Lewis finished his talk just a few moments before the application interviews were due to begin. "Think that's all we have time for today." Lewis said, checking his watch. "But thank you all for listening-"
"Mr. Mcartney," The man with the glasses, who had introduced himself as Dr. Donoval, stood. "We can postpone the interviews, is there any way we can convince you to extend your lecture?"
"Ah..." Lewis said blankly. "I... don't think that's a good idea... applicants have been preparing for this for months. We should see it through."
"Right, right." Dr. Donoval's face fell. "Then after, yes?" The whole room looked at Lewis with hopeful eyes.
"Sure." Lewis nodded quickly, gazing around the room at his scientific idols. He'd never met anyone this interested in his research before, and here was a room full of scientists begging him to keep speaking. If Lewis's heart hadn't been beating out of his chest he would have sworn he'd died and gone to heaven.
Rikki flew quickly into the apartment, pulling the door shut behind her with a sigh of relief. Cleo was the only person inside, and she looked up curiously as Rikki leaned against the closed door.
"Are you ok?" Cleo stood and hurried over to her friend.
"Oh I'm better than ok." Rikki caught her breath with a grin. "The cafe is doing great."
"Really?" Cleo brightened. "That's fantastic!"
"Yeah, I mean, everything seems to be going perfectly." Rikki fell onto the couch in exhaustion. "We've been working like crazy. And some reporter showed up to interview Zane. I guess they're doing some kind of local eateries story for the paper."
"So tell me about it." Cleo was anxious to hear all about how the wish had worked. This whole thing fascinated her. "Did a whole lot of people just randomly show up? What happened?"
Rikki shook her head as she explained. "It was the weirdest thing. It felt like Zane and I were celebrities or something." She said. "There were a lot of people our age there. And they ALL wanted juice, music, everything!" She finished excitedly. "If things keep up this way I think the cafe will be pretty well set up."
The two girls giggled a bit before Cleo told Rikki about Lewis's day. "He's still there reporting his findings to them." She said gleefully. "They're hanging on his every word."
"Is he being careful?" Rikki tensed just slightly. "I mean, he knows information about us that those scientists would kill for. He won't-"
"Of course not, Rikki." Cleo spoke in a sing-song tone. "He knows better than that."
"I know, I know." Rikki shrugged. "I just don't want him to accidentally spill anything."
"He won't." Cleo said simply. "I know him."
"I know you do." Rikki let a grin spread across her face. She checked her watch. "Has anyone heard from Bella or Will?"
"I haven't." Cleo frowned slightly. "We should probably go out and check on them, they've been gone forever."
As if they'd been summoned, Bella and Will burst through the door at that very moment. They were practically bent over with laughter as they came through the door. Rikki and Cleo watched them silently for a few moments as they began to kiss each other playfully.
"Ahem." Rikki cleared her throat loudly.
Bella and Will jumped slightly at the sound. "Sorry, guys." Bella blushed. "I didn't realize you were here."
"Yeah, you would have had to actually look at something other than each other in order to see us." Rikki said sarcastically.
"So, what have you two been up to?" Cleo said excitedly.
"We've been swimming." Bella jumped onto the couch beside her. "Like, we've been swimming together."
"No kidding." Rikki's head nodded slowly. "So Will has a... a you know what?"
"I'm a merman!" Will announced proudly, holding his arms over his head victoriously.
"And the whole town will know it if you don't tone it down." Bella said gently as she reached for Will's hand and pulled him onto the couch beside her. "So hush."
Will's face flushed slightly as he let himself fall onto the couch next to Bella. "Sorry." He said sheepishly, lowering his tone.
"You goof." Bella playfully swatted Will's hand. "He loves it." She said to Rikki and Cleo. "How did the other wishes turn out?"
"Everything seems perfect." Rikki answered honestly. She nodded to Bella and Will. "You two seemed thrilled, business at the cafe is booming, and Lewis seems to still be at his conference with his heroes."
Cleo nodded confirmation. "Rikki's right. Everything seems to be great."
"Where is Zane?" Bella looked toward the kitchen.
"He's finishing up at the cafe." Rikki answered tiredly, a smile playing at the corner of her eyes. "I really think things are going to work out over there. There were a ton more people in there today than there usually is."
"I think we should celebrate tonight." Cleo announced. "That is, if Lewis ever decides to come home. He may move in with those scientist people for all I know. He loves the attention."
"Cleo's right. About celebrating, I mean." Will said brightly. "You girls took a chance and it really paid off. Imagine the things we can do!"
"Well I'm not trying to do anything else for a bit." Bella said calmly. "Let's make sure there aren't any repercussions from this first round of wishes before we jump into anything else."
"Fine." Will pouted playfully. "Can we go for a swim now?"
"We just had one!" Bella laughed. "We'll go back after we celebrate with the gang for a bit, k?"
Will groaned. He wanted to go back into the water right now. It was the most amazing sensation he'd ever experienced and he loved it.
"Why don't we go out?" Rikki called from the kitchen as she poured herself a cup of juice.
"To the cafe?" Cleo asked.
"No, I mean somewhere fun." Rikki said with a laugh. "That new club opened up on Libby Street, want to check it out?"
The group exchanged excited looks. They rarely got the opportunity to go out together. As if on cue, Lewis and Zane stumbled tiredly through the front door at that moment. All eyes turned to them as they made their entrance.
The chatter started at an excited murmer and gradually turned into a loud celebration. Lewis told everyone about his visit with the scientific panel. They were anxious for Lewis to come back the next day for another lecture. Lewis was more than flattered, though he was also more than exhausted.
Zane took his turn next, telling everyone about what a successful day the cafe had had. "They'd barely let me close up." He said as he flopped onto the couch. "They were begging me to leave the cafe open twenty four seven."
Drinks were soon distributed and the party really got started soon after that. In less than an hour the girls were all dolled up and ready to go to the club and the boys were ready to escort them. They walked out the door with a pep in their step, ready for a night out on the town.
Libby Street wasn't far, and they reached the highly publicized club in a few minutes time. They paused briefly outside the entrance.
"Club Energy." Rikki read. "Wow, what an original name."
"I don't care if it's called 'Club-come-in-and-have-a-beer" Zane pulled Rikki towards the entrance. "Come on, let's have some fun."
The group didn't need any more convincing. They followed Zane and Rikki inside.
"Now this is a club." Will said approvingly as he looked around.
The club was barely lit and full of dancing bodies. Loud music pumped through speakers that were scattered around the large dance floor. Between the bright dance lights and the billowing smoke machine, it was hard to see anyone. It was the kind of place anyone over twenty five would never dare step foot inside.
"Shall we dance, m'lady?" Lewis playfully bowed to Cleo and extended his hand to her.
"I'd love to." Cleo played along, offering a small curtsy before following Lewis out onto the dance floor.
The rest of the group soon lost sight of them in the crowd. Zane and Rikki took off quickly for the bar to get some cold drinks.
"Do you want to dance?" Will asked Bella uncertainly. Usually Bella wasn't a big clubber and neither was he.
"You know what?" Bella turned to Will with a bright smile. "Actually, I do."
The pair headed out onto the floor but didn't quite feel like diving into the middle the way Cleo and Lewis had. They settled for a comfortable position in the back corner of the floor. It was impossible to be alone, but they managed to trick themselves into thinking they were.
Rikki and Zane reappeared at the edge of the dance hall a moment later.
"Do you see where they went?" Rikki stood on her tiptoes, looking for a familiar face.
"Ah, no." Zane combed through the crowd with his eyes. Finally he spotted Cleo and Lewis dancing in the middle of the crowd. "This way." Zane led Rikki through the crowd of people.
It was impossible to hold a conversation with eachother over the loud music, so the four of them settled for just dancing for a while. Eventually they migrated to the back corner where Bella and Will were. They danced hard, living up to the celebratory evening they'd planned. After an hour had passed the group was red-faced and panting.
"I need a drink." Bella panted.
"I'll go with you." Cleo leaned on her friend for support. "My feet are killing me."
Bella and Cleo took a quick drink order from the rest of the group before heading up to the bar.
"I'll have two waters." Bella ordered first, then stepped aside to let Cleo place the rest of the order.
The boy behind the counter hastily poured to cups of ice water and shoved them across the counter towards Bella. Bella instinctively jumped back as the water splashed over the rim of the cups.
"Ah, excuse me?" She waved to get the boy's attention. "Can I get lids and straws for these?"
"Coming." The boy said absently, busily pouring drinks for the couple behind them in line. He grabbed a couple lids off the shelf and whipped around to reach for the water. His hand clumsily knocked right into one of the waters and it cascaded through the air, landing all over Bella.
"Sorry about that!" He called, but Bella had already taken off for the restroom, followed quickly by Cleo.
Luckily, the restroom was a single room with a lock. Bella made it inside in plenty of time, transforming right after Cleo got the door locked.
"Drat." Bella pushed herself up onto her elbows. "I was hoping to make it through one night out without having to make a mad run."
"No big deal. No one saw anything." Cleo said reassuringly. "Let's get you dried off so we can get back out there."
Will, Zane, Lewis, and Rikki had moved to the furthest corner of the dance floor while they waited for Bella and Cleo to return with their drinks. They made idle chit chat, observing the other people dancing on the floor.
"Check out that outfit." Rikki laughed. "She looks like she picked out her clothes in the dark.
The boys looked at her blankly.
"I need the girls to come back..." Rikki groaned.
Will chuckled. "You know..." Suddenly he froze and his face went funny.
"Will?" Lewis hit him lightly on the arm. "Whatcha doing?"
Will looked at Rikki with fear in his eyes. "Um, something is wrong. I can feel it."
"What could be wrong?" Zane narrowed his eyebrows.
Will didn't answer. Not with words anyway. Right there, in the back corner of a very public dance floor he collapsed, his face screwed up with confusion. Rikki, Lewis, and Zane watched in shock as Will's shirt disappeared and his legs elongated into a very long, very un-human fin. Will looked first at his fin, then up at his friends in surprise.
"Wha- wha?" He stuttered. "What just happened?" He tried not to shriek.
Rikki's eyes went wide. "Quick!" She hissed at Zane and Lewis. "Stand in front of him!"
Luckily, they were in the back corner of a very dark and very foggy room. None of the other partiers seemed to notice what had just happened, but it was only a matter of time before one of them spotted the merman on the ground.
Zane and Lewis clumsily stood in front of Will and Rikki, trying to look natural. Rikki quickly crouched down and held her hand out over Will, trying to dry him.
"It isn't working." She panicked. "Why aren't you changing back?"
"I'm not wet!" Will was freaking out on the floor. It had been fun swimming with Bella out in the water but here, powerless, he was more than a little worried.
"Ok, think." Rikki cast a quick look around to see if Bella and Cleo were back yet. No sign of them. She heard Will groan slightly and whipped her head back towards him.
Will was very slowly changing back to normal, his face screwed up as he transformed. Slower than normal, his fin shortened and turned back into two tanned legs. His clothes reappeared a second later.
Will let out a long sigh as he looked down at himself. He touched each leg in disbelief. "Am I normal again?"
"Looks like." Rikki said, bewildered. She checked the ground around them, but couldn't see anything wet that might have caused Will to change. "But what just happened?"
"Sorry that took so long!" Cleo laughed as she and Bella made their way back to the group. "That clumsy server totally spilled water all over Bella, we had to make a mermaid run to the bathroom..." She stopped talking. "What's Will doing on the floor?"
Rikki's head was spinning. "So..." She turned to Bella. "You just changed? A minute ago?"
"Yeah." Bella said, confused. "What's wrong?"
Rikki stood quickly. "The wish Will made. What exactly was it? How was it worded?"
"Um..." Bella tried to remember. "I'm not sure. It's written down at home."
"We need to get out of here now." Lewis guided Cleo quickly to the exit. The group quickly followed them.
The walk home was a long, tense one. No one spoke much as they walked into the girls' apartment. Rikki and Cleo dug through the papers on the counter, searching for the one with Will's wish written on it.
"Here it is." Cleo said triumphantly. "Will's wish reads... I wish to transform the way the mermaids do when they touch water." Cleo looked up at the rest of the group as she finished reading.
"That's it." Lewis said quietly. "I can't believe we didn't catch it."
"What?" Will said nervously. "It worked perfectly earlier. I changed when I touched water."
"Tell me this." Lewis paced, deep in thought. "When you jumped in the water earlier, did you jump as the same time as Bella?"
"Yes..." Will said slowly.
"Have you transformed at all without Bella? I mean, have you touched water and changed when she wasn't there?" Lewis continued pacing.
"No..." Will answered. "She's been with me, we were swimming together."
"Guys, look at the wish." Lewis took the paper from Cleo. "He hasn't wished to be a merman, he's wished to change the way you do when you touch water. It doesn't say anything about him changing at the touch of water, it says he'll change the way you do when you touch water."
"Lewis, I think that's reaching a little." Zane took the page from him skeptically.
"Do you have a better explanation?" Rikki asked him.
"Sorry, Cleo." Lewis hastily grabbed a bottle of water off the counter and tossed it over his girlfriend.
"Aw, Lewis..." Cleo groaned as she quickly sat down to keep from falling.
"Will, you should probably sit too, just in case..." Bella started to warn him, but she didn't get to finish the sentence.
Simultaneously, both Cleo and Will began to change. Will's change was slightly slower, but they definitely were changing together.
"Is he wet? Did any water touch him?" Lewis examined the new merman.
"Not that I can see." Zane admitted.
"Rikki, help Cleo dry off." Lewis instructed.
Usually, Rikki would have shot off some smart remark about Lewis not bossing her around, but she was so bewildered she immediately began to steam dry Cleo. After a few seconds Cleo was dried and began changing back into a human.
Will's change was slower, but there was no denying that they were connected. A few seconds later he was back to normal, oout of breath and panting on the floor.
"Crap." Was all Lewis could say.