The next morning, Diane made sure Jason didn't forget to bring her along. Although he tried, regretting his "softness" the night before, it never quite worked. His mother made sure he couldn't leave her behind. As the boat—a proper one this time, not just an inflatable—left the pontoon, Jason turned to his mother.

"Did you have to come today? It's embarrassing enough at home, but... Shalamorn is going to be there on a visit. Neri told me yesterday."

"All the better," said Diane brightly. "It'll give me a chance to meet her properly. She'd have wanted to know about this anyway, so it'll save us all a lot of trouble."

"It won't save me any. It would've been bad enough in front of Neri, but with her mother there as well..."

Diane turned to look hard at her son. "How do you think I feel? I've always been a mother to Neri, but now she has a real one I don't know what I am. And I don't think she does either."

"You're right. She hasn't said anything about it yet. I guess she's still trying to figure it out."

Diane nodded absently. "Jason, I wanted to tell you something."

Jason was immediately on his guard. When Diane said something like that, it could mean anything. "Yes?"

"During all that trouble with the Ocean People and PRAXIS taking over ORCA. Whenever they called for me, you wouldn't let me go if you weren't with me. I wanted to thank you for that. I felt, well, safer somehow knowing you wouldn't let anything happen to me."

Her son smiled. Diane realised he no longer looked like the little boy she'd tucked into bed years ago. Before her in the boat sat a self-assured, confident young man.

"No problem, Mum." Jason gave his mum a quick hug before turning back to control the boat.

As they arrived, at long last, at the island, Jason felt his heartbeat quicken nervously. He wasn't at all sure about revealing his private, inner emotions to someone as important as Shalamorn, however relevant to her they may have been. He consoled himself with two facts—Neri would be there to hear him tell someone other than herself about his feelings, and the quicker it happened, the sooner it would be over.

They came to the end of the trail and stopped face to face with a surprised Neri and Shalamorn. They stood to greet the newcomers.

"Welcome to the island of my daughter, Jason and Diane."

Diane lowered her eyes in awkward respect. "Thank you, your majesty—"

Shalamorn broke in. "We are all equals here. We each rule over peoples that look to us for guidance in times of trouble. I will treat you as my equal, if you and your family will do the same for us."

"Of course—Shalamorn." Diane raised her eyes and smiled at Neri's mother.

"Tell me," said Shalamorn, "what brings you here?"

Diane cleared her throat. "My son Jason has informed me of a matter of importance to us both."

Startled, Neri looked nervously at Jason. "You told her...?"

Jason moved to stand protectively beside her. "I had to, Neri."

"Why?" Neri looked at the ground, as if searching for answers.

"Because I couldn't hide it," explained Jason with a glance at his mother, "that's why."

Shalamorn, they realised, was watching them gravely and attentively. "My daughter, you have been anxious and uneasy of late. Perhaps this will hold the answer."

"I think it might," agreed Diane, not knowing what else to say and deciding to be on the safe side.

"Jason. What was it that you told your mother, this matter both you and Neri seem to be informed of?"

"Well..." Jason cleared his throat. He planned to get it over with as quickly as possible. "I wasn't planning to tell her, but—mum has a way of getting the truth out of people. I don't know how she knew—"

Diane interrupted him. "Brett saw you. He told me all about it."

"WHAT?!!" Jason looked ready to fly back to ORCA and kill his little brother, or at least subject him to medieval torture for a few days.

Shalamorn saw his expression. She held up her hand to silence him. "Peace! Tell me what it was your brother saw, Jason."

"Sorry." Jason looked embarrassed. He'd forgotten the reason they were here. "You saw it too. That day on the beach, when you said Neri could stay. You walked off and left us standing there. Then you turned around..." He trailed off, unwilling to tell what had happened next.

Shalamorn looked gravely at him. "I remember, but you must tell me, Jason. It is only by telling it in your own words that you will realise your true feelings."

"Well..." said Jason for the second time, "you turned around and saw me...kissing Neri." He quickly looked at the ground while his ears turned red, something he was acutely aware of.

"That is correct," replied Shalamorn, still looking grave. "Was this what you told your mother, Jason?"

"No, Shalamorn. My brother told her that—when he came back from spying on me. What I told her was that..." He took a deep breath. Here goes nothing, he thought. "I love Neri."

Shalamorn nodded and turned to Neri, who was looking proudly at Jason. "My daughter, what are your feelings for this young man? Regardless of his for you?"

"I feel for Jason as he does for me. I love him." Neri smiled happily at Jason, as if saying "See, I can do it too."

Her mother smiled as well, but became serious again as another thought entered her head. "Why have you not told me of this before?"

Jason began to speak, but Neri looked meaningfully at him, and he shut his mouth again. She seemed to be telling him she could do this on her own.

"We did not know what you would feel, Mother. So much has happened; we were not ready to tell you."

Diane suddenly realised something. "Jason, how long has this been going on?"

"Ahm..." Jason wasn't prepared for Diane's sudden question. This was something he had not expected. Then suddenly, clearly, he heard the voice of Shalamorn in his mind: "It is only by telling it in your own words that you will realise your true feelings..." He would've had to tell it sometime. He made up his mind.

"I don't know about Neri, but if you can tell me how long we've known her for, I'll tell you how long I've...felt...for her."

"Jason, why on earth didn't you let me know?" Diane was once again the protective mother.

Jason sighed, glad the worst was over. "Because I didn't think it was the right time. I didn't know if Neri felt the same way, and it just would have made things more complicated if she'd found out. And there was other stuff to worry about. We had finding Mera, the synchronium, all the problems with Kal and UBRI, not to mention PRAXIS, and the whole business with the pyramid and Malakat, and I didn't want to add to it. Neri had enough to worry about without me butting in."

Neri hugged him gratefully. "It is over now. No more secrets."

"You know I wouldn't have told if you'd asked me not to," said Diane, a little hurt at her son's apparent lack of trust.

"Yeah, well, I know that now."

"You've matured a lot recently, Jase," said Diane on the spur of the moment. "I'm proud of you." Jason smiled and shared a hug with his mother.

Shortly, Diane turned around and hugged Neri in her turn. "You're a wonderful girl, Neri. I'm so happy for you both."

"Thank you, mother. I called her my mother when I thought you had passed," Neri added, turning to Shalamorn for approval.

"You may still call her mother, my daughter. It will help you to have someone here to support you, when I am with our people on the Ocean Planet."

"Thank you, Mother." It was Shalamorn's turn to share an embrace. Diane looked on gratefully. At least that problem's solved.

Some time later, while the two mothers were earnestly talking, Jason turned with a relieved air to Neri.

"Well, it doesn't look like anyone's disagreeing with us."

Neri smiled. "I did not think they would."

They walked down to the beach, chatting happily. They stood at the water's edge, looking out to sea. A shape appeared on the surface of the water, leaping for joy. Soon enough the sounds of the whale singing reached their ears.

"Charlie is glad."

"He's not the only one." They stood side by side, their arms around each other.

Neri glanced to her right, past Jason's shoulder. "Look."

Jason turned, and saw Brett arriving in a small boat. Mera emerged from the trees and ran down the beach to meet him.

"Little twerp." But Jason was laughing. "Let's see if we can cure him of spying!" He jogged off to meet the boat.

Neri smiled and ran after him. She easily passed Jason, who put on an extra spurt to try and overtake her—but didn't succeed.

"Did it work?" said Brett impatiently to Mera.

Mera nodded and grinned. "I think so." Then she noticed Jason and Neri running towards them at full speed. "Look out!"

Jason finally puffed up after Neri had greeted Brett.

"Nice one," he said to Brett, who all too obviously knew what he was talking about. "You just can't resist butting into my business."

"Well, you two look happy enough," said Brett cheekily and unwisely.

"You won't in a minute!" Before he could think of a retort, Brett found himself lying flat on his back in the shallows.

"HEY!" He smacked the water and sent a shower of ocean towards Jason.

"Come here, you..." Jason ran at his little brother, who took off in the same direction. Neri and Mera looked on and laughed as the boys chased each other around the boat. That was until Brett deliberately cannoned into Mera and sent her sprawling in the wet sand.

"Aagh!" Leaving her royal dignity behind, Mera got up and began to chase Brett from where a winded Jason had left off. He stood by Neri's side, watching the two children get themselves soaked. With all that had happened, all that had been revealed that day, he no longer felt or remembered that he himself was still just a kid.