Behind his eyes, it was like an old, stone wall, and it held him inside. It had been there a long time, as long as he could remember. The wall loomed over him, above him, shadowing him. It had been there for so long, in fact, that he had stopped noticing it. Because he could pass through it, always, but not without leaving something behind. Over time, he had learned to live beyond the wall, without ever thinking about what was left of him behind it. He had forgotten it was there.
Now that he knew the wall was there, though, things were different. Now that he could feel it, see it, just barely touch it, it felt more and more restrictive, claustrophobic. More and more he wanted to beat against it until it fell down on his head or his fists were bloody, whichever came first.
He had spent the last hour throwing himself against that wall, but to no avail - he had succeeded only in exhausting himself, and the wall held.
With a loud exhalation, Jack collapsed forward to lean over his knees. Then he sat upright, driving his fists into the marble bench on either side of him. "Damnit," he cursed under his breath. "I can't do it."
He stared - glared, rather - down at the bench, as if it had something to do with it. Marble. Marble benches. This place was so ancient and ornate that it was ridiculous.
He had been left to his own devices for the last several hours - he had been told to wait. He hadn't, exactly, been told why. Now he sat on some kind of balcony, carved in a strange, opaque kind of stone, that jutted out of the outer wall, looking down on the ocean below him.
His mind had been spinning for the longest time now, and tonight's journey was still baffling him anyway. After Fiona's appearance, she had led him into the woods, past places he had been a thousand times, but then made a turn he'd never expected - straight into a wall of solid rock. He was only lucky that he'd been nearly lost at the time - she'd given him no warning, just pulled him right through - otherwise, he might have balked at the idea and not ended up coming at all... to... wherever this place was. He'd gone from standing in the middle of the woods behind his house to standing in the middle of a huge, round, marble-floored room. The contrast had been enough that his knees had felt momentarily weak from shock. He'd gotten control over himself quickly, though, and had been able to follow Fi out of the big round room, down a narrow hallway into a wider one, and then, when the floor had gone from wood back to stone, out onto this balcony. In a strange, uncharacteristic daze, he'd asked no questions.
He still couldn't figure out how he'd gone from being hours inland to a seacoast in the space of an instant.
But then, he'd resolved that trying to logic this out was a rather futile exercise.
And he was so frustrated now that his temples were beginning to throb, as a prelude to what promised to be one of the worst headaches he'd ever had. Because just outside that constricting wall, he could almost, but not quite, *feel* something. Power was there, incomparable power and life. And there was something else, beckoning to him in a whisper, that refused his flimsy denials, that he just *couldn't*, even though he wanted, so much, to know what it was...
It was rather like trying to remember a name he'd forgotten, and it was driving him crazy. He felt as if he was in the eye of a hurricane, here, but that out in the storm there was something wonderful, something daring him to come and find it. And he couldn't, because he was trapped inside himself, inside this damned WALL...
He was startled when a hand was laid softly between his shoulders. He turned his head, and saw Fi standing there, a soft, amused smile on her face.
"Arrah said she could feel you from the Great Hall," she said, sitting down next to him. "What's wrong?"
Jack scowled at the floor. "You *know* what's wrong," he said. Then he looked her in the eyes, and saw a fleeting trace of guilt in them. "You always knew, didn't you? What Mom did to me?"
Fi stiffened for an instant, then sighed, and nodded.
"Why didn't you ever tell me?"
She shrugged. "Would it have done any good? You wouldn't have believed me."
Jack managed a half-smile. "No, I guess not." There was a brief silence. "Why did you do... what you did, Fi? I don't understand. If it's anything like what I think I would feel if I could..."
Fi's eyes dropped from his. "I was trying to protect you, and Mom, I guess. I didn't really think about the consequences beyond that - but I guess what I did isn't much better than what Mom did."
"Can you go back?"
She stared at him, for the first time letting a little uncertainty show. "I don't know."
He wasn't sure of what to say, so instead, he asked: "So are they done... whatever they were doing?"
The uncertainty vanishing, she nodded. "There was a Council meeting," she explained.
"Council?" Jack was beginning to become mildly annoyed with all the audible caps these people kept bandying about.
"The Council of Nations," she said. "Not full Council, because they were just talking about... well, you."
She grinned at his startlement. "We're pretty important to them, Jack. I tried to tell you. Everyone who knew Mom and Dad was there. Most of them still are - which reminds me - I'm supposed to bring you back. They made a decision."
Jack didn't have time to ask, with some nettle, what kind of decision had been made and whether he was to have any say in it.
Fiona retraced their steps from several hours ago, bringing them back to the huge, rounded room he had first seen. He made her stop on the threshold, though, marvelling at the sheer number of people in the room. There had to be more than a dozen people in there - and that enormous wooden table looked like it could have held hundreds.
"Uh, Fi? You said this wasn't *full* Council. Just how many *is* full Council?"
Fi turned to look at him. Even his voice was a bit pale. She grinned. "Last I was at one, three hundred eighty-four."
Before he had a chance to recover, Fi pulled him into the room.
It took a few moments for anyone to notice them, standing just off to the edge of things. Jack was struggling to keep a mask of calm over his shock, but what happened next almost shattered it. A woman of about forty detached from the throng and aproached them - she had black hair with stripes of white throughout it, almost transparent blue eyes, and bore a striking ressemblence to several of Jack's elementary school teachers. She stopped just facing them, smiling carefully.
"I don't suppose you remember me, do you, boy?" she asked, wearing an expression of obvious amusement.
Fi pushed him forward. "Jack, this is Helena Llwellyn. She was a friend of Mom and Dad's."
Helena shook his hand vigorously. "I'm not surprised you don't remember me - you were only a tot last time I saw you."
"No... I think I kind of do remember," Jack said, his mind racing back over a decade. Helena had been a close friend of their parents, and always brought him candies and gifts. She had been one of the people he remembered inside that wall, speaking to him without speaking. Now that he thought of it, there were a few pictures in his mother's mismatched albums in which he could remember seeing a much-younger Helena.
Now that he thought of it, he could remember, if only vaguely, quite a few of the other people in this room. Many of them had been regular visitors when he was little, when Fi was only a baby, in that short time when his father was still there. He could remember them only as part of a short time that had been taken from him, long ago, one he didn't really feel part of, anymore.
Helena smiled warmly and moved away, and Jack took the brief respite to look around the room they'd walked into. The floor was grey marble, the walls stone and the high ceilings the same. The windows were narrow, but tall, and all eight were spaced around the round room in what seemed to be mathematically precise proportion. Turning his gaze back toward the centre of the room, he saw that same huge wooden table surrounded by countless chairs, and behind it, that door he'd come through - which now seemed nothing more than an ornately carved arch-shape in the surface a solid stone wall.
"Jack?" He belatedly noticed that the crowd had shifted towards himself and Fiona, and that Areahannah was standing in front of him.
He looked at her. "I'm sorry," he said quietly. "I--"
She shook her head, forestalling the rest of his apology. "It doesn't matter now. What matters is that you're here." She turned her head and beckoned to someone in the crowd. A moment later, a woman in her mid-to-late twenties edged her way out of the crowd and approached them. She had softly-curling dark blonde hair that reached her jaw, and her eyes were a muddled blue.
"Jack, this is Katia. She's a doctor."
Jack blinked. "Yeah; Terren mentioned her."
Arrah gave him a strange look, and Jack rather abruptly had the feeling he'd gotten the older man in trouble - but that was quickly forgotten as Katia shook his hand, and he felt a strange sensation - she looked briefly, deeply into his eyes, and he could *feel* her inside his head, gently probing the edges of that wall he'd spent the last few hours trying to breach. "It's good to meet you, Jack," she said, with what she obviously thought was a surreptitious glance at the First Guardian.
"Can you do it?" he asked, with a tinge of impatience - apparently, the earnest in his voice kept it from rudeness.
Katia raised an eyebrow at him. "You've been paying more attention than we thought, eh, Jack?" she laughed, then glanced at Arrah again, who nodded her on. "I think I might be able to do something about that block of yours - provided you're still willing."
Jack nodded quickly, trying not to seem too eager. He didn't fool Fi, though, and he felt her squeeze his arm. "All these people," she said into his ear, "Are old friends of Mom and Dad - when they were both still a part of all of this."
Areahannah caught his eye. "Shall we go somewhere a little more quiet?" she said, nodding to Katia. The four of them moved off through a third doorway, this one narrower than either of the others. Jack felt a room of eyes on him as they went.
The hallway she led them through was wood-panneled for only a few feet - then they passed through a small alcove and stepped into a new corridor made of the same strange, opaque - it almost looked like some kind of quartz - stone that the balcony had been. The walls here were carved with endlessly intricate pictures, scenes from what looked like long ago. They seemed to go back in time the further they went.
And then eventually, the hallway widened out, and the dimness vanished. There was a new corridor, slightly wider than the last, made of the same stone, but here the walls were lined with plain, round pillars and the stone blocks in the walls seemed larger and rougher. There was also some kind of *power* here that made the hair on Jack's arms stand on end. Neither of the other three seemed to notice it, though - they were watching him, instead.
"Can you feel that, Jack?" Arrah asked, glancing at Katia, who shrugged.
"Maybe the block's not as complete as we thought," she ventured. "Or maybe it's erroded over time. Just knowing it was there would make him distantly aware of some things - but just enough to drive him batty, I suspect." She winked at Jack. "That's how Gifts work, Arrah - you know that."
Arrah shrugged ruefully, and smiled. "It's been a while, Kay."
Moving on down the hallway, the reached exact mid point in a few steps, and then Areahannah motioned for them to stop. "From this point on, we have to go one at a time - this bridge is built to take only one person at a time - if we push it, it might collapse."
She went on ahead, and Jack turned curiously to his sister. "To repel invaders," she explained. "The room we're going into is the most important on the Island - if anyone untoward got in it could be really bad. They hardly ever let anyone but the Eight inside it. I've never even been in here before."
That was the second time someone had referred to this place as an island - and Jack disregarded the comment for later inspection when he could make sense of it. Fi seemed excited at the prospect, anyway. Jack watched as Arrah took a few more steps, then held up her hand. It seemed almost as if she had laid her palm along a shining, transluscent blue wall. In fact, the air between the four walls shimmered for an instant before dissolving into sparks and vanishing. Then she stepped past, and motioned for them to follow her, one at a time. Katia, the last one through, repeated the motion from the other side, supposedly re-establishing the... shield, or whatever it was.
Jack was beginning to really wonder just *what* kind of decision had been made in that meeting - and he was beginning to fervently hope that this was the most amazing thing that happened to him today - he wasn't sure if he could handle any more.
Fi turned and gave him an apologetic smile as he reached the next archway, and then they were inside.
The walls, carved in yet more intricate patterns, were a greenish-white like green onyx, and stretched up, and up, and up to meet the sky. The ceiling was higher than he could really see, with the sun shining down through what seemed to be a perfectly round window, hundreds of feet up. This room was round as the Great Hall had been, but much smaller - only large enough to hold a fairly small, rather strange round stone table that was rooted to the floor as if the entire room had been carved out of solid rock.
Jack inspected the table. Oh; it had.
The table itself was probably not the strangest thing about this room, but it was certainly up there - it was divided evenly into eight pie-shaped sections with straight lines carved into its surface - and within each section was a tiny, scrawled symbol, none of which he recognized, and two hand-shaped impressions, right in the surface of the table as if they'd been pressed into wet clay.
::But that's solid stone... or crystal... whatever.::
In the centre of the table was another circle, slightly raised from the rest of the table, bearing another, triangular symbol - a small circle in its exact centre with lines running from each corner to meet the circle's perimeter. That one, he could remember having seen before, but couldn't figure out where.
He suddenly remembered - Annie thrusting her hand into his face, the ring plain to see on her thumb, the odd little triangular symbol glittering, even among the complicated knotting patterns...
"Oh," he said, mostly to himself. It seemed too small a word to express all of this.
"We're inside the Spire," Fi said as Areahannah and Katia moved to the table. "I'll show it to you from the outside later, I promise - but this room - it's called the Heart Chamber. It might be sort of magical, but it's also a really complicated and advanced computer system. Kind of a combination of the two - which is what makes Crystallis so unique."
Jack looked at her askance. "A computer? But..."
"Don't ask me where it came from, Big Brother," Fi said, with a lopsided grin. "Later. I don't know if you'd be able to handle it right now."
Katia beckoned him over to the table. "There's something I need you to do, Jack," she said. "If you want to be able to use you Gift again - it's hard, and it might hurt a bit. But you should know before you try - you need to *want* it, Jack. You need to be sure."
Strangely enough, Jack answered without hesitation. "I do. Tell me what to do."
Katia started a little, then smiled. "Who knew?" she said. When Jack looked at her curiously, she shook her head, still smiling. "For a second, you could have been your dad, Jack."
Jack didn't know what to say - fortunately, he was saved from needing to reply, as Katia told him to brace himself against the table, and close his eyes.
She explained to him what he needed to do - and for several minutes he struggled. It seemed to require a combination of concentration and relaxation that he wasn't sure he could manage. But then he felt Fi take his hand, and he could feel what he needed to do, and he did it.
He was suddenly no longer in the Heart Chamber, but standing in the corner of a small bedroom. Looking up, he saw himself, only a few years old, asleep on the bed, and his mother sitting next to him, holding his hand. And he could *feel* it, abruptly - he could see it, what she was doing to him as he slept, feel the tightening of the bindings around him, inside him, as she wove whatever spell she was using.
He felt a hand on his shoulder. ::Not a spell, Jack,:: said Katia's voice, and he didn't need to turn to look at her - he had the feeling that she wouldn't look quite the same here, like this. ::Make it stop, Jack.::
::I don't understand...::
::It's your memory, Jack. Shadows of what once were. Just stop the picture.::
Jack concentrated - the picture stilled. He walked forward, bent down, looked into his mother's face. There were tears on her cheeks. He felt a pang of something unidentifiable before Katia was beside him again.
::Now close your eyes again,:: she told him.
He was somewhere else, even though he didn't remember moving at all. He stood in the middle of a tiny room with a sanded wooden floor. The light was so dim it was almost black. For some reason, it didn't seem *right* this way. It wasn't supposed to be this dark. Then he looked up, and came face to face with the wall.
It was made of sturdy stone blocks, and what little light there was came from cracks in the mortar.
Suddenly he knew where he was.
He laid a hand on the wall - it was warm, as if there was a fire burning behind it. And the room was cold. He suddenly wanted very much to go outside of the wall to where that warmth was. He turned desperately to Katia.
He had been right - she didn't look quite the same here. She was obviously herself, but younger-looking, and surrounded by a bright, green-gold aura of warmth and power that radiated off of her. Her hair was longer, and her eyes...
...her eyes were almost glowing, no longer muddied but the blue of sapphires.
He briefly wondered if this was the same thing Annie had seen in Areahannah.
She came to stand next to him, set her hand next to his. ::Mom's wall?:: he ventured, but she shook her head.
::Your mother may have built it, Jack, but you helped it stand for all this time. You kept it standing. It's your wall, now.::
::But that's not fair--::
::No, it's not.:: She looked at him. ::It's in your mind, Jack. It's yours. And you have to break it down. I can only show you how.::
Jack felt, after a moment, almost afraid. ::You said it would hurt,:: he realized, with resignation.
She nodded. ::There's no other way.::
Jack stared at the wall; it stared right back. ::Show me how,:: he said decisively.
She handed him, to his surprise, a hammer and chisel. He stared at her. The wall was huge, heavy, inpenetrable. This could take forever...
::Once you've made a hole big enough, the rest will come crashing down.::
Without another word, he set the chisel against the wall, and drove the hammer down against it with all his might.
A loud metallic sound resounded through the chamber, and for a moment it seemed as if he'd made no difference. But after a few more strikes, a chunk of mortar fell away with a cloud of dust, and light speared into the room through the space he'd made. Encouraged, he continued. But when he'd made a hole the size of his hand, he was already exhausted. Panting, he leaned against the wall.
::It's too hard,:: he said.
::You have to want it, Jack,:: she reminded him. ::You have to need it. It's as much intent as action, here. Everything you do is symbolic. Just... *want* it, and push!::
As if to demonstrate, she slammed the flat of one hand against the wall, and the same metallic clang thrummed through the room again. At the same time, something flashed across the walls, like the shield from the hallway before. Jack jumped up, standing close to the wall, and pressed his hand against the stones, then against the mortar between them. Something was there, holding it all together, like a web of tiny filaments of light.
Watching him, Katia repeated her words. ::Just *want* it, Jack.::
He threw aside the hammer and chisel, and attacked the wall with his bare hands. The web flashed again and again - several tries at this brought nothing, and so he stopped, and again pressed his hands into the wall, then closed them into fists, as if he was clutching the web in his fingers.
A flash of memory raced through him - a distant sensation of pain, of grief, of loss. Images; of a speeding car, of fire, of a darkened face hovering on the edge of his vision, of his mother crying, of Fi, only a baby, shrieking in her crib because she *knew*, somehow - he opened his eyes - his hands were glowing as if they were aflame.
And then, gritting his teeth, he pulled--
It *hurt*. There was a searing slash of pain as the webbing shredded in his hands, and something broke free in his mind, pouring power and images and memories and feelings into the long-empty channels he could now *feel*, there. And then he could see it, as tiny cracks appeared and spread across the wall, growing larger and larger until he could see the light from outside shining through. And then it began to crumble, falling away, and he was almost *blinded* by how bright it was. Then something snapped, and he gasped as he was filled to the brim with something burning-warm and wonderful and...
He opened his eyes. The first thing he saw was Fi, staring concernedly down at him. He opened his mouth to tell her it was all right, that he was all right, that everything was the same as ever - but it *wasn't*.
He gradually realized that the wall was gone - and that now, he could *feel* everything he had been able to barely, almost feel, sharp and clear and definitely there - he wasn't imagining this. It was *real*.
Someone - he guessed Katia - helped him to his feet, his eyes locked the whole time with his sister. Fi was smiling, tears in her eyes. He'd run out of words.
"I told you so," she said smugly, but then she flung her arms around his neck and hugged him tightly. "I told you."
He hugged her back, and they turned as one to the two Guardians - Katia looked a little pale, as he suspected he did. She leaned against the table, hand closed around the odd pendant that both of the Guardians wore, an ovular red jewel set in silver, the thing that he'd distantly noted must be a symbol of the Guardians themselves. *He* felt like he was going to collapse any minute with exhaustion. And from her he could sense that same sensation of contained power that he had "seen" inside, before. "I--" It was a radically uncharacteristic moment for Jack - he stuttered, with no idea of what to say. Fi looked at Katia, then, a look of almost-pleading in her eyes.
Katia sighed dramatically. "I'll get you for this, Fiona," she said mock-sternly, but put a hand on Fi's forehead anyway.
That elsewhere-frown creased her forehead again, her eyes unfocused, and then she looked at Fi. "Lucky for you, it's not as bad as Jack," she said. "You can damned well do it yourself, though - there. Right there. I'm too tired."
Jack could see what Katia had done - he saw it superimposed on his sight, where the presence that was *Fi* was surrounded in misty white, nothing quite like the wall that had surrounded him.
Katia dropped her hand, and Fiona closed her eyes for a brief instant, a look of concentration on her face. He felt something distant, not quite a snapping but more of a building heat, like sunlight burning away morning fog - and then he could *feel* her, too, sense her as a warm presence at the back of his mind, see her as a sort of hovering figure existing somewhat parallel to her physical body. He blinked at her.
Then he looked at Arrah.
From the instant the wall had fallen, and that hot light had poured into him, he had been able to feel himself gravitating toward some kind of focal point for it all, one that hovered just on the edges of his sensing. Something huge, and old, and powerful. It seemed to be coming from all around him - maybe from the place itself - but also from a single, glowing point. Now he realized that that focus was Areahannah - that she drew and focused that power from herself like a compass needle. He could feel it - that all that power and light and warmth was coming, in a sense, from her.
Now he understood what Terren had tried to explain to him - and in a moment that brought him close to tears again, he suddenly understood what his father had died for.
It felt right - more than anything else he had ever known. It felt right.
He felt the tears burn their way down his shame-reddened cheeks as he realized, gradually, that maybe he might have done the same.
He heard Katia chuckle tiredly. "I think we might have shocked him into silence."
"Amazing," he heard Fiona mutter jokingly.
He turned to his sister. "I... I was an idiot," he said.
She smiled, placed a finger on his lips. "You don't have to *say* it, genius," she told him, shaking her head, and he could hear her, feel her on the edge of his mind. ::That was the whole point.::
She said it almost scoldingly, but the gentle warmth behind the words took the sting out of them.
"Look at you, standing here blubbering like a baby," she said, laughingly. Jack felt his face grow hot and he wiped the tears away, but didn't really take the rebuke seriously. She punched him gently in the shoulder. "I was joking, you big baby," she said.
He turned back to Areahannah, but suddenly knew that the apology he was about to voice, again, was needless. "I'm an empath, Jack," she supplied quietly. "Do you know what that means?"
Jack nodded, slowly. "I... think so."
She sighed. "It means I can tell how you feel - and I always understood - you don't have to *say* it. And you've *felt* it for the past week. It doesn't matter anymore."
"What about my Mom?" he asked, his mind going back to the expression on his mother's face when she'd realized he was leaving.
"Don't worry about that right now," Areahannah answered reassuringly. "There's something else you both have to do first. Or rather, something *I* have to do."
Jack glanced bemusedly at Fiona - but she seemed to have no more idea what Arrah meant than he did. Looking back at the First Guardian, though, he saw her drop her eyes as she seemed to suddenly be in pain. "I..." she sighed. "I never told your mother I was sorry for what happened to Rick," she said, her voice quieting. "I tried to, you know - but she didn't want to hear it - she blamed me, and... maybe she had reason to."
He saw Katia set a hand on her arm, but Arrah shook her head, pushing her off. "The problem with my job, Jack, is that no matter how well my people know the risks, no matter how willingly they take it up, no matter how much they *want* to, it... they're still my responsibility, to some degree. To *some* degree, everyone is. And your dad was one of my people. He was my friend. And even though I was a teenager at the time and him a grown man with a wife and two children, I still had a responsibility to him, a duty, to protect him as he had a responsibility to me. And I... I always felt as if I'd failed him." Her voice wasn't much more than a whisper now, and her eyes were turned down to the table.
For an instant, Jack wasn't sure *what* he was feeling. He had almost managed to convince himself that all his mother had said was untrue, spoken in the spite of grief and pain. But was Areahannah admitting a wrong? Was she confirming it? Denying it? She'd said she hadn't killed his father - no, Jack still believed that. And he could feel something, now, and while he wasn't sure yet of himself...
...it was guilt. But not the guilt of someone who'd committed a wrong - the guilt of someone who *thought* they had. The guilt of someone who felt they could have done more, felt they *should* have, felt... felt... it felt confused. Self-destructive guilt, the kind that grows in the place of explanations. And Jack muddled through it all, trying to sort it out into words to tell her, but Fi beat him to it, wrapping her fingers around his.
"It wasn't your fault," she said. And then he felt Fi sort of reach out her hand to him, but it really wasn't her hand, but he took it anyway, and together they sorted the muddle of shared grief and loss and understanding and reassurance into something cohesive, and then they... Jack wasn't sure what they did - but Fi was directing it, and he felt himelf reach, like he was shouting.
Areahannah looked up in surprise, her eyes wide. "How did --"
"It wasn't your fault," Jack repeated, with conviction.
She seemed more surprised by his words than by Fi's, even though they were identical. And as she searched his eyes, seemingly analyzing the feelings there, he saw the bulk of the pain vanish from her face - it was the first real smile he'd seen on her face. And that life and power shone right through it, making her seem, to his inner eye, like she was glowing.
"There's a reason I brought you two here," she said finally. "One that didn't involve the reason you called us, Jack." She placed her hands into the handprints on the table directly in front of her - which seemed, oddly enough, to fit her hands exactly - and a brief flash of light sparked out of the carved lines. Then the table began to - not exactly *hum*, but that was how it sounded with his other senses. The smaller raised circle in the middle of the table and its symbol didn't exactly glow, either, but seemed as if it were beneath somehow more and brighter sun than the rest of the room. The light arced up, just like the unexpected glare of sunlight, and formed itself into a softly-glowing pillar that finally flattened out and slipped off the edge of the table, and to Jack's combined fascination and mild shock, began to shape itself into what seemed to be a humanoid figure. As it gained more detail and texture, he saw it was a man, a man with dark hair, and a beard, and...
The picture resolved itself. It was his father, smiling and standing right there in front of him.
"People talk about this place being haunted," he heard Arrah's voice say. "And theoretically, everyone who comes here leaves a little of themselves behind. Crystallis is almost alive, in a way, because of that. Hell; it may very well *be* haunted. But another thing that might have contributed to the legend is that everyone who is a part of the Circle, Delegates especially, *is* a part of Crystallis, in a small way. And..."
Jack heard a noise that was half-electronic and half-musical. "Your dad left you both a message," she said. "I had to show it to *both* of you - as per the promise I made him. The system is set not to play unless you were both present, anyway. And... now that you both *are, I think it's about time you heard it."
Jack felt Fi's arm slip around his waist, and he put an arm around her shoulders. Together, like that, they nodded to Areahannah, and for the first time, heard their father speak.