Isaac wakes up from a nightmare and Mia and Ivan are at his side in an instant.
He looks shaken, silent screams echoing in his bloodshot eyes, and so unlike the stalwart confidence Isaac usually embodies. He recoils from their tender hands, mouth opening and closing in anguish. Mia calls to him softly and Ivan rationalizes to him carefully, but nothing seems to work because the crazed, wild look in Isaac's eyes refuses to go away.
Mia hears a groan and a rustling from behind her. Turning to look, she sees Garet, half-asleep and looking highly annoyed. He plops himself at Isaac's side. He says his leader's name, voice rough from just waking up. At the sound of Garet's voice, the Earth Adept turns to his best friend like a compass turns north and grabs the redhead's arm so hard his knuckles turn white. He doesn't say anything; he just shakes and trembles and holds on to the Mars Adept desperately.
Mia thinks she'll finally be able to see Garet's absolute best at work. She expects him to say something soothing. Something like, "It's alright." Or "It's just a dream, Isaac." Or "I'm here."
Garet doesn't say any of those things. Instead, the large warrior simply pries Isaac's steel-like grip from his arm, pushes him back down to the ground and says, "Shut up, Isaac. Go back to sleep."
Mia wants to scream at him. That's not how you deal with someone who just woke up from a nightmare! You're supposed to be kind, gentle! You're supposed to be supportive and compassionate! Aren't you his best friend?
Mia refuses to acknowledge the fact that, after what Garet did, Isaac leans back, closes his eyes, and sleeps peacefully for the rest of the night.
Six months later, the group is expected to arrive at Atteka, where Jupiter Lighthouse stands, dark and cryptic, hiding the power of an ancient evil. Isaac sits in front of Mia in the ship's common area, eyes shadowy and brooding, soul conflicted and uncertain. He's scared, worried about encountering Felix and his group. The possibility of failure looms over him like a thundercloud. He is shaky, wavering, doubtful.
He is the complete opposite of who he is supposed to be, who he had always been. Mia decides she doesn't like this particular Isaac at all.
(Mia thinks of best friends and rough treatment. She thinks of late night conversation and brute honesty. She thinks of Garet, half-asleep and highly annoyed.)
She rolls her eyes at the Earth Adept in front of her and says, "Shut up, Isaac, and go to sleep."
"You're right. You are a wimp."
Garet's words cut through Ivan's chest like a knife. That's not what he came to hear. He doesn't want to find out that every dark fear that has lurked in his heart ever since that fateful day they met is true. Ivan doesn't know why he went to Garet, of all people, for comfort and he's beginning to seriously regret that decision. He may be an Adept, but he is human first and the last thing he wants is to be rejected by the people who originally accepted his heart.
"So, what?" the Mars Adept asks. Ivan wants to punch him.
"So I'm a burden to this group! I can't help anyone! I can't fight nearly as well as you or Isaac and I can't even heal your wounds! What good am I? Nothing! I'm useless and I shouldn't even be here…" Tears sting his eyes and Ivan wants to scream in frustration.
But Garet simply stares at him and states bluntly, "That's stupid. You're not a burden."
It was such a simple statement, but it stops Ivan's tears in its tracks. There is a certainty, sureness in Garet's voice that leaves no room for deceit. It is fact; it is truth. Like how the grass is green and the sky is blue. In this same way, Ivan is not a burden.
Looking at him now, with Garet's honest eyes and an expression that speaks of sincerity, Ivan wonders why he ever thought any different.
Felix is the rope that binds them, and Isaac is the knot that ensures they stay.
Garet, then, Piers concludes as he watches the large warrior lift Sheba upon his shoulder, pasting a breathless smile on her face, is the warm meal in the middle that kept them all wanting to stay.
It's easy to fool Garet when she's preparing for a prank.
It's easy to fool Garet when he's searching for a misplaced item.
It's easy to fool Garet when he stumbles in the dark, searching with vengeance for a mischievous young Jupiter Mage, hiding her giggles behind small hands.
It's impossible to fool Garet, Sheba learns, when it matters most.
Because when Sheba wakes up from a particularly vicious nightmare of blood and monsters and Lighthouse aeries, it's Garet who chases her out of her darkness and into the world of laughter and sunshine and smiles.
Everyone is harder, colder, and sadder than they were in the days where they played underneath waterfalls and mothers' smiles. That's what happens on a journey. That's what happens when you encounter life and death and everything in between. Jenna need only look at Isaac, Felix, and herself to understand that, in these situations, people change.
Garet, however, remains the exception. Maybe he's a little more muscular and a little more mature, but he still smiles like the sun and laughs like the spring and can make his friends light up as if they've never known hurt.
Garet is the faith that all those years of laughter are not obsolete. He is the belief that life can tear people away, but not for forever. He is the reminder that the four of them are still friends. A little hurt, a little hesitant, and a little confused, yes, but still friends.
Because Jenna can traverse continents and battle monsters and transform her heart until she is nearly unrecognizable, but she cannot change the fact that, for Garet, she is still Jenna.
For Garet, friends are forever.
Garet is annoying as ever.
But that doesn't stop the smile that creeps onto Felix's face whenever the Mars Adept enters the room.
"Will we be able to succeed?" Isaac whispers to Garet that first night away from home.
"Of course we will," his best friend replies as if it's the only math that matters. "I'm with you, after all."
Months later, and even though many things are different, Garet's promise whispered into the darkness remain the one thing that hasn't changed at all.
"I'm with you," Garet says as the Earth Adept leads his group into Jupiter Lighthouse.
Isaac never doubts it.