§ § § - January 7, 2007

She walked into her husband's office just in time to see Darius accept payment from Paloma for the services Christian had rendered and ring it up for the receipt, while Christian perused the projects waiting to be done on the table set up for holding them. His employees greeted her when the bell on the door jangled and they saw her; she waved back and came to stand beside Christian. "Having trouble deciding?"

He jolted slightly and then aimed a sheepish smile at her. "Actually, I'm afraid I was thinking. Maybe more than I should be."

"What about?" she asked.

"Ingrid, primarily, and then by extension, Darius. I'm going to have to have a talk with Ingrid, try to find out what her long-term plans are." Leslie nodded, and he went on, "And then there's Darius. He's said he wants to remain here, but now that he and one of your favorite actors there have developed some sort of understanding…"

"You might be borrowing trouble, my love," Leslie offered softly. "You mentioned that Jonathan said something about Ingrid getting a letter from a boyfriend in Lilla Jordsö. That is to say, a boyfriend, as opposed to a fiancé. And besides, how do you know Ingrid is planning to leave within the year? As for Darius…" She chuckled. "Well, if experience is any guide, I'd bet Paloma moves here—if they get that far."

Christian snorted quietly to himself. "You have good points, my Rose. Maybe I'm just looking too far ahead. I know you said something about Ingrid staying till the triplets start school, but do you think we'll really need her that long? I mean…it might be possible to let her go once they're toilet-trained and have learned to dress themselves."

"I don't know. Maybe the best thing you can do is have that talk with her," Leslie said, and he nodded. "And like I said…if Darius and Paloma get as far as deciding who moves where, that's for then. For now, they've barely met and they've had exactly one date. That's a pretty weak foundation to build your worries on."

"Hmm…all right then, I'll leave Darius' possible relationship to develop, or not, as it will, and I'll talk with Ingrid tonight. I know I'm probably being premature about this, but I have to admit, it's been so convenient having Ingrid around. Laundress, housekeeper, cook, nanny, babysitter…all wrapped in one."

"And the kids love her, which is a big plus too. Well, just wait till you talk to her before you decide to panic." Leslie grinned at him and popped a kiss onto his cheek. "See you at suppertime. Lots to talk about."

‡ ‡ ‡

Sylvia Lincoln was staring at her father in their bungalow. "Dad, are you serious?"

Arthur nodded heavily. "I know it's going to hurt, but I…well, I've come to some conclusions this weekend, especially after a couple of talks with Mr. Roarke. She's pretty stubborn, maybe too much so. When she gets back, you make an excuse of some sort and go anywhere you feel like, so I can—"

"I don't think so," Sylvia said, folding her arms over her chest. "I'm staying. I'm part of this family too, you know, so I have a perfect right to know."

Just then Veronica came in, looking a little faraway, moving in a slow, meandering sort of gait. Arthur and Sylvia watched her enter, and Arthur nodded. "Good, you're here. Uh, Veronica, sit down, please, I want to talk to you."

Veronica blinked and focused on him, then nodded. "Of course, Arthur." She took a chair without further argument, surprising her husband and daughter for a moment before Arthur took a deep breath.

"I've been thinking, Veronica…and, well, I think it's best if you and I get a divorce," he said, with little fanfare.

Veronica's face promptly became the color of glue, and she gawked at him. For a moment Sylvia thought her mother's eyes would roll back in her head and she'd faint; but Veronica sucked in a loud, deep breath and slapped a hand over her chest. "A divorce?"

"And I want to live with Dad," Sylvia announced.

"B-but why?" Veronica bleated.

"For one thing, Sylvia's creatures. That centaur looked about as real to me as any virus I've ever studied in the lab, and the bite it gave you was certainly real enough. And those elves…they weren't trained hamsters. They were just very small people—small, but still unmistakably human. And I have a funny feeling that the mermaid Sylvia tried to talk us into seeing was real, too. Now, Veronica…" He held up a hand when her mouth gaped open as if she were going to speak. "Mr. Roarke and Mrs. Enstad themselves informed us that this place is called Fantasy Island for a very good reason, and we saw some of those reasons this weekend. The clincher was that New Zealander who found the flower that has cold-curing properties. Side effects or no, it still clearly cured his daughter's cold. If Mr. Roarke allows it, he might be able to take some of the seeds home with him and cultivate them in a controlled environment, and isolate the curative properties while eliminating the ones that cause all those grotesque side effects." Arthur paused, then added, "Controlled, but not too controlled. Which is something else I've come to realize. That's why our supervisors wanted so badly for us to come here. They were hoping we'd see that we've become too narrow-minded and regimented in our work. It's as Mr. Roarke said: we refuse to allow for the serendipity factor. If we consider some ideas that sound preposterous on their face, we never know but that we might stumble on the very substance that produces the results we want. The point is that we make room for those random factors. And I'm going to begin adjusting my work as soon as we return to the labs."

"But…we always had the same noble goals in mind," Veronica said faintly, still looking shocked. "That was why we got together."

Arthur sighed. "I've been considering this for longer than you know. It's occurred to me that I barely know you, Veronica. We got together based solely on our work interests and our hopes of finding cures for two of mankind's worst scourges. All we've ever talked about to each other is our work and the progress we've made in it. That, and Sylvia."

"If you hardly know each other," Sylvia said, obviously unable to resist the chance to chip in her two cents, "how in the world did you ever manage to have me?"

Arthur smiled sadly and rested a hand atop her head. "People who don't even know each other's names sometimes end up having a baby," he said. "But your mother and I based our marriage on much too little. The only reason I know her birthdate and birthplace, and her middle name, is that I saw them on her birth certificate when we applied for our marriage license. I'm not sure she knows the same information about me."

"But I do," Veronica protested, her voice a thin, plaintive plea. "You were born on October 27, and your middle name is Jameson."

This met with astonished silence for several moments, and all three Lincolns stared at each other. Then Arthur admitted, "I wouldn't have thought you cared."

"Maybe not," said Veronica, her voice still soft. "But I spoke with Mrs. Enstad a little while ago in front of her husband's office. She explained how she and the prince really met and fell in love." She peered up at Arthur with a wistful glint in her eyes. "They got to know each other. They spent time together, and they talked about everything, she said. It simply astounded me to hear that they saw eye-to-eye on so much, considering their very different stations in life. I never would have thought that a marriage between a prince and a middle-class commoner could work, but it obviously has. I…" She paused, swallowed visibly and broke her gaze. "I need to apologize to both Mrs. Enstad and the prince. I actually believed it was all a publicity stunt for his country and Fantasy Island. I've been a real fool, it seems."

Arthur chuckled. "I have too. But I think I figured it out a little differently from you. I've been seeing a lot of happy couples here. I even watched a few last night when we ate at the restaurant. They were all in conversation—happy, animated conversation. You could tell by the expressions on their faces, their laughter, the way some of them held hands. And I found myself thinking that it would be nice to have that in my life too."

"C-couldn't we try to work on that ourselves?" Veronica begged. Sylvia was stunned to see tears gleaming in her eyes. "I'm beginning to understand now that there are a lot of good things missing from our lives, just because they're intangible things that I thought had no meaning. If we…well, if we turn out to be incompatible after all, then you may have a divorce, Arthur, but before we go that far, I'd like to see if we have enough in common to stay together, other than our work and our goals."

Arthur nodded, smiling. "I'd like that too. In fact, I was hoping you might still have enough invested in this partnership of ours to give it a try."

Veronica bolted out of her chair, and she and Arthur hugged each other tightly, for the first time Sylvia could ever remember. After a couple of minutes they both turned to look at their daughter, and Veronica said, "I just noticed…you've started calling your father 'Dad'. Where did that come from?"

Sylvia shrugged and pivoted one foot on its toe, grinning. "Aw, well, we were having so much fun with the elves this morning, and he was laughing and having a great time, and I thought, gee, he looks more like a Dad than a Father now. So I started calling him Dad, and he thought it was great. In fact, he even hugged me."

Veronica laughed. "I'm still not altogether certain about all those mythical creatures we've been seeing…except maybe that centaur, considering the bite I got." Arthur and Sylvia laughed too. "But I'm a little more willing to allow for such things now. Maybe not to the point that I expect to meet them on the street or work with one of them at the lab, but if they were the real thing and I saw them with my own unenhanced vision, then I suppose even strange beings like those have their place in this world."

"Well, gosh, Mom, that's all I ever asked," Sylvia said with a smirk, and her parents laughed again and gathered her into their embrace.

§ § § - January 8, 2007

Roarke and Leslie shook hands with Arthur and Veronica and watched them stride for the plane dock, not quite hand-in-hand, but looking as if they might just end up that way after all. Then Roarke regarded Sylvia and inquired, "Was your fantasy a success, Miss Lincoln?"

"Maybe a qualified success," Sylvia said thoughtfully, casting a glance at her parents over her shoulder. "They're both willing to believe in things that they can't clutch in their own two little hands now, and I guess you and His Highness taught Mom something about love, Mrs. Enstad." Leslie blinked at that, and Sylvia grinned at her. "Dad was about to ask Mom for a divorce, but then she told us what she'd found out, and they're going to start getting to really know each other."

"Good for them," said Leslie.

"They might still get divorced," Sylvia admitted candidly, "but at least if they do, they'll know enough about each other to decide if it's better for them to stay married or to split up. But I think I still want to live with my father if they do. Mom's pretty tough, she's still got some skeptic in her. But who knows—maybe while they're getting acquainted, it'll get hammered out of her eventually."

Roarke and Leslie joined in her laughter and shook hands with her, wishing her good luck and watching her run after her parents. They took the time to say goodbye to the Hartiswoode family as well, and Leslie noticed that Branton Hartiswoode carried a baby-food jar with about half an inch of clear liquid inside it. "What's that?" she asked.

The New Zealand scientist smiled. "My family probably thinks I'm crazy to insist on going back today, after I spent all of yesterday in the lab isolating elements from that flower Mr. Roarke let me find. Heavens, that must be the best-equipped lab I've ever been in, Mr. Roarke. There were even lab mice to experiment on." Roarke smiled broadly while the others laughed; and Hartiswoode continued, "At any rate, I had the chance to separate the basic components of whatever formula cures the common cold, and the contents of this jar are—I hope—the isolate that will bring about the cure without any of the side effects Caryll was so cruelly subject to yesterday." He squeezed his daughter's shoulder, and she smiled. "It's promising to see that her cold still hasn't returned."

"So it is," Roarke agreed and smiled. "I wish you luck and success, Mr. Hartiswoode, and I hope all of you have a pleasant trip home."

"Don't be surprised if Arthur and Veronica Lincoln ask you about that formula," said Leslie as they began to turn away.

Hartiswoode stopped short. "Those obnoxious American scientists? I hope not!"

"Give them a chance," Roarke urged. "They have also come to some realizations this weekend, and you may well find them much more receptive to your ideas."

Hartiswoode made a noise, half intrigued, half disbelieving, then shrugged. "Perhaps. Well, again, thank you, Mr. Roarke. It's been a wonderful weekend." His family concurred, and they shook hands all around before the Hartiswoodes headed for the plane.

While the seaplane's engine sputtered into life behind them, Roarke turned to Leslie as they headed back for the waiting car. "You mentioned at supper yesterday that Christian planned to speak with Ingrid. What came of it?"

"Well, it seems that Christian was panicking a little too soon. Ingrid's going on 25, but she plans to stick around as long as we say we want her, boyfriend or not. As a matter of fact, she's invited the boyfriend to next month's Valentine's party that we're having for the guests here. I guess she felt they needed to spend some time actually in each other's presence before they made any decisions about renewing their relationship."

"Yes, that's quite helpful," said Roarke, deadpan, and she shot him a look before chuckling. "I presume you and Christian won't be waiting that long to celebrate your sixth anniversary next week."

"Believe me, we'll do something special," Leslie said with a grin. "But I have to admit, I'm looking forward to the Valentine party. Maybe we can make some other couples as happy as Christian and I are." That made Roarke smile, and he watched her with quiet pride as she settled into the car. Truth be told, he too was looking forward to the party; no less than Mephistopheles had once accused him of being an encourageable romantic, and he fully intended to live up to that.

Now you know what the next story will be about! Some characters you've met before will return, and some new ones will come for a visit, and some previously unmet folks related to other past visitors to the island. I hope to have at least part of it up in time for Valentine's Day. See you then!