and ambition, to meet Queen Clarisse face to face, and to actually TALK with her!
Joe sighed. "Very well. I believe she's meeting with her lady's maids and the housekeeper right now, but I will see if she will grant you an audience."
"Thank you, Joe!" Lionel grabbed Joe's hand and pumped it again, then dropped it suddenly when he realized Joe's face was set grimly. "Sorry, sir! I was just ... umm ... glad ..."
Joe smiled reluctantly. Lionel reminded him of an over-eager spaniel puppy -- bouncing around, eager for attention and delighted with any crumb of affection. He turned to lead the way to the queen's suite, and Lionel was right at his heels, as usual. Again pushing him back as they entered the queen's office, Joe told Lionel to wait until he was announced.
Looking around the room in awe, Lionel suddenly caught sight of Olivia smirking at him. His jaw tightened. Great. His very first audience with Queen Clarisse, and it had to be in front of Olivia!
Joe walked around the queen's desk to her side and, bending down, murmured something to her. Lionel fortunately didn't hear the muttered words "Your Majesty ... Lionel ... but he never leaves my side -- he sticks to me like velcro!", but he noticed the queen look over at him, smile and call him forward by name.
Lionel stumbled towards Queen Clarisse, his mind going numb as he saw the woman he had dreamt about for such a long time. Truly a legend in Genovia, Lionel's first thought was that all the stories he had heard had not been flattering enough. She was gorgeous! Old, yes, but he didn't care. He would die for her, simply DIE for her! Barely hearing Joe's muttered "SHORT!" as he nodded to Lionel and moved away, Lionel realized the queen was speaking again, and waving at the three women by the window.
"I don't know if you've met Mrs. Cowell, our housekeeper, and Priscilla and Olivia, my lady's maids," Queen Clarisse was saying.
Lionel instantly thought of one way to get back at that smug Olivia. "I'm doing a background check on Olivia." He spoke evenly and deliberately, in imitation of Joe.
The other two women instantly stepped back from Olivia, as if they might somehow be contaminated just by being in her vicinity. For a moment, Olivia looked terrified, and Lionel almost relented. Then he realized that the emotion blazing at him from Olivia's eyes was anything but fear. She was furious with him!
Taken aback by Lionel's cool statement, the queen said quickly, "Oh, that's not necessary, Lionel. Everybody in this room has high priority clearance."
"Of course. Of course," he muttered, immediately losing his poise again. He gazed at the queen with adoration again. He HAD to speak with her, to tell her how he felt, let her know that she was the object of his dreams ...
Joe and the queen exchanged glances, then Joe moved to the door, expecting his intern to be at his heels as usual. Instead, Lionel leaned over the desk towards the queen who had turned her attention back to her papers.
"Your majesty," he spoke intensely, his voice low and urgent, "I would gladly take a bullet for you." He felt much as he thought a knight in shining armour would have felt when pledging to his lady in the golden age of chivalry.
Rather startled, the queen looked up and drew back slightly when she realized how close he was to her and how rapt he was. Retaining her self-possession, however, she smiled and said warmly, "Oh, how brave. Most interns don't even want to fetch me my tea."
About to declare his undying loyalty and affection, Lionel suddenly felt Joe's hand on the scruff of his neck, and the other man effortlessly hauled him away from Queen Clarisse, saying to her majesty, "The limousine is at the gates, ma'am."
It was a few hours later, after the fuss caused by the princess stomping on Lord Deveraux' foot had died down, when Lionel found himself hunched miserably in a chair in the security room while Joe censured him for his temerity, rashness, imprudence, presumption, audacity, impetuosity, harebrained foolhardiness and any number of other adjectives describing his behaviour when meeting the queen. He nodded dolefully when Joe demanded if he should be sent home in disgrace.
At that, Joe's lips thinned and his grim face hardened. Then he took a deep breath and let it out slowly. "I trust you will not forget yourself again."
Lionel looked up, dazed. What was Joe saying? Did he mean ...?
Joe rolled his eyes. "Yes," he almost snapped. "You made a big mistake. Fortunately for you, I am feeling very generous. Also fortunately for you, your uncle is the Prime Minister, and I have great respect for his judgement. He says you are educable. I plan to educate you. I ALSO plan to put Shades in charge of you from now on, and you will obey his every order as if it were me speaking, do you understand?"
"Yes ... yes, sir!" Lionel's face was flushed and his eyes bright. He truly hoped he wouldn't humiliate himself by crying with joy that he wasn't being sent home in disgrace.
"And Lionel ..." Joe added, "just for the record ... only one security guard is allowed to be that close to the queen, and it is not you. Never you. Understand?"
"Yes, sir, Mr. ... Joe, sir!"
"Lionel?" this time Joe's voice was silky, which frightened Lionel even more than his anger.
"Y-yes, sir?" he stammered.
"Talk of a background check will not make the young lady see you in a favourable light," and Joe was gone, leaving Lionel staring foolishly at the door.
"What? I don't WANT her to see me in a favourable light!" Lionel cried out at last, kicking the leg of his chair petulantly. As if Olivia was worth the trouble!
A few days later, Andrew Jacoby, Duke of Kenilworth arrived from Britain with his parents. Lionel was not present at the first few meetings of the princess and the young man, of course, but from all accounts, the British youth faired better with her Highness than did the great great great great grandson of Genovian's King Chevalier. Lionel was delighted when Joe informed him that he was to accompany the royal party on their walk along the seashore at the village of Mertz, and he nodded agreeably when told to stick with Shades.
Following Shades closely, Lionel tried not to look at Olivia who was a few paces behind the queen, holding the parasol over her head. It was a difficult feat, of course, because he was SUPPOSED to be watching the queen. Why was Olivia so close, anyway? Couldn't another lady's maid have been the one chosen? At one point, Olivia looked over at him and smirked, and Lionel's face turned bright red. He tried to ignore her and focus on the queen, but for the first time since his arrival at the palace, Lionel found it very difficult to concentrate on Queen Clarisse.
When the party stopped for a moment, Shades stepped over to a promontory, and Lionel was right behind him. Very slowly, Shades turned completely around, checking things out in the area.
"Can I do that?" Lionel asked.
Shades said, "No." and left it at that.
After a moment, Lionel asked, "Do you ever take those shades off?"
Shades simply said, "no" again. Lionel sighed, then looked over at the queen's group again longingly. At least there he would have SOMEONE to talk to who would answer with more than monosyllables!
A few days later, Lionel watched as the princess and the duke were playing badminton, and submitted to the princess' friend's order to let the pair alone when the princess fell. After a few days, the duke proposed to the princess, and Lionel was allowed to stand watch while Charlotte announced "the lovebirds are flying" just before the royal couple made their appearance to the people of Genovia on the balcony.
He was kept out of the throne room when the queen and the princess were attending to their duties there, but was the one to receive Charlotte's urgent message, "We have a chicken situation in the throne room." The next day, he suffered the silent reprimand when Shades was reading about the events in the paper and shaking his head, pointedly lamenting that the security guards on duty hadn't managed to defuse the situation before it became an issue, the way HE would have done!
In later years, Lionel vividly remembered when the princess was reviewing the troops and her horse spooked. He was EXTREMELY thankful that it was Joe who had gone quickly to the princess' aid, and JOE who had accidentally caused the wooden leg to fall off and embarrass the princess further. At last, something that was NOT his fault!
At the garden party, Lionel was delighted to be near the queen, even if it meant having to put up with Olivia who was again in attendance. It was the second time he had been fitted with a communication device, and he was extremely proud of the chance to actually USE it, rather than just listen to the others. When the princess arrived dripping wet at the place where the queen was bidding farewell to the departing guests, Olivia and Lionel not far from her, he overheard Queen Clarisse say to her granddaughter, almost sighing, "Do I WANT to know?"
"I don't think so." was the princess' meek reply.
"I'll be two seconds, Mia," the duke said, and she marched off, Brigitte and Brigitta hurrying after her and helping her put a towel around her shoulders.
Lionel kept his face expressionless when the duke then said to the queen, "She's going to be a handful, isn't she?" He was extremely glad HE was not the one to marry the princess. Someone serene, cool, composed ... someone like the queen was HIS ideal!
The queen said truthfully, "You'll never be bored, Andrew."
"I see ..." and the duke went after his betrothed.
At that point, Lionel stiffened further when the queen said to Olivia, "Olivia, enough good-byes," and turned to leave.
As the queen walked away, Lionel spoke loudly into his lapel mike, lifting the lapel as he bent his head in. "EAGLE IS LEAVING! EAGLE IS LEAVING!"
The queen touched his shoulder and counselled gently, "In hushed tones, Lionel. Hushed tones." She walked on, and Lionel, ignoring Olivia's smirk as she passed, looked around one more time then ran after her and Olivia, still feeling the warmth where her hand had patted him.
During the princess' slumber party, Lionel had helped set up the foyer for mattress surfing, then had gone with Joe on a perimeter check. When Lionel re-entered the security room, he saw Shades watching the fun. On screen, they saw the queen come through the doors from outside with Maurice, followed by Olivia. Shades smiled slyly and made a comment about Olivia getting plump, and he hoped Lionel liked his women as an armful.
Lionel cried out, "I can't STAND Olivia, and she's way older than I am, and LEAVE ME ALONE!"
"Lionel, Shades ..." Joe's voice was calming. "You ARE here to work ..."
Then Shades and Lionel both stared at the monitor as the queen ascended the stairs. "She's not going to ... to SLIDE, is she?" Lionel asks in disbelief.
"King Rupert and both their sons often enjoyed mattress surfing, and Queen Clarisse was never one to back down from a challenge. I'm sure she'd be the first to say she has done a lot of flying in her time," Joe said, but Lionel noticed a faint worry lurking in his eyes as he viewed the woman on the screen raise her hands and look as if requesting permission from the group.
Everyone in the foyer had stepped back, and with elegant grace, the queen leaped onto the mattress and, using it as a snowboard, surfed down with her arms outstretched. Lionel's jaw dropped, Shades let his chair thump and stared ... then, when the queen reached the bottom and regally stepped off the mattress, smiling and bowing graciously to the screaming, laughing, applauding group of girls, Lionel regained his voice enough to say admiringly, "What a babe! She's definitely my kind of ...!"
Instantly Joe's hand was at his throat, preventing him from saying another word and almost cutting off his breath. Shades' incredulous stare was transferred from the camera to Lionel. "WHAT did you say?" he croaked.
As he shook Lionel fiercely, Joe hissed, "NEVER, EVER let me hear you refer to Queen Clarisse in such an insulting manner again, do you hear me? NEVER!" Then he dropped Lionel and left the room.
Gasping for air, Lionel avoided Shades' now compassionate look. Courteously, the other man concentrated on the monitor and ignored the intern. After a few moments, Shades began directing the camera to its usual thirty second monitoring of various places in the castle, then he set up the chess board and indicated it to Lionel with a raised eyebrow.
Nodding and still swallowing hard, Lionel took his place, and the two began playing, checking the monitor every few moments for any untoward happenings. It was about an hour later that the camera happened to be scanning the hallway outside of Princess Mia's suite. Lionel glanced up just as the footman, who had been standing at attention by the door, began to move to the music he obviously was hearing from within. Shades and Lionel watched in silence as the man danced with abandon for just a few seconds, then took up his position again as if he had never moved. Then they looked at each other and exploded into laughter.
The next day, Joe seemed to have forgotten his outburst, but he gave Lionel the detail of being Princess Mia's watchdog for the next while. Without saying a word, Lionel knew he would not be seeing the queen up close any time soon. As he walked despondently away, Lionel pondered the enigma that was Joe ... Joseph ... what WAS his last name? He had never heard anyone use it! Not even the maids seemed to know, which meant it truly was a well-kept secret. That was one thing he had learned this short time into his summer's internship ... the maids usually DID know everything! As for the supposed romance between Joe and Queen Clarisse, Lionel was still keeping an open mind about that -- although he DID wonder why the only times Joe had been absolutely furious with him had been when he had said or done something stupid with regards to the queen. Still, Lionel couldn't fathom how anyone could be in love with the queen and not have brought matters out into the open long ago. After all, she had been a widow for seven years now!
One day, Lionel suddenly realized that the archery lesson he had been observing had ended, and the duke and the princess' friend had retired, leaving the princess alone with Lord Deveraux. Somehow, Lionel just knew that this was the sort of situation Joe wanted to avoid. He saw the young Lord reach out to touch the princess' face, and he reacted without thinking.
"Princess! Princess!" he called, stepping out of the bushes in which he had hidden himself.
"Yes?" she turned to him inquiringly.
"Nothing." he felt a little foolish and shrugged. "I'm just supposed to watch you." Then he smiled smugly as Lord Deveraux departed.
Later in the day, while doing a perimeter check, Lionel came to an open window by the foyer and looked in to see the queen asking Olivia to take Maurice out as she had to approve the orchestra selections. Taking the leash, Olivia told the queen she also had to select a place setting for the reception. Lionel hid from Olivia, and he continued to watch the queen, entranced as she put the music on, touched a plate lightly then walked to the centre of the room, her eyes closed as she swayed to the music. Lionel almost squwacked with amazement when Joe suddenly entered the French doors and, as the queen began to circle in her waltz, Joe took her in his arms. Queen Clarisse was obviously startled, then she smiled up at Joe and put her head on his shoulder as they danced. Lionel was stunned. Were the rumours really true?
Then he heard Joe ask in a low voice, "Have you been thinking about us?"
The queen raised her head, stared into Joe's eyes for a moment, and said slowly, "Yes, I have."
Unable to see her face clearly, Lionel nevertheless could see Joe's. It was as if the life had drained out of it. "I see," Then, as he turned away, Joe said, "If you'll excuse me,"
The queen ran after him, pulling him back pleadingly, "No, Joseph! You had to know what I was going to say! Mia needs me now, more than ever before ... and it's the monarchy, I mean, I'm the queen, it's my responsibility ... You know how it is!""
"You were never JUST my queen, Clarisse," Joe said, "you were the someone that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with. But," she tried to interrupt, and he merely raised his voice over her objection, "if you prefer that I see you first and foremost as my queen, I shall oblige."
At that moment, Lionel caught sight of Charlotte entering the room upstairs. The woman looked startled, then comprehending, and she slowly backed away so as not to be seen by the couple below. Lionel realized then that he, too, should get away before he was caught. He dropped to the ground and crawled off quickly, praying that Shades was not watching him on the closed circuit TV. How would he explain THIS? Meanwhile, his heart was rejoicing. The queen was still heart-whole and fancy-free! The rumours about her and Joe were just that -- rumours!
It was that night that Shades and Lionel were playing chess in the closed circuit room, as usual checking the monitor every few moments, but somehow they missed seeing the princess climbing out her window and riding off with Lord Deveraux. No one missed the scandal the next morning, though, as the nosy television gossip columnist spread the word and the pictures via television to everyone in Genovia. Once again, the palace was in an uproar, all the maids wondering if the Duke of Kenilworth would still marry the princess the following day as planned.
Lionel tracked down Olivia as soon as he heard, enduring her trite comments about diapering him as a child. "You're just like my sister," he grumbled finally. "I just wanted to know what was going on around here, and thought you MIGHT help me! But no, you have to tease and torment me! Girls!"
Olivia stared at Lionel in disbelief, then slowly began shaking her head. "You just don't get it, do you? If you aren't LOOKING, what good are you on security? You're supposed to know everything that's going on, even MORE than the maids do, and we all know maids know everything."
"They just THINK they do," muttered Lionel sulkily. This had been a bad idea, trying to talk with Olivia!
"Aren't you supposed to be learning from Joe?"
"He told me to stick to Shades," Lionel said. "So I am! Joe can take care of himself."
"AND the queen," Olivia giggled, then rushed off when she heard the chime signalling that the queen was calling her.
Lionel stared after her. He wasn't sure whether or not Olivia had said that to make him mention something to Joe and get himself in trouble again, but he had to know the truth. The minute he was alone with Joe, Lionel hesitantly said, "Umm, Joe, about, well, about the rumours of you and Quee ..."
The words were not out of his mouth before he found himself almost strangled by Joe's hold on his shirt at the neck. "ACK!" Lionel's feet were barely touching the ground and he scrabbled at Joe's hand trying to loosen the other man's grip. When Joe DID release him and set him with a thud on the ground, Lionel was choking and gasping for breath. "S-s-sorry!" he wheezed out.
"Tell me. NOW I'm ready to hear them," Joe's voice was hard with his controlled anger.
"I ... oh, no, I can't ... No ... just talk ..." Lionel was still sucking in air, and thinking how much he would enjoy killing Olivia. Still, it might not be all HER fault. He had to admit now that he was perhaps partly to blame. Why hadn't he used his BRAIN?
Joe's fist was once more at Lionel's throat, not quite as tightly as before. He drew Lionel close and said again, in a very dangerous tone, "Tell me everything you have heard. TALK!"
"Just ... just that there might ... well, be a romantic ... interest ... between you." Lionel stammered, hampered by what he himself had seen just the other day.
"There is nothing between us, is that clear?" Joe's eyes were steely. "Once she is married, the princess will be crowned queen. In the meantime, Queen Clarisse is every inch a queen, and she is not interested in me as anything but her Head of Security. I know that for a fact, and now you do as well."
Seeing the pain in Joe's eyes, Lionel nodded as best he could under the circumstances. "Sorry again, sir! Mr ..." What WAS Joe's last name!
Joe released him, and became all business again as he explained what would be happening at the wedding the next day. Lionel grinned when he heard Shades was the one to carry the ring bearer, the duke's baby nephew, down the aisle. THAT should be something to see!
As a matter of fact, the entire affair was something to see, Lionel thought the next day, after watching the princess run out of the church, the queen following, then Joe. When they came back in, the princess made her way to the front of the church, spoke briefly with the duke who sat down with his parents while she went to the pulpit and announced that she was NOT going to be married, but that she was prepared to take her place as Queen of Genovia, WITHOUT a husband. Lionel crossed behind the Archbishop and the other dignitaries and stood behind the princess as support, seeing Shades and Joe at the back with the queen. There was no telling what a madman like the Viscount Mabrey might try!
After the Viscount had left in a rage and the doors closed, Lionel's Uncle Sebastian came up to the princess and, in low tones, directed her to make a motion to abolish the ancient marriage law. Lionel found it rather surprising that it passed, largely because Lord Palinor seconded the motion. The other members of Parliament were obviously swayed by his support of the young princess, and unanimously agreed, much to the Prime Minister's satisfaction.
Then Princess Mia turned suddenly and beckoned Lionel to the pulpit, asking him in a whisper for his mike and earphones. Numbly he handed the tiny communication devices to her, standing close so the wires weren't pulled out of the battery pack still in his pocket. Even so, the coil was stretched uncomfortably across his chin. The princess put the mike to her lips and asked Charlotte to pass her earphone to the queen. Squinting towards the back, Lionel saw Queen Clarisse rather awkwardly hold the earphone up to her ear, pulling Charlotte a little closer to the queen. He knew just how Charlotte felt, being dragged by the wires and connected to royalty! Then the princess said to her grandmother, "Grandma, just because I didn't get MY fairy tale ending doesn't mean you shouldn't."'
Lionel was standing only inches away, and he couldn't possibly miss hearing what the princess said. Fairy tale ending? What was she talking about? WHAT fairy tale ending? From his vantage point, he could easily see the reaction at the back of the church, when Queen Clarisse almost dazedly passed the earphone back to Charlotte, and looked over at Joe who was standing there almost frozen with the surprise of hearing the princess' words to her grandmother over his OWN communication device.
Being too far away, Lionel couldn't hear what the queen said to Joe when she approached him, but he could see the happiness radiating from the man as he pulled his communication device off and put it in his hat, passing both to Shades who accepted them stoically. Then the queen and Joe began walking up the aisle together.
Even then, Lionel was not sure he was seeing what he was seeing. It just didn't seem possible! Even hearing the queen laugh a little as she said, "I know it's short notice, but you WERE all dressed," didn't really register. It wasn't until Joe and the queen were standing in front of the archbishop, with the princess beside her grandmother and his Uncle Sebastian beside Joe, hearing the queen say to the archbishop that she would like to take Joe as her husband, that Lionel realized fully what was happening.
The rumours WERE true! He almost swayed where he was standing, then he stiffened and held himself as a true guard would -- as Joseph would. Joseph, who had unknowingly lied to Lionel the day before about his involvement with the queen. Joseph, who had zealously guarded the queen for forty-five years. Joseph, who was positively shining with the joy he was feeling right at this moment. Lionel straightened his shoulders even more, and his eyes rested on Queen Clarisse's glowing face. No need to ask whether or not SHE was delighted. Lionel had never seen a more enchanting woman than the queen was as she stood at the side of the man she loved and was, FINALLY, married to him. He humbly prayed as he stood at attention that sometime in the future, HE would be found worthy of a woman such as this, so that he, too, could experience the happiness that these two so obviously demonstrated to the entire country of Genovia. It was a fairy tale ending indeed!
When the archbishop bade the couple to kiss, Lionel's attention snapped back to the wedding, and inwardly he winced. He had missed hearing Joe's last name AGAIN! Would he EVER find out what it was?