§ § § -- June 29, 2006
Christian sighed audibly, and for a moment or two they were silent, while the office phone rang and Leslie heard Darius answer. She dared one more peek at the floor and again slammed her eyes shut when she found she could see the joists through the carpet, and all the way down to the foundation floor below. "Christian, my love, can't we just go home?" she pleaded miserably.
"You'd have to call Mr. Roarke and tell him she's not feeling well," Lauren put in before Christian could reply.
The prince cursed mildly in jordiska. "I know that," he assured her. "Look, why don't you let me handle this, and you four can go on home. I hope at least you've accomplished your spring cleaning for the year."
Coughs and throat-clearing greeted this remark, and then Leslie heard a flurry of hasty farewells and feet tromping out the office door at quite a clip. She giggled queasily in spite of herself and murmured, "I don't know if you had to be vindictive, my love."
She felt a slight draft as he displaced air in the act of kneeling beside her chair. "If they really have known you for the last twenty-five years, my Rose, then they should have known better than to take advantage of you in this condition." He sighed again. "For that matter, I think you yourself should have known better than to take the ability and run off with it as you did. What in fate's name possessed you?"
"You sound almost like Father," Leslie complained. "I just thought it was harmless. It wasn't like I was advertising my X-ray vision all over the island, or gaining anything from it." She hesitated, then smiled sheepishly in what she hoped was his direction. "Well, nothing except about six bucks in change that Myeko gave me."
"Dug up from beneath sofa cushions and the like, hm?" Christian supplied wryly. "Oh, Leslie, what are we to do with you?"
"Hey," she protested, forgetting and opening her eyes to glare at him. "You yourself said this morning I should take all the advantage I could of this…oh, geeeeezzz…" Unable any longer to stand the sight of Christian's face superimposed over a ghostly image of his skull, she slapped her hands over her entire face and gulped repeatedly to forestall nausea.
"Damn," Christian muttered guiltily. "I did say that, didn't I. The more fool I. I'm sorry, my Rose, I'd forgotten. So I suppose I'm a bit to blame as well." He paused a moment, then asked, "What will Mr. Roarke do if he finds out?"
"Oh, believe me, he'll find out," Leslie assured him grimly. "Well, it's not like he's going to turn me over his knee or something like that. But I tell you what, he'll be incredibly disappointed in me. I mean…I'm past forty, way too old not to know better."
She heard little tapping noises, indicative of Christian drumming his fingers on one knee; then he sighed yet again and said, "Well, here's my opinion, solicited or not. I think it's best if you come clean to Mr. Roarke now, before anything else happens. If it makes you feel better, I'll go with you. Besides, if we tell him, he may have a solution to the problem you contracted."
"Yeah, I guess you're right," Leslie mused, slumping with resignation. "Might as well give up now before I really make things bad for myself. When do you want to leave?"
"Hmm…well, it's past three-thirty, and I imagine you've been gone for quite some time doing search-and-rescue duty for your friends. I'll take you back now and let Anton take over for the day. Come on." She felt him take her hand, and she stood up and let him guide her slowly out of the office and to the car, hearing Julianne and Darius calling get-well wishes after her as she went.
As luck would have it, Roarke was behind the desk when Christian and Leslie walked in; he looked up when he saw them and promptly closed his date book to watch them enter the room and each take a chair. "Is there something wrong with your eyes, Leslie?" he inquired.
"You could say that," she said, wondering whether she dared open them and risk getting an uninvited, and unwelcome, glimpse of her father's skull. Deciding against it, she ventured, "I hope you don't mind if I keep them shut while I explain."
"If you must," said Roarke quizzically, but Leslie detected a note in his tone that suggested he must already have some idea. "By all means, go ahead."
With that, she told her tale, from the concoction of the potion and her certainty that somehow a drop had splashed into her juice, up to the last few minutes when she and Christian had made the decision to confess everything. When she at last fell silent, there was no sound for a moment or so; she supposed Roarke was absorbing what he'd heard. Then, to her amazement, she heard him start to laugh softly.
"Herregud, Mr. Roarke, you think it's funny?" Christian exclaimed.
"Only because," Roarke said cheerfully, "I myself committed precisely the same error in my own training days as a very young man. As you insisted, Leslie, it was strictly an accident, and that is excusable. Unfortunately, what you did in the aftermath is less so."
"I was just trying to be helpful," Leslie protested weakly. "I didn't think it would do any harm. It's not like I was going around trying to see people's skeletons…" She swallowed thickly and so loudly that both men chuckled. "Not that I managed to avoid that. I've seen more of my friends, and even of Christian, than I really wanted to."
Roarke laughed again. "Since you seem to be so unnerved by what you didn't mean to look at…" He paused for effect, and Christian snickered; Leslie just groaned. "My apologies. I do have something for you that will relieve you of the side effect you're experiencing; and, as I said, since you are so bothered by it, I think that's quite enough punishment for your escapades through the day. Wait here a moment—excuse me."
"So, there…it wasn't so bad after all, now was it?" Christian asked comfortingly.
"Bad enough," Leslie murmured. "That is to say, now I feel incredibly stupid."
He laughed. "You wouldn't be the first or the only one, my Rose. Though I have to wonder how much time Mr. Roarke is going to let pass by before he trusts you to make another potion."
Leslie wanted to give him a dirty look, but she was still afraid to open her eyes; fortunately for them both, they heard Roarke's footsteps returning, and a few seconds later he pressed a vial into her hand. "Go ahead and drink the entire thing all at once," he said.
She did as directed, then sat uncertainly, wondering if there would be some sign that the stuff had taken effect. "Are you all right, my Rose?" Christian asked.
"How long do I have to wait?" she asked.
"It should have taken effect already," Roarke said. "Open your eyes."
She cracked them just the barest bit and squinted at the desk, then opened them all the way and groaned loudly. "It worked! Thank you, Father, what a relief."
"What about the X-ray potion?" Christian persisted, his voice boyish with unrelieved curiosity. "Is she still stuck with its effects?"
Roarke sat down, a thoughtful look on his face. "Well, Leslie says that a drop of it landed in her juice, and from her narrative, I deduce that said drop was undiluted with water, so that it would be at strength when she ingested it."
"But she drank it with her juice, not straight," Christian pointed out. "The juice should have diluted it."
"But not in the way water does," Roarke explained. "Pure water does not affect the ingredients of a potion. Juice, on the other hand, does—and the effects depend on the fruit from which the juice was derived. In your case, Leslie, it was mango, which was the reason the ability has lasted as long as it has."
"But what about my seeing X-rays even when I didn't want to?" she asked.
"Oh, that's a side effect of the potion no matter what one uses to dilute it. Use it for too long at a time, and you'll find yourself seeing everything in two modes, just as you did. I learned the same thing myself, the hard way." Roarke chuckled as if in remembrance. "I was quite an impetuous young man." Christian and Leslie looked at each other and then at him, both wondering if they ought to press the point; but then Roarke came back to the moment and the opportunity was gone. "In any case, Leslie, you should be just fine."
"But do I still have the ability?" she asked.
Roarke nodded but looked noncommittal. "The effects should wear off in another six to eight days, and you'll be just fine thereafter." The phone rang. "Excuse me, please."
Under his phone conversation, Leslie gaped at Christian in horror. "Six to eight days?"
Christian was clearly trying not to laugh, shifting in his chair and looking all over the place in an attempt to avoid her gaze. "Just think of it as a way to keep the triplets in line. You'll be able to see what they're doing no matter where they are." He then dissolved into chortles in spite of his efforts. Leslie glared at him, caught another glimpse of his skull and seriously considered asking Roarke for a vial of the sleeping potion Adam O'Cearlach had once given her—anything to get through the next week, she thought!
I apologize for the long gap between chapters 3 and 4; I contracted a whopper of a cold that took all that time to go away properly. I thought that to make up for it, I'd get this done as quickly as I could. :) The next story will be another retrospective in honor of Hervé Villechaize's upcoming birthday.