Fan Fiction

The Photo Album
by GarethC
Chapter 1 / Chapter 2 / Chapter 3 / Chapter 4 / Chapter 5 / Epilogue

Chapter One: Uncle Jack

"I'm bored Uncle Jack!" Little Nick complained. Jack shook his head ruefully. He wasn't strictly the kids' uncle but these days he seemed to be everybody's uncle. But he liked the two boys Nick and Jon. He even liked little Sandra, however much her temper reminded him of another Sandra he knew. He was babysitting, so inevitably it had rained meaning that he would be the entertainer.

"You know in my day kids your age would have been busy playing away on their computers and reading magazines about..." He stopped himself before saying the next word.

"Yes?" Sandra asked innocently. The eldest of the three, she was just old and smart enough to guess what he had been about to say.

"Cars." Jack finished lamely. "And computers. Anyway, you kids get too much fresh air, it can't be good for you. You'll catch something."

It just wasn't natural kids having so much energy and playing rough games out on the streets. Good old fashioned computer games, that's what they needed, except that there weren't any anymore. Sure, everybody having a computer seemed like a good idea at the time but then some bight spark had decided to connect them all together into an "Internet". Again everything had worked out fine until that dratted Y2K+5 bug that had caught all the computer scientist totally off guard. Jack could still remember the global power outages and food shortages and the killer cyborgs and how much of a surprise it had been for everyone. He knew that they were scientists still alive today who insisted that the disaster could not possibly have happened. He feverishly hoped he'd never have to live though something like that ever again again.

"I'm bored," Nick complained for the second time, "and you're shirts giving me a headache looking at it! Again."

"Tell us as story!" Demanded Jon.

"Yes, a story." Agreed Nick.

"Go on Jack, tell a story, it'll shut them up." Sandra pointed out.

"How about how I single handedly defeated an platoon of killer cyborgs?" Jack suggested mostly because he had just been thinking about it.

"Nooooo," Jon moaned "You've told that one so many times that it makes me sick thinking about it!"

"And don't try to fob us off with any magic tricks because we've seen them all." Nick lectured. Actually they had most certainly not see all his tricks, just the harmless ones he was prepared to show them, and even then they thought it was all sleight of hand. Oddly, nobody ever commented about his shirt aside from the odd, inexplicable, headache. Perhaps the human mind simply hid certain things from itself.

"Ooooooww, what's this?" Jon said as he pulled a leather bound volume out from behind the filling cabinet.

Jack leap from his seat. "Noooo! Not that one!"

"Why, does it have pictures of naughty ladies in it?" Sandra asked with a special evil brand of innocence that she was so good at. "Doesn't Jack want us to know he still looks at pictures of naughty ladies?"

Jon had the file in his hands and was poised to open it. Worse, he was on the other side of the room so there was nothing that Jack could do but talk.

"Ah, yes that's right, just naughty ladies. You can put it back now." Jack silently cursed himself for not hiding that file better.

"How much will you pay me to tell Jon to put it back?" Sandra asked sweaty, but Jon was opening it without waiting on his sister.

"Hey, it's just an old photo album!" Jon complained. Biting his tongue, Jack tried to see what page Jon was on. To his infinite relief Jack saw that Jon had only opened the first page.

"That's right. Dull as hell." Jack lied, berating himself again. Sandra wasn't that dumb.

"I want to know why Jack doesn't want us to look in it." She said. Jack made a dive for the book but Jon threw it to Nick.

"Hey careful!"

Sandra grabbed the Album from her baby brother's hands.

"Put it down!" Pleaded Jack.

Calmly, Sandra smiled at him, and held up the album with both hands so that he could see. Talking her time she turned the page.

Her mouth dropped open. Jack sighed heavily.

"Who is she?" Sandra breathed "Is she an Angel?" Is she and angel? Such an odd question. He wondered what the other Sandra would think of that. He could claim that the image was a fake, or perhaps it was just makeup but he looked into Sandra's calculating eyes and knew that he was beaten.

"You've got to tell us a story now..." Jon said. Sandra smiled.


Chapter Two: So is she still a demon or not?

Sandra glanced about the square nervously. If life had taught her anything, it was that you could never been too careful, especially with people like Broadsholders. They were more zealots out there that were never willing to forgive anyone who were even associated with demons. And, she supposed, being careful in public places was simply habit now.

As a precaution she made herself difficult to find. She had no home phone, no bank account in her name and she moved about regularly. A precaution that Jack had suggested quite logically, and because she was rational she had taken it up. But how she hated running from people who weren't there.

"What is this?" She muttered "Am I living in a cheep terminator three parody?"

This type of dark musing was something that her somewhat twisted imagination came up with almost daily. She would often wonder if her entire life had simply been a comic book. Well if that was the case she would certainly like to have a chat with the artist. Preferably, while holding a nail gun.

Her mobile phone began to ring. Hastily she looked about for some privacy and found it in a secluded alley running off the high street. Given that the phone was switched off, had no battery inserted in it and was registered with a company that had gone bankrupt some years back, there was only one person that it could be.

****************************

"Sandra?"

"Who else would it be?" Came the dry response though the end of Jack's thumb.

He was standing in the attic, hopefully out of earshot of the kids, with the photo album held firmly under his left arm. His right hand was close to his face in the classic "phone" gesture: little finger over mouth, thumb over ear and the rest of the fingers bunched up into a fist.

"Sandra, I've got a problem." He swallowed "I'm babysitting three kids here..."

"Don't tell me you want to know how to change a nappy?"

"Look," Jack continued, ignoring the interruption "They've found the photos. Of you."

For a long moment there was potentially angry silence.

"So they know?" Sandra asked matter of factly. One of the qualities that Sandra had picked up over the years was some measure of control over her temper.

"They know." Jack confirmed.

"You've screwed up, you know that Jack." Her tone was hard and flat. Years ago she would have been screaming at him at this point. In some ways he would have preferred the screaming.

"Yup, and I thought I was well past that stage." Jack admitted, feeling the jest fall flat on it's face. "What are I going to do? They aren't going to keep quiet. I think Sandra might try blackmailing me."

"Who?"

"The girl is called Sandra." Jack explained "She's sort of named after you. It's a long story."

There was another pause, this time pensive, and Jack heard Sandra let out a long sigh, "Jack, how long has it been? I feel like I don't belong anywhere."

"We all agreed that it was too dangerous..."

"Tell them everything."

"...What?" Jack stammered.

"Make them understand." Sandra said, "Then they'll keep their mouths shut, and well who's going to listen to them if they don't?"

"What about a demonologist like...!" He didn't finish.

"I'm coming back Jack, I've been thinking about it for a while now, you've just helped my mind."

Jack was silent for a moment. "What, thats far too dangerous!" he burst out. "You of all people should remember..."

"It's my risk to take Jack. I'm coming home. It's high time I had one. I'll go over the details later, you said you have kids to babysit."

Jack opened his mouth to protest, but realized that she had hung up.


Chapter Three: Zebraology 101

"You sure that you don't want to hear some other story?" Jack said as he swept back into the room, "what about the one where..."

"You can't just leave us guessing," Sandra said fiercely, "Now stop backsliding and spill the beens checkerboard man."

"Yes, spill the beens," mimicked Nick.

Jack sat down on his favorite armchair and motioned for Sandra and the boys to gather round. "Are you sitting comfortably?" He asked.

"Don't you dare say: then I'll begin," warned Sandra.

Jack shut he mouth and rubbed his hands together. "It was a long time ago..."

"Did dinosaurs rule the Earth?" Asked Nick.

"Don't be ridiculous, Jack isn't that old." Sandra said to Nick, her chin rising "Please, ignore my little brother here, he doesn't have any manners at all."

"Auntie Crystal and myself had just moved into an new house and we were looking in the attic." Jack stopped, he was stalling, avoiding saying anything unexpected for as long as possible. He began anew. "The fact is, Sandra, Jon, Nick, I'm a wizard."

The first time he had ever said that to a stranger it had been incredibly difficult. Now he had learned that if he just forced that line out then everything else, however improbable, would find it's place in the conversation.

Nick gasped and began to giggle, Jon appeared to be looking forward to a fancy story. Sandra didn't even blink. Instead she stuck her lips out and took on an incredibly serious expression of skepticism.

"Jack, tell the story properly."

Continuing the patten, after the initial announcement he found that there was only one way to head off the arguments. Jack allowed his mind to wander away from the living room and the paper thin wisp that was the mundane world. In his mind he traveled vast distances without moving, spreading himself across all of space and time. About him his plaid shirt, his totem, began to morph and mold and dance to the tune of a thousand torrents of reality and feeling and perspective.

Whilst he traveled in his mind, he could still see out of his eyes and hear with of his ears, but in a distance way, as if they were somebody else's. In the silence of his mind he ballooned over ages of time and the vastness of space, expanding until he found a spot. He ran though some familiar Habits and felt himself falling in towards a point that was at the center of a vast web of light and life and knowledge. As the human skin will take only so much pressure before breaking so a thin membrane stretched and snapped.

Sandra let out a scream. Jack climbed out of his chair and lent down on the flagstones to comfort her.

"It's okay," Jack said as he stroked her hair, "It's okay."

Woodenly, Sandra pushed herself away from Jack as she took in her surroundings. They were in a paved open space in the centre of a city at night that seemed as full of pigeons as it did people. A cast iron lion watched the newcomers silently. Above was a large stone pillar that was capped by a stature of a man. None of the buildings were right either, they were no towers of glass built by corporate greed, instead they were proud old European buildings from the Renascence, not as big, but possessing a quiet self assurance that had weathered the centuries.

"Welcome to Trafalgar Square," Jack said, for that was where he had taken them. At one time he had only been able to teleport a single thing at once, but he had learned much since then. As a matter of pure style, he had even transported his chair, the sofa and the reading lamp.

Sandra shook her head.

"You, heh, really scared me there Jack," Sandra admitted, "I don't know how you've done this but it's impressive."

"I told you, I'm a wizard."

Nick giggled again and began to chase some pigeons while Jon goggled first at the growing number of people stopping to look, then at Jack.

"How did...? This is impossible!" Sandra took two steps past Jack's armchair to where Nick was jumping at the pigeons, then turned to face Jack. "Where are the..."

"Those photos were real, this is too."

They were drawing quite a crowd. Their plastic bags of late night shopping forgotten, the Londoners were lining up around them to stare at Jack, the Barker kids, Jack's armchair, sofa and reading lamp. The question on everyone's lips was what they were doing there. Few had seen their arrival so the question of how they came to be there was not asked. Perhaps they had just set up and were doing some charity event or street performance. Even those who had been looking the right direction were not quite prepared to believe that they had just seen Jack and the kids appear out of thin air. Even if they did, they didn't say anything. Even if they told of what they saw it was interpreted wrong. "They just appeared" meant that they had just arrived.

Perception was everything.

Jack reversed the spell with the counterspell he always kept ready. The old world skyline of London was replaced again with the familiar walls of Jack's living room. Daylight and the comfortable, familiar world flooded back in.

"I... I don't believe it!" said Sandra, but increasingly it seemed that she wasn't sure.

"Was it real?" Nick asked right on top of Jon, who said: "You're even cooler than I thought!"

"There are only forty seven other people that know what I am, that I am a wizard," Jack told them. The others were mostly students of his and a number of very close friends.

"How can you be a wizard?" Sandra asked.

"As I said, it was a long time ago, when I was just a young man," and so they were back on the topic of Sandra. Of those students he had told none of Sandra, even when the story might have served as a cautionary example. He didn't feel he had any right to. "Auntie Crystal and I had just moved into our new house with another girl who you don't know. We were looking about the attic and we found an old, dusty book of magic while the other girl was out."

"What was this other girl's name?" Sandra asked.

"She was also called Sandra." Jack answered, grimacing as he realized too late that though Sandra, the older Sandra, had told him to explain everything, there would have been no harm done to Sandra a different name. Sadly, the cat was now out of the bag.

"She was called Sandra?" asked Sandra, "Like me? Did you just make that up?"

"She was called Sandra," Jack confirmed, "She was the one in the photos."

"The angel?" Jon asked.

Jack took a deep breath and hoped that Sandra had known what she was doing by telling his to explain this. "She was a demon," he said at last, "I was responsible for that."

Nick was too young to take any of this as anything other than a game. Jon was watching intently while Sandra's face contorted between various expressions as if she were working on a puzzle.

"A demon? What do you mean saying that you were responsible?"

"It was the first day that I had discovered Tomie. I didn't know what I was doing and I unleashed a cloud of random magic and Sandra paid for it. Let me explain to you in more detail..."

He gave them the basics, the summoning of Lord Incubus and how he'd... slammed the book. He was especially careful to tell them about Broadshoulders and what the old professor had tried to do. He followed on to what had happened in the days afterwards, Sandra having to quit her job and setting up Zebra Girl tech support, Sandra waking on the ceiling. He skipped over most of the bit about Sandra dating Mike because he really wasn't sure what had happened except Sandra had come home in a black depression. Of course, this was the bit little Sandra wanted to know the most about.

Next came the trip to the alternate universe, another somewhat tall tale. Jack tried to give justice to those events but it was difficult because he had missed most of it. He did not tell them of DuVase, nor did they ask.

"My throat is quite dry now, from all that talking." Jack announced some hours later.

"So this really happened?" Jon asked.

"Yes." Jack said tiredly, "it did."

"Really?" said Nick.

"Really." said Jack.

"Really, really?" said Nick.

"Enough Nick." said Sandra, with an air of finality.

Jack went into the kitchen to make himself a cup of tea. Sandra could look after the boys for a few minutes. She could probably look after them better than he could and she knew it. With "Uncle Jack" they would beat about the bush and hedge as far as they dared but Sandra ruled her little brothers with an iron fist and a surgery smile.

"So you understand why it's so important that you keep this a secret?" He asked Sandra as he sat down again with his cup of tea. If he could win over Sandra then the others would be easy. "Sandra, the one from the story, is a real person and she doesn't want people finding out about her. There are demon hunters about who don't give up for any reason at all. They would like nothing more than to find her and see her dead."

Sandra swallowed. "Why have you told us all this?"

"Because you found that photo album," Jack said, trying his best to read Sandra's expression. Was she taking this seriously? "Because you must understand. If I had just taken the album away, how long would it be until you were telling all you're friends, never mind what I said? How long would it be until a demon hunter made the connection?" A wave of comprehension washed over Jack's mind, and suddenly he felt himself finally understanding Sandra's instructions. She had taken a risk, but a good one. "Do you promise never to tell anyone about Sandra?"

Sandra opened her mouth but Jack held his hand up.

"Remember, somebodies life might be at stake here. You must tell nobody. Do you promise?"

"I promise never to breath a word of this to anybody." She said eventually. Jack felt tension lifting off his shoulders.

"Good," Jack rubbed his hands together, "I suppose I'd better get the pizzas on."

**********************

Click, click. Click, click. Click, click.

Sam gazed ideally out of the side of the window watching trees flash in and out of view. Across the small, cramped table from him Sandra idly dangled her finger in a cup of cold coffee. The door of the first class cabin slid open to admit and attendant who carried Sam's lunch on a tray. The man took the packaged salad sandwich off and placed in on the table and took another long hard look at Sam.

"Excuse me sir, but are you a... a..." He had difficulty finishing.

"A what?" Sam prompted testily.

"Never mind."

"I still can't believe you get away with that so easily." Sandra said after the attendant had left. Sam didn't bother to answer, they had had this conversation several times already.

"So you looking forward to seeing Jack and Crystal again?" Sam asked instead.

"Yes, it'll be like the good old days."

"The good old days?" Sam asked wryly. "That's not how I remember you thinking of them at the time."

Sandra smiled "Oh shut up Sam. Everyone comes down with a touch of nostalgia sometimes. Everyone sees the past though rose tinted glasses, else, how would they get people to go to summer camps?" Her smile turned mischievous, "besides, who is it that I know that still keeps copies of 'Meet Sam Sparkles' on tape? It really has slipped my mind."

"Fine, fine I yield!" Sam muttered. "Jack must have been furious."

"Sorry?"

"When you told him that you were coming back," Sam explained.

"Why is that?"

"You deciding to drop everything and come back. He still feels responsible you know."

Sandra rolled her eyes, "I know, but he isn't my mother and I'm not two years old."

Sam unwrapped the sandwich from it's plastic covering. "You know what I think?" he stuffed the sandwich into his mouth and continued talking, "I think that you're doing the right thing. It's a risk, but you have to take risks sometimes. Just be careful okay, for you're good friend Sam's peace of mind."

Sandra nodded, losing herself in thought again.

"Well, would you look at that!" Sam remarked.

"What?"

"It's a sandwich, on a train but it isn't half bad." He took another bite. "Guess these first class cabins are good for more than just privacy."


Chapter 4: A Blast from the Past
(or alternatively: "shameless self advertising")

"Mrs Barker?" Jack said into his little finger.

"Yes, that's quite alright Mrs Barker."

"It's okay, I like having them round."

"No, they've been very well behaved. Well, I can't leave them for long. Goodbye!" Jack lowered his hand away from his face, wincing slightly.

"What's the matter?" Tomie asked from where he had been set down on the attic desk.

"Just wrist stain." Jack said dismissively.

"Have you ever considered buying a real phone?"

"What and pay for my calls?" Jack demanded. "When hell freezes over maybe."

"Fine, fine," said Tomie. "Let me guess, you're taking care of the kids for a bit longer."

"Sharron says the train home had to be diverted but she doesn't know why."

"Oh dear," murmured Tomie, "I hope that doesn't inconvenience them too badly."

"There isn't anything I can do from here."

He returned to the living room and to find the kids sprawled out over the floor leafing though the pages of the album. He explained to the boys and Sandra that they might be staying a longer today.

"Good, I want to hear more about Sandra," said Sandra "I mean, it's kind of personal because she has the same name as me."

However Nick wanted to see more magic. Jack opened his mouth to protest, he wasn't particularly feeling up to performing any more miracles so soon after pulling off a multiple teleportation, but Sandra was quicker off the mark and Nick's protests were soon quelled. Jack was sure that Sandra would grow up to be a formidable speaker, or even a leader.

Casting such thoughts aside, (was he getting old?), he picked up the album again and sat back down on his armchair and picked a page at random. The faces of Crystal and himself smiled up at them against the backdrop of some garden.

"Not that one, I want to know more about Sandra," said Sandra.

Jack leafed forward a few more pages until he found something more suitable. They weren't many pictures of Sandra as a demon, and what pictures they were had mostly been taken over the course of a few days.

"She doesn't look very happy." Jon commented.

Indeed she didn't, the photo he had picked out was set on it's own page, and had come from a computer printer rather than a developer. Sandra was wearing a dressing gown and looking down into a cup of coffee that she held with one hand, the other was clutching her forehead. Jon was right, she did not look very happy. What had been happening when that was taken? He forced the memory to come and it did. How could he forget?

"This is a good one to start on because it tells the story of why we even have a photo album," Jack began. "I had just borrowed camera. A computer one, it was too risky to have photos developed any other way..."

**********************

Sandra balanced the cup of coffee in one hand while covering her three eyes with the other. It had been another night of strange dreams, though thankfully Mr Chalk had not featured in any of them. She drew her hand back and opened her eyes blearily.

Something went click.

She looked up from the coffee at the hazy figure and tried to wake fully. "You're toast Jack," she murmured. "After coffee." She raised the cup to her mouth and took a sip. Only then did it dawn on her just what she was seeing and what Jack was doing. He had what appeared to be a camera in his hands and he had just taken a picture. Of her.

"Jack! What's that?" She demanded, now fully awake.

"Oh, it's my camera," He said with an insufferable smile on his face. "Do you like it?" The idiot.

"Jack, you have to destroy the film!" He was so close to getting flamed. "What possessed you to get a camera?"

"Is something the matter?" Crystal said as she popped her head around the corner, a towel still wrapped around her hair.

"You're idiot brother here has just taken a picture of me with a camera!" She told her, biting the end of each word.

"I just though that we should have some pictures, you know, for prosperity." Jack protested.

"And it didn't occur to you that film has to be developed, developed by people!" Sandra barked at him. "I just hope you didn't have anything important on that film Jack!"

Jack held a hand up to silence her. "Actually it's one of those computery cameras, you know, the ones that don't need to be developed."

"Oooh, I read an article that said that their the future." Crystal, of course. "What are they called? It began with 'D'"

"A digital camera!" He'd he'd... "You do realize how much the cost!"

"Not as much as they used to," Jack said, still with an annoyingly overconfident tone. "And besides, I borrowed this one from a friend."

He... the smarmy little...

"Could you give me some warning if I'm going to get flamed? I want to return this thing in one piece."

She glared at him but he didn't even have the decency to flinch a bit. He'd won. Somehow he'd won. She was not, however, going to let him know that.

"Fine, fine, have it you're way," she muttered, "but on two conditions. Firstly, I know you Jack, so no lurid pictures of me. In fact, no pictures of me that I wouldn't like you talking. I'll be inspecting them all. Secondly, when we're done we keep the pictures somewhere safe. That does not mean on the computer's hard drive. Thirdly you let me make sure the camera's memory is wiped completely. I don't want some know all kid deciding he wants to find out what you've been doing with that camera Jack."

"Well... okay," Jack agreed, thankfully not mentioning that she had given three conditions. "You're the tech support gal, you handle the techy stuff."


Chapter 5: A typical day in the life of demon, caught on camera

"Come on now, smile Sam." Jack cooed as he concentrating on lining up the viewfinder. Sam's expression remained stubbornly flat and he crossed his arms defiantly. Jack lowered the camera. "Come on Sam, I know you can do better than that."

"I ain't smiling for another camera, not ever again." Sam said with an air of finality.

"Spoil sport," muttered Jack. "I'm just doing this so that we can all look back when it's done and laugh."

Sam snorted, stood up and walked out of the kitchen. Jack sighed. Perhaps he could get a few good group shots later but now he had some research to do. Tomie was waiting for him on the desk in his room. He cleared a space and opened the ancient book to where he had marked off his place yesterday. Today he would be going over the chapter on extra planer dynamics again... there were a few fine points he wanted to be more certain on...

**********************

"So what do you think of Jack's latest idea?" Crystal asked as Sandra watched her eat breakfast. It was that precious time in the morning before work began that they could both call their own. Sam was nursing a mild hangover and was muttering about the cheek of somebody.

"I don't know." Sandra admitted to her friend "I was against it to begin with, but I suppose there's no harm in it. In fact, I'm coming to like the idea of having a few pictures to remember everyone by if... when this is all over." And it did break the monotony a bit. Life could get very dull when you were confined to living indoors all the time.

As one woman the took sips form their respective coffee cups.

"Jack will be trying to think away though those restrictions you set." Crystal said.

"I know he will, he's Jack." Sandra smiled, "let him, there's no way round it."

"You know, you shouldn't say things like that." Sam commented. "Be careful of dramatic irony."

"We're not in a cartoon now Sam," Sandra said. "And there isn't any way around 'don't take pictures I wouldn't like you to take.' because he can only take pictures I want him to take. It's brilliantly simple and I don't think Jack will break his word."

"Actually you said not to take any pictures of you that you wouldn't want him taking." Sam said neutrally. "And I can think of at least two ways around that imposition. It's just a matter of whether Jack can. If I were you, which apparently I am in some strange extra dimensional way, I would have just confiscated the camera."

**********************

"This is going to be a tough one." Jack said to himself as he marched the length of his room and back. He had given up studying for a bit while he considered a more pressing problem.

"Just tell me again why you are doing this, will you?" Tomie said.

Jack stopped pacing. He put his hand across his stomach and puffed up his chest. "I may garb myself a plaid shirt now, but I still wear a perv t-shirt underneath."

"Very deep." Tomie said dryly. "Translation?"

Jack deflated "It means I have a reputation to keep up."

"Then just take them anyway Jack."

"No!" Jack said sharply "I have to keep my word too. I don't know why, I just do."

"This is going to turn out like that whole unfortunate Journal incident isn't it?" If Tomie had had a forehead, he sounded like he would have buried it in his hands. If he'd had hands.

"I regret nothing."

"It's true. You like being burned alive don't you?"

"That's... beside the point." Jack said. "The point is that she imposed a restriction. If she hadn't done that then everything would be fine."

"Okay Jack, what if I you took a picture of her in a mirror?" Tomie suggested in a half interested tone, "then you could say that you were just taking a picture of the mirror."

"No, you're not getting this Tomie. It's still a picture of her." He started pacing again. Taking a picture of a mirror? It was just too weak. But Tomie was right about one thing, Sandra had just forbidden him from taking pictures of her that she wouldn't like. What if he took a photo of something that she wouldn't want him taking a picture off...

"I smell burned man flesh already." Tomie murmured him himself.

**********************

Sandra slammed her cup down so hard that some of the coffee spilled over the table.

"Crystal, you're brother is in great danger of being burned to a crisp. I feel it's my duty to do all I can to save him."

Sam watched Sandra leave the room. "So, what are the odds of her stopping Jack in time?" He asked after checking she was out of earshot.

**********************

Jack carefully eased the draw of underwear open, taking care to feel for traps. In this particular domestic arms race Sandra had even tried sticking strands of her hair to the draw so that they broke when draw was opened. That way she would then know if Jack had opened the draw or not. Jack had figured it out but he wasn't sure if Sandra knew this.

Wondering just why he was doing this he pointed the camera at the draw. Something sharp tapped him on the shoulder. Quickly he pressed the take picture button a moment before Sandra's hand wheeled him round till his was looking straight into her three eyes.

**********************

"So you got flamed?" Sandra asked, "Serves you right, looking at her diary like that."

"Did it have anything saucy in it?" Jon inquired. Of course, Jack had changed the story a little to make it suitable for the children. In his new version he had taken spy photos of her diary.

"Jon! A girl's diary is a window into her private world and should not be opened by anyone!" Sandra admonished her brother, "I'm sorry Jack, it's just my brother here is very immature." She paused as something occurred to her. She looked torn "But were they any boys she liked?"

"I never got to see the photo, so I don't know." Jack said, answering quite truthfully. "And yes, I got burned, I was expecting that sooner or later. It wasn't even a particularly bad burn for Sandra." He remembered that particular burn well because some of the blisters had turned looking exactly like Italy.

"Anyway, I went back to studying for the rest of the day and then we took some group shots." Jack leafed though the pages of the Album. Sam hadn't smiled for any of them but at least he had joined in, which was more than Jack had expected.

Jack's train of though was interrupted by a sharp knocking on the door. He lifted Nick off his knee and stood up to answer it. It was Sharron Barker. Jason was waiting in the drivers seat of the car. The younger man glanced at Jack and nodded and Jack nodded back. He'd have to catch up on old times with Jason later when Sharron wasn't about.

"Hi Jack." Sharron greeted him "I'm so sorry that I'm late."

"No problem, don't worry about it." Jack told her "Nick! Jon! Sandra! Come on, you're mother's here!" He shouted back into the house. He gave Sharron his best conspiratorial smile. "I told them a story a demons, so if they start making things up just don't worry about it." He looked left and right, and leaned forward, to share a secret "I've sworn them all to secrecy so don't ruin their fun by asking about it."

Ah, piece de resistance.


Epilogue: Reunion

Jack spent the evening leafing though the rest of the old Album. Most of the pictures were of him and Crystal, or Sandra before the accident. They were of the safe kind. Most of them showed smiling faces. Because that's what you took pictures off, the happy times. Nobody made albums about about the sad times, the desperate times, the times when character was tested and new strengths were found. And there had been many times like that before they end. Just thinking about some of them was a dagger in the heart.

It was shame really, that there were no albums of the hard times, because those times needed just as much remembering as the happy times. You could tell stories about them as well, but people who weren't there would never understand. That's what he thought anyway. Silently, he leafed back and forth though the pages.

What Jack did think was that today was not going to be the last time he would be telling the Barker kids stories.

He was still leafing though the album when Crystal found him much later that night. She had heard that Sandra and Sam were coming, she explained, so there way no way that she was missing the reunion. The years had been kind to Crystal, she had once been pretty in a rather superficial way, now she had archived the kind of serene beauty that could only be earned.

The night was already old and there wasn't time for much catching up, they would do that during the next day as they waited for Sam and Sandra. Jack sorted out a place to sleep for Crystal and then retired to his own room.

He woke with the dawn the following morning to find Crystal still fast asleep and the house empty and relentless rain pouring down outside. He prepared himself breakfast, picked up the morning paper and began to read. Later, Crystal came down and they caught up on the latest gossip.

After lunch the doorbell rang and a bedraggled Sam Sprinkles shuffled in. He pulled of his coat and put in on a radiator to dry. Crystal fetched him a towel for his fur while Jack made him a warm drink. Sandra had just been delayed a bit sorting out some business and would be along shortly. Age had had very little effect on Sam, not unless you looked closely. Jack supposed that was because Sam wasn't human and the human eye was trained to recognize human traits. But Sam's fur was thinner and patcher in places.

About an hour later Jack spotted Sandra approaching the house. She was wearing a long coat with a deep cowl to avoid the rain, it might have even been the one that Crystal made for her all those years ago. Jack opened the door for her and spoke a pleasantry. Sandra looked from Crystal to Jack to Sam and back and pulled back the hood...

"I suppose it might only be for a day or too, but we're all back together." she said.

The End