Hello, all! Wow, a one-shot that I actually finished! O.O This takes place in-game, it doesn't really matter when but if you want to get technical about it, it's probably right after the last FMV in Scene Player 1. So, right before they meet the Shadow, after they've kicked the Baron's ass and gotten the Vulcan Barrel. But it's not important to the storyline.
The main genre is angst, and this is angsty- for me. You probably won't find it such, though. I'm such a perky little freak. Even the ending is sappy. . I tried, I really did! I just can't do angst…
A huge, huge thanks goes to Saranomy for saving my sorry ass by betaing this bitch. Thanks to the production of this fic for making me start cursing so damn much. ^-^ Most importantly, thanks to Lexiter Jackson for her fic 'Can't Lose What I Never Had' (go read it- once you've read and reviewed this, of course!), which got me into this pairing; without her, this story wouldn't exist! So if it sucks, I blame her. XP
It's dedicated to you, Lex. Hope ya like it. ^_^
Warnings: PG-13 for language and fairly mild violence. Also, this is JakxTorn. Yaoi. Boy x boy. Don't like, don't read. Simple as that.
Disclaimer: I don't own Jak. Or Torn. ::sob:: So unfair. Can't I have at least one of them?! I don't own any of the other characters, or basically anything that belongs to Naughty Dog and the other creators of Jak II. Duh.
~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~Don't you know
I can't tell you how to make it go
No matter what I do
How hard I try
I can't seem to convince myself why
I'm stuck on the outside
I can't hold on
To what I want when I'm stretched so thin
It's all too much to take in
I can't hold on
To anything watching everything spin
With thoughts of failure sinking in
- 'By Myself' by Linkin Park
It was a trap.
A smoking zoomer sped around a corner far too sharply, almost throwing the driver off. Another shot sounded; the zoomer lurched as the bullet struck home, destroying something apparently vital from the amount of hissing and smoke that it now emitted. Jak floored the gas and lowered his altitude, not even bothering weaving between the pedestrians as usual, instead just plowing right through and expecting them to throw themselves out of harm's way – which they usually did.
A building loomed ahead and the path spit into two directions; the zoomer shot upwards and Jak charged right over. Narrowly avoiding the billboard, veering around several more corners; yes, he was quite sure he'd lost them now. Though it was hard to tell, what with the incessant buzzing in his ears and the warm blood running into his eyes. He didn't dare remove a hand to wipe the sticky substance away – he was driving one handed as it was, his left hand clutching a hideous gaping hole in his side. He needed it there to stop himself from losing too much blood… and even if he wanted to remove it, by now it was glued there with the clotted substance and wouldn't be moving anytime soon.
A few more maneuvers and several random detours – Jak was finding it increasingly difficult to think straight, or even see where he was going – finally made way for the little back ally that was home to the Underground resistance headquarters. Too late Jak realized he was going too fast. The gears on the zoomer were pretty much busted and the ally was too tight to make the necessary turn at such a speed. He jumped and attempted to roll, but was too slow and still was caught in the brunt of the explosion as the zoomer slammed into the concrete wall at full speed. He felt his hand being ripped forcefully from his side, blood instantly pouring out into its newfound freedom. Jak slammed into the ground several feet away and lay there, coughing up blood and trying not to move, it hurt so damn much.
It was a fucking ambush I'm gonna kill him!
His gloves were worn through and practically non-existent. He pushed himself up on raw and bleeding palms, gripping the stomach-wound again. He didn't think about what would happen if no one was there. It never occurred to him that no one might be there to help him. His brain was starved for blood and oxygen; it couldn't fathom the room empty, the room without the ever-present Torn standing behind the desk, poring over some stupid map with that stupid half-glare, half-smirk on his face. If no one was there, he'd die, he couldn't keep this grip on consciousness much longer, and if he died he'd never see that face again.
Why didn't I see it was a trap I'm gonna die I'll kill him!
The half-hidden entrance slid open as he neared – programmed to recognize his DNA, thank Mar, because if it were password protected he'd be in some deep shit. He limped down the narrow hallway and into the small basement room that served as their headquarters. It was pathetic, really – a few bunks, a "war-table", a zoomer hiked up against the wall in the back corner – but it was a sanctuary for Jak, and there was no where else he could have felt safer. He wondered blearily if Torn was going to make him clean up all the blood he was spilling as he stumbled down the stairs, but by the time he hit the floor, the last thing he remembered was Torn's widened eyes staring at him in horror. Then he passed out.
When Jak came to, it was with one mother of a headache. The lights had been dimmed, but it was still bright enough that every nerve in his brain was screaming, "Turn it OFF!" Resisting the urge to roll over and hide under the covers – partially because any movement on his part would undoubtedly cause excruciating pain – Jak squinted out into the too-bright darkness and tried make out where he was. A bunk bed. He was lying in a bottom bunk. So he must still be at the Underground base. But how did he end up in bed? He could have sworn he had collapsed on the floor… Come to think of it, why did he have no shirt on?
Jak took the time as his eyes adjusted to examine his physical condition. His injuries had been cleansed and bandaged, his wrecked gloves and bloodied shirt removed, though, thankfully, he still had his pants on. Upon further inspection, he found a piece of white linen wrapped around his torso, the area covering the wound already stained a deep red. Gingerly, he touched the darkened spot, and hissed when a bolt of pain shot through him.
"Dumbass," muttered a voice, not without a hint of humor. Jak snapped his head up to see Torn sitting in a chair a little ways away, nonchalantly polishing a gun. He ignored Jak for several deliberate minutes until he finished his task, then gently laid the gun aside and walked to the bed. "How are you feeling?" he asked gruffly, after a pause.
Jak grimaced. "Like shit," he said honestly.
Torn snorted, "No kiddin'. You looked like the Metal Heads dragged you half across town and then dropped you off the top of the palace. I… wasn't sure you would make it," he added, sounding slightly worried.
Jak blinked at him intelligently. His brain was still trying to figure out exactly what was needed to function properly, and not a whole lot was making sense to him at the moment. He rubbed his head, wincing at the multitude of cuts, bumps, and bandages his fingers encountered in the process. "How long…?" he trailed off, still too confused and incoherent to finish the sentence.
"Were you out?" Torn finished for him, "Five hours. I'm, uh… surprised you even woke up yet. Most… most people wouldn't have recovered that fast. If at all." Torn was obviously having difficulty not criticizing Jak's every move. Hearing him say things that were even remotely like praise was a sign to Jak that things could have been a whole lot worse. And that Torn really was impressed.
Jak's receding headache suddenly flared again with full force as an important thought struck his mind. Momentarily blinded, Jak doubled over in pain, hands over his eyes as he tried to block out the fireworks that exploded in his head. Just as suddenly, he bolted back upright and gasped, "Where's Daxter?"
Torn stared incredulously at him. "You lost the furball?! He didn't come in with you! I assumed you'd left him with Tess or Vin or something!"
All the blood that Jak's body was working so hard to circulate suddenly turned very cold. Dread swept through him and he for a moment he thought he was going to be sick. "No…" he whispered, struggling to remember what had happened, where'd he'd last seen Dax, something, anything that might be useful. He shoved the sheets back and swung his legs over the side of the bed, readying himself for the difficult task of standing.
"What are you doing?!" Torn hissed, standing in front of him so he couldn't rise.
"Daxter… he's still out there – I have to go get him," Jak croaked. His throat was dry and hoarse, and some blood was still caked in his mouth. He thought perhaps he'd been screaming, but he couldn't remember when. Maybe when he'd been on the zoomer.
Strong hands gripped his shoulders and forced him to lie back down. "You are not getting up," Torn growled, clearly angry now. "You are not in any condition to move. That hole in your side is about three seconds away from opening up again, and you've lost way too much blood as it is. Stay down!" he snarled the last part as Jak continued to struggle against his grip.
"Dax-ter," Jak grunted, clearly not giving in any time soon. Torn sighed in resignation and gave one last forceful shove before letting the boy go. Jak seemed surprised by the sudden lack of resistance and flopped back onto the pillow, staring up at Torn with wide blue eyes.
"Look," said Torn uncertainly, running a hand over his dreadlocks. "I'll go find the rat if you promise to stay here, okay? Where'd you lose him?"
Jak's face was confused as he blinked up at the older elf, looking for all the world more like a lost child than the cold-blooded criminal the wanted posters outside would have you believe. Torn guessed it was probably the shock and blood-loss that made him seem so dazed and out of it, but it was almost frightening just how vulnerable the boy looked. It was as though all his defenses had been stripped away, leaving behind the seventeen-year-old that he would have been, under very different circumstances. The seventeen-year-old he should have been.
The blond's brow furrowed, dredging up the memories he needed. "The sewers…" he said. His voice was flat, defeated, missing its usual confident tone and hard edge that made you think twice about crossing him. "It was in the sewers… mission for Krew," – Torn made a face at the name – "…ambushed… It was a trap, Torn," Jak said weakly, "Krew set us up."
Torn growled animally, though this time his frustration wasn't directed at Jak. He stalked to the table and began grabbing various objects, thrusting daggers into his belt and boots, slinging his gun in its holster over his back. "No matter how long I'm gone," he snapped, turning around to face Jak again, "Don't. Fucking. Move. Tess will be around later, should the worst happen, but most likely I'll be back before then. I swear, if you get out of that bed I will hunt you down and personally redefine your understanding of hell. Clear?"
Jak gave no acknowledgement or indication that he had even heard the tirade, but Torn saw one of his eyes twitch and knew that he at least understood, even if he didn't agree. He sighed again, wondering why he was so uptight today, and turned to leave. He paused before the door. "Just… don't hurt yourself." And he was gone.
Jak had to bite back his bitter laughter. "He sends me on all sorts of suicide missions, and now he has the nerve to tell me not to hurt myself?" A short, rasping noise that might have been a laugh was heard before he collapsed onto the pillow, coughing blood into his already stained hands.
Torn was already running when he exited the hideout. He winced as he passed the charred wreckage of the zoomer Jak must have been riding, and the blood stains on the ground a little ways away. Even if he hadn't known where he was going, it would have been little trouble to backtrack the trail of blood and destruction left in the wake of Jak's flight. Admittedly, it would have taken a while; given the many loops and detours it seemed to take. At least Jak had tried to throw off any pursuers, not knowing that he left a golden trail to their headquarters despite his efforts. Torn's pace quickened; he would have to deal with this, too, after he'd found the rat. Technically he should be dealing with it now, not out searching for someone's talking pet, but Jak had been so desperate to find his friend, and Torn didn't want to risk any more injuries on one of their best men…
Okay, okay. So something in that forlorn expression had tugged at Torn's heartstrings. Torn, the Indifferent. Torn, the Heartless. Torn, the Don't-Even-Look-At-Me-the-Wrong-Way-or-I'll-Destroy-Your-Reproductive-Organs. And here he was, out on a wild goose chase (okay, maybe a pretty straight forward goose chase, but still) to find the one… creature that annoyed him most, just to make some pretty blond kid happy!
Yeah. Pretty blond kid.
Pretty- aw, fuck. Well, at least he'd admitted it. Torn swore that someone up there was laughing at him now, as he forced himself to quell such thoughts and instead focus on making it to the sewers in one piece. He winced as a shot sounded nearby; there was a reason he didn't go out much! The Krimson Guard recognized him far quicker than they did a renegade prison escapee; after all, he'd served by their side for years, and had even been friends with a few of them. Well, as close to 'friend' as one could be with Torn. The only person he'd ever consider calling anything more than an acquaintance was Ashelin, and even with her he sometimes got the feeling that she wanted more than he was willing to give. He simply wasn't an open person; yes, he had troubles, and no, he didn't want to talk about them, damn you.
He hopped astride a vehicle parked nearby – honestly, didn't people have the sense to lock their hovercars? Or at least remove the keys from the ignition! Not that it would matter, since he'd just jump start it, but still… make life even easier for the criminals, why don't you? He revved the engine and lifted into the air, swerving around slow-moving civilian drivers with practiced ease. Soon he was zipping through Sector 9, avoiding the multitude of Guards that seemed to have congregated there. He made a mental note to check what they were up to as soon as he had the chance; maybe Jak would be up to it tomorrow, once he'd healed somewhat. It should be a fairly simple mission, provided he didn't try anything stupid… but knowing Jak, not-trying-anything-stupid was pretty much out of the question.
He managed to reach the sewer entrance and get inside without attracting any more unwanted attention from the Guards on patrol. The large mechanical doors unlocked and slid open as he neared, granting him entrance to the metal grating that served as an elevator. He fidgeted as it descended too slowly for his liking – inaction never sat well with him; he felt he had to be doing something. At last it ground to a halt and he stepped off the platform and into the darkened passageway.
The sewers were eerily silent, but for the steady drip-drip-drip of the sludgy water as it fell from the ceiling or slid down a nearby pipe into the main shaft of the waterway. Torn pulled out his gun warily and set it to Blaster, wishing he hadn't given his only Vulcan Barrel to Jak whilst under the impression that the kid would get more use out of it than he would. You never knew what was hiding in this rotten place, and it seemed to get worse every time. Torn took a few tentative steps forwards, testing to see if anything would jump out at him, and all the while fumbling for the goddamned light switch. He finally found it, quite by accident; it scared the heck out of him and he almost shot at nothing when he tripped over the button on the floor and the lights suddenly flickered on.
Almost instantly he saw the bright spot of orange, vivid against the muddy floor of the sewer tunnel. He darted towards it, gun ready, in case it was a trap, but nothing pounced. Krew's lackeys must have scared off all the Metal Heads during their attack on Jak and his pet; Torn knew he was lucky that the assassins had bailed out already, apparently missing the ottsel on the way. On the other hand, it had been, what, six hours? That's a long time… the chances of Daxter still being alive…
Jak had apparently found a clean shirt (one of Torn's own, the older elf noted dryly) and raided their miniscule pantry in his absence, as he sat now at the table, sipping from a bowl of what was assumed to be canned soup. Torn glared at him as he stalked in. "I thought I told you not to move," he growled.
"I was hungry." Jak shrugged indifferently, but the blue eyes fastened on the unmoving bundle in Torn's arms betrayed his concern. For once Torn didn't have the heart to argue.
Gingerly, he placed the ottsel on the table and lifted the cloth so Jak could see. It was like looking at a newborn baby or a dead cat, but neither really cared about appearances or analogies at the moment. Daxter lay there like a limp rag doll, caked in dried blood and muck. A large circular hole in his right shoulder indicated that he had been shot. The bullet had caught him from behind and ripped clear through the flesh.
But he was breathing. Just barely, but he was breathing.
Jak stared unresponsively at his friend, the sight not registering in his mind. Daxter couldn't be dying. Daxter was always there for him, whether he wanted him to be or not, always talking and boasting and teasing. He shook his head, blinking back tears that he refused to let fall.
"I didn't even notice," he choked, "He was shot from my shoulder and I didn't even notice!" His voice was wrought with guilt and frustration at what he deemed to be his own mistake.
Hesitantly, Torn placed a hand on the teen's shoulder, who flinched at the contact, but didn't pull away. "It's… it's not your fault," he said, and grimaced at the corniness of it. It sounded like something out of a bad movie.
"It is!" Jak screamed, frustrated and frantic with worry, "I fucking left him there! How is that not my fault? How?!"
Torn grunted and reversed tactics. "It's called adrenaline, kid. It does things to ya. Might I also add that you were suffering from severe blood loss? He was shot off your shoulder. Having things zinging past your ears in an attempt to kill you normally attracts the majority of your attention. It's no surprise you didn't notice. But it is not your goddamned fault." He paused in his tirade to let it sink in before throwing in his final two cents. "If anyone deserves the blame, it's Krew."
Jak hissed. "Krew!"
Torn knew instantly that he had said the wrong thing. That single syllable was ground out in an inhuman half-growl, half-roar, so laced with hate and fury that it sent shivers down his spine. Torn was infinitely grateful that it was not his name being said in such a manner. He quickly removed his hand from the boy's shoulder and looked down at the orange ottsel on the table, though his attention was focused on the blond beside him.
"I'll kill him," Jak whispered. Torn looked at him sharply, surprised by the venom in his voice. Jak was not a pacifist by nature, not by a long shot; when Torn had first met him, he'd been a tortured and angry young man out for his revenge against the Baron; and to some respects that was still true, although he'd calmed somewhat since then. But this… this was not the voice of a sane man.
"I'll fucking kill him!" Jak roared, and in an instant he was rushing out the door with a single purpose: to search and destroy. He would find and destroy Krew, and his death would be long and painful, like the suffering that bastard had caused. Then a strong hand gripped his shoulder – painfully; he was injured there – it yanked him backwards, but he struggled and jerked away. He made another break for the door, but Torn grabbed him again and slammed him against the wall.
"What are you doing?!"
Jak's only reply was a guttural growl, eyes narrowed to mere slits as he glared at the red-haired man furiously. He knew he shouldn't let his emotions override his rationality; he knew he shouldn't let his anger take him over. But it was too late. He could feel all his pent-up rage and guilt and fear building up inside him, drowning him, suffocating him, and he felt consciousness slipping from his grasp as the Other took control.
Torn watched with growing fear and apprehension as the blond's body began to change. He had heard about Jak's anger-stimulated transformations, apparently a result of the Baron's experiments on him – hell, there wasn't a person in Haven who didn't know of the renegade criminal and the monstrosity he occasionally became – but he had yet to see it with his own eyes. Though now that he did, he found he much preferred the details being left in the dark – something he could say about very few topics. Torn was a man who liked to know what was going on.
Everything about Jak went dark. His skin, his hair; even his eyes. Torn quite suddenly found himself staring into a pair of endless black pools, fathomless and cold, like the Eco they were born from. Muscles rippled and swelled under his fingers; without warning, he was flying across the room, and, an instant later, a chair halted his flight and broke in the process.
The demon known as Dark Jak gave a feral roar, stretching and testing the boundaries of his new freedom. Apparently he still knew, on some basic level, who had wronged him; he turned towards the door – having sensed no threat in the room – and Torn knew instinctively that he was going to hunt down Krew. No man could stop him now, and nothing short of a concrete wall would slow him. Dark Jak was propelled by anger, an anger that would not be sated until his mission was complete.
Torn tackled him from behind.
It was incredibly stupid of him, he knew, but at that moment, he didn't particularly care, either. All he knew was that Jak had lost his mind and was about to go and get himself fucking killed. Dark Jak might be near invincible, but a single bullet in the wrong place was all it could take to put an end to his rampages forever. And it was quite obvious that any rationality Jak might have had was gone. Despite the ineptitude of the vast majority of the Krimson Guard, it still would not be hard to land such a shot on Jak in his current state. It was a wonder he hadn't been blown to smithereens already, if he did this on any regular basis. Then again, Torn wondered if Jak didn't normally retain a bit more of his sanity.
A heavy boot smashed into his torso, winding him, not seconds after he had sent them both sprawling to the floor. The foot jerked back, preparing to lash out again (and this time probably break a few of Torn's ribs in the process), but Torn rolled to the side, off Jak, and avoided the assault. Unfortunately, this also gave Dark Jak the instant he needed to get back on his feet. Torn quickly realized just what a mistake that was.
Mottled purple and black energy began gathering in Dark Jak's hands, cracking electrically yet dripping as though liquid. The substance practically radiated malignity, and Dark Jak grinned maliciously as he molded it into a ball, which he tossed from hand to hand. Torn had heard the horror stories. He thought he knew rumors when he heard them, but apparently he was wrong. This was Dark Eco personified, and – at the risk of sounding paranoid – it was out to get him.
A flying tackle caught Jak square in the chest, and again the two went crashing backwards, slamming into the bunks. Dark Jak had been completely unprepared for a suicidal act of stupidity. The concentration of energy was disrupted in the impact and the Dark Eco seemed to scatter across the room with a life of its own. Most of it disintegrated in the air, some dissolved when it landed on the wood floor; one ball hit an iron pot and the metal melted instantly.
Some of it got in Torn's mouth – it tasted metallic and cold: cold like the night air; cold like death; cold even though it crackled and burned like electricity and fire. It tasted like Jak. Torn didn't know what Jak tasted like, but it tasted like what Jak smelled of; all sweat and gunpowder and ottsel, but also an underlying, earthy flavor of cinnamon and pine trees… Torn hadn't smelled pine since the locking of the city walls when the Baron came to power nearly a decade ago. Wherever Jak was from, it was somewhere where such plants still existed.
The Eco in Torn's mouth filled him with a frightening combination of power and unrivaled pain. The searing coldness of it burned his tongue and the roof of his mouth, but the power and energy contained within was captivating. He tried to spit it out, but Dark Jak's stomach or boot or something was in the way and he couldn't move. So he bit his tongue and swallowed, choking back screams as it burned like acid all the way down.
It was then that he realized that it was blood. Jak's blood.
Jak had Dark Eco in his blood.
What had the Baron done to him? Torn suddenly found himself filled with an inexplicable rage, a rage directed at Baron Praxis, at himself, at the world in general, at everything that had ever tried to hurt Jak in any way.
Maybe it was the Dark Eco that was alien to his system. Maybe it was the adrenaline rush that comes from having a homicidal lunatic trying to kill you. Maybe he was just plain crazy. But whatever it was, Torn knew, in that moment, that he –
– was in incredible pain.
It was his own fault for letting his attention wander, he thought wryly. While he had been daydreaming, Dark Jak had apparently decided that he did not like Torn being on top. Consequently, Torn had quickly been sent flying across the room for the third time in the past minute and a half. Needless to say, it was getting old. Flying is so overrated.
As for Dark Jak, he obviously wasn't taking any more chances. Torn emerged from the wreckage of a bookshelf to find the irate demon stalking imperiously towards him, long, deadly claws glinting in the dim light, and knew that he had about five seconds to live.
In a desperate act of self-preservation, Torn flung his crescent-shaped dagger across the room like a boomerang, hoping to distract Dark Jak long enough to turn the tables. The knife struck the waterspout on the wall opposite, snapping the lid off, and a torrent of water shot out of the pipe and connected with Dark Jak's back at full force – compliments of Jak and Co. Ironic, isn't it?
The flow of water slowed to a steady gushing onto the floor, compared to its initial impact, but it had created the diversion Torn needed. In the instant the water struck Dark Jak and his attention wavered, Torn jumped and grabbed the pipe situated over his head, hauling himself into the air. In a quick maneuver he'd learned while serving the Krimson Guard, he swung forwards, twisted, and landed heavily on Jak's back. The Dark Eco monster stumbled, but didn't fall. Torn threw his weight against Dark Jak's back, and this time they went down in a heap. Again.
Unfortunately, this time Dark Jak managed to control the fall, and twisted himself so that when they landed, Torn found himself underneath the other man. And no matter how dangerous or dire the situation, that position is always incredibly kinky.
Apparently Torn thought so, too.
Torn knew he was so utterly dead. He had but moments to live before this monster impaled him with his claws, or fried him, or destroyed him in some other equally horrific and agonizing way. He knew that if he could just find some way to distract him, just for the two minutes it would take for this to blow over, for the Eco and the power to release Jak and return him to his senses, then everything would be okay. He knew he just needed to find some way to calm Jak, to return him to the world, but his mind drew a blank. Something about having a snarling insane demon mere inches from your face and even fewer mere inches from taking your life completely messed up your thought process. His whole brain was flooded with regrets; all the things he wished he could have done before he died, all the things he should or shouldn't have said, all the things he totally screwed over and wouldn't ever be able to make up for. It wasn't quite his life flashing before his eyes, but Torn felt it was a sufficient substitute.
Especially since it dictated what he did next.
Torn laughed. It was a short, ragged, bitter laugh, devoid of humor and more like a bark or a gasp for breath; it was full of contempt for the irony of the situation; but it was a laugh nonetheless. And then Torn wrenched one of his arms free, grabbed Jak by the lapels, and closed the distance between them.
The kiss was harsh and cold, but it caught Dark Jak by surprise. Torn vaguely understood that he was stalling for time, but whether he was calming Jak or simply serving to aggravate him further remained a mystery he didn't particularly care to solve. His grip on Jak's collar tightened even as his grip on reality was lost, and he deepened the kiss, forcing his tongue into Jak's mouth. It was welcomed by a sharp pain and a flood of a thick, coppery substance.
Dark Jak had bitten his tongue.
Torn practically hissed in pain and anger, but he didn't break the kiss. Withdrawing his tongue, he bit down on Dark Jak's lower lip, hard, intending to make him bleed. More of the cold, metallic Darkness that was currently Jak's blood filled his mouth, but he was past caring. He'd be damned if he was going to die without first having the kiss he wanted. Granted, this wasn't quite how he'd imagined it, or even exactly whom he'd wanted it to be with, but hey, beggars can't be choosers. It was close enough, so he'd take what he could get.
It was Dark Jak who finally broke the kiss, ripping himself away from Torn and leaping to his feet in one swift motion. Torn didn't move, expecting to be murdered any moment now and not particularly caring. But the snarl was gone from Dark Jak's lips, and had any sort of emotion been visible in those endless black pits that served as eyes, Torn thought they probably would have been filled with confusion. The demon stumbled back a few steps, blinking, and then gripped his head in pain as the anger receded and the Eco lost its hold on Jak.
The reversion back into Jak's conscious form looked exceedingly painful, Torn thought mildly as he watched. Color returned to the boy's skin and hair, claws shrank into normal nails, and Jak's entire body seemed to become a few inches shorter, and much less bulky. Not to mention he no longer looked like he'd been stuck in an electrical socket. All that Dark Eco crackling around him had looked extremely bizarre. The entire transformation took only a few seconds, and then the once-more blond elf sank to the floor, clutching his head and whimpering slightly.
Torn supposed he should get up from his inert position on the floor, but everything still seemed so unreal, like a dream or a nightmare; he couldn't decide which, but it didn't really matter. If he could just lie there and give everything a chance to sink in… he had been so certain he would be dead by now… Jak began hacking up blood between whimpers, so Torn hauled himself to his feet and shakily made his way to the younger elf.
Blood pounded through Jak's head as his body tried to come to terms with losing consciousness and still moving, with having Dark Eco infiltrate his blood system, and with the rage and anger physically and mentally transforming him yet again. He curled up in the fetal position and prayed the migraine would leave him soon, or he might just pass out again. He always had headaches after his transformations, but this was just ridiculous. Another whimper escaped tightly locked lips and he realized there was something clogging his throat; he coughed and wasn't surprised to see blood spill onto the wooden floor.
Cool fingers pressed against the base of his neck, poking and jabbing to the point that Jak thought someone was trying to strangle him or something, but he hurt too much to do anything about it. The fingers persisted in their work, massaging the back of his neck just above the spine, though Jak hardly considered it relaxing. Gradually, however, his vision cleared, his head stopped spinning, his stomach quelled. Curiosity overriding the risk of pain, Jak craned his head up and saw Torn standing behind him, mouth set in a grim, determined line, but looking decidedly green just the same. He backed away as Jak climbed slowly to his feet, gripping a nearby bunk bed for support.
"What… I…?" Jak scanned the room warily, eyeing the telltale signs of a fight: broken furniture, singed floor, bloodstains… He winced and looked back at Torn, who was regarding him uncertainly. Jak thought he was probably worried that he was going to go psycho again… he was so tired of being looked at that way. "…Sorry… it was complete takeover; I didn't have any control…"
Torn tried to respond, but discovered he still held a mouthful of blood – both his own and Jak's. Jak noticed him blanch and added, "You okay?" Torn swallowed thickly and gasped out, "Fine," before his stomach rebelled against the Dark Eco and he turned and hurled into the nearby sink.
Jak watched him silently until he finished retching, then asked, "What happened? I didn't… I didn't go after you, did I?"
Torn wiped his mouth with the back of his hand and grimaced. "Not until I attacked you first."
"You what?!" Jak practically yelped, "Why? You idiot, I could have killed you!"
Torn glared at him like it was the most obvious thing in the world. "You would have killed yourself if you'd gone out there like that."
"Why would you care?"
There was a pause as Torn tried to formulate an acceptable answer. He decided to go with the indifferent approach. "I went to the trouble of patching you up and I wasn't just gonna stand by and watch all my hard work go to waste." He pointed to Jak's side in an attempt to change the subject. "See, you're bleeding again."
Jak glanced down; his new tunic was already drenched with blood, particularly where he's been wounded before. Even as he watched, the damp spot continued to spread. "Aw, fuck," he muttered, then suddenly his head snapped up and he limped quickly to the table at the back of the room. Daxter still lay there, breathing shallowly, forgotten in the heat of the battle. Jak's eyes blazed as he watched his friend, and he turned to Torn sharply. "We have to help him!"
Torn growled. He was still shaken by the recent events and was not in the best of moods. "And how do you propose we do that? I don't know the first thing about the anatomy of a rat, do you?" he snapped, moving to the cupboard that contained medical supplies. Jak's silence was more than enough of a response to his question; it had been rhetorical, anyway. Grabbing some bandage and ointment, he stalked back to the table. "Take off your shirt," he ordered.
"Why?" Jak retorted, his voice just as cold.
"So I can fix that wound, moron. Why else?"
"What about Daxter?" The teen's voice was harsh, but the worry concealed beneath the venom was unmistakable.
"You first, then the rat. You won't be much use to him if you pass out from blood loss, now will you?"
Jak shot him a death glare, but pulled his tunic over his head and tossed the bloodied rag aside without further argument. Choosing not to watch while Torn dressed his wound (it hurts less if you don't look – or so they say), he instead studied his orange ottsel companion who lay so quietly on the table. That right there was part of the problem: Daxter was never quiet. "Is there a vet we can take him to?" he asked, and then hissed sharply as Torn applied the stinging ointment to his open cut.
Torn ignored the hiss of pain; he was too tired and angry to be gentle. Ripping the bandage lengthwise, he began to bind Jak's injury. "You kidding? No one can afford a pet, 'specially not in the slums. A few of the richer individuals have crocadogs or some such, but something fuzzy? That's prime clothing material. I'm sure Krew's pointed that out to you at least once. Bastard," he added, making a face.
"So you mean to tell me that there's no one in this godforsaken city who can help him?"
"Torn? You still up?" a female voice sounded from the doorway, and a moment later a blonde head appeared, stumbling a bit in the dimmed light. "You really should-" Tess stopped short as she surveyed the wreckage of the room, the bloodied and bandaged Jak, and finally, the orange, unmoving lump on the table. "Oh no."
"Don't tell me this was the mission Krew sent you on earlier," she deadpanned, moving to the table to get a better look at the battered ottsel. At Torn's growl and Jak's silent nod, she frowned angrily. "I knew something was up! I should have looked into it sooner. Damn that bastard!" She shifted Daxter's limp form and winced at what she found. "Broken ribs, fractured leg," she muttered, and gently prodded the bullet hole in his shoulder. "There're still shards of the bullet shell in that wound! Why haven't you two done anything?!"
"Well, I didn't wanna be the one to do a half-assed job and accidentally cut his liver open!" growled Torn darkly.
Tess sighed in exasperation. "Gimme your knife, then. I'll get it out."
Torn retrieved his wicked-looking dagger from the damp floor where he'd flung it while trying to distract Dark Jak. He hesitated in handing it to her, wondering if it was a good idea to use such a dangerous weapon as a surgical instrument, but she snatched it from him before he could come to a solid conclusion. The two boys watched nervously as she slid the tip into Daxter's shoulder and gently began to jimmy one of the larger shrapnel pieces free.
"Do you know what you're doing?" Jak asked skeptically as he surveyed the operation. She made it look professional enough, but he couldn't figure out where she might have learned such medical procedures. Assuming she'd learned them at all. "As an ottsel, his anatomy's gonna be different from ours," he pointed out, wary of the lethal dagger currently inserted far too deeply into his friend's shoulder for his liking.
"Dissections," Tess said simply, concentrating more on working the bit of metal out without it getting caught on and tearing any tendons than she was on formulating complete sentences. "Favorite subject. Top of my high school biology class." Her tongue stuck out slightly as she wiggled the knife around a particularly difficult area. "At least until Praxis closed all the schools. Bastard said it was a waste of taxes. That was a few years back."
Jak raised a questioning eyebrow at Torn, not knowing exactly what 'high schools' and 'biology' meant; he had a pretty good idea of what dissections were, though. The ex-Krimson Guard just rolled his eyes at the younger elf's ignorance.
"Finally!" muttered Tess, having worked the shard up to the opening of the wound. Licking her fingers, she reached in and gripped the piece, pulling it the rest of the way out by hand. Jak blanched and turned away, and even Torn looked slightly green. It's one thing to be out in the heat of a battle, shooting anything that moves and causing blood to spill; it's another thing entirely to stick your fingers in someone else's shoulder wound. Tess ignored them and started on the next splinter of metal, talking as she worked. "You," she said, waving a bloody knife at Jak (who was nearly sick as a result), "should get some rest. I don't have time to deal with you if your injuries open up again because you were too stupid to take care of yourself."
Jak rolled his eyes at her no-nonsense tone, but didn't protest, knowing she was right. On the other hand, he wouldn't exactly submit to her orders, either. "I need some fresh air. I'm going outside."
"Don't even think about it, punk," interrupted Torn's abrasive growl, "If you need some fresh air – not that you'll find any in this dump – go up to the roof. You're not leaving headquarters until I say otherwise, got it?"
Jak snorted, too tired and worn out to start an 'I take orders from no one' argument. "Fine. Whatever."
"Straight up the back stairs and up the ladder. Can't miss it. Set foot in my room and I'll rip off that pathetic green thing you call a goatee."
"Aw, be nice, Torn," Tess said as Jak headed up the stairs. He heard Torn's gruff reply of "What the hell for?" and then, faintly, "Would it kill you to show a little emotion once in a while? Other than anger?" He shook his head as he pushed open the trapdoor and clambered onto the rooftop. Torn, show emotions other than anger? Not bloody likely.
It was dark when Torn climbed the ladder that led to the roof of the pueblo-style building that Underground headquarters was situated in. Jak was already there, sitting with his legs pulled up under his chin, looking quite docile as he stared uninterestedly at the starry sky. Torn didn't miss the morph gun lying casually by his side, however, within easy reach should he need it. Old habits die hard; he supposed it was just as well.
Jak blatantly ignored Torn's presence as the elf sat down beside him on the concrete roof, not even waiting for an invitation. Jak's whole posture stated: "I want to be alone right now. Fuck off," but Torn wasn't having any of it. He had some things he wanted to discuss with the blond elf, and he wasn't leaving until certain issues were resolved. Problem was, he couldn't figure out how to begin.
"You've recovered well," he said casually. It sounded a bit stupid, but it was a good general conversation starter – he hoped. What other options did he have: the weather?
"If you've come to send me off on some mission, I'm not going. Not without Daxter."
Oh. So that was it. "I wasn't planning on it," he responded simply, not wanting to instigate an argument. He'd just gotten up here, for crying out loud.
Silence reigned for several tense minutes. Jak obviously didn't care for Torn to be there and made no move to start a conversation. Torn himself was busy struggling with internal conflicts, the foremost of which being: 'What'd I do this time?' Jak was being so cold; he was surprised it wasn't snowing. This led him to stop and ponder just how long it had been since it had snowed in Haven City; many years, he surmised wryly. The amount of control Baron Praxis held over everything was mind-boggling – he was capable of creating so much pollution that it didn't even snow anymore. And – Torn shook his head. Funny how your mind will go off on tangents just to avoid what it doesn't want to think about.
"What will I do if he dies?"
Torn jumped slightly; he hadn't been expecting Jak to speak. Hoping to keep the conversation going, he instantly responded with the first thing that came to mind: "He's not going to die. He's Daxter."
"Oh, cut the crap. It doesn't suit you," Jak snapped irritably, "You heard what Tess said about his wounds; technically, his chances of survival are about one in a hundred. And don't start with that 'It's not your fault' shit, because I really don't care. My guilt is not the matter at hand here; the issue is what I'm gonna do if he dies."
"Fine, I won't," the ex-Guard retorted, not in the mood for games, "And I wasn't going to. For starters, you can stop jumping to conclusions. That 'my rat is dying, I need sympathy' crap doesn't suit you, either."
"I don't need your sympathy," snarled Jak.
"Yes, you do. Otherwise you wouldn't have brought it up."
"What do you know? It's not your best friend who's dying!"
"Don't judge me!" hissed Torn, "I've lost far more than you'll ever know! Friends, family, home; do you forget I used to work for Praxis? You can bet he didn't take my betrayal lightly. And despite all I've lost, I still believe that there's always something worth fighting for!"
"And for me? I've already lost everything: my friends, my home… you don't know how I came to be here, do you? I've even lost my body, my sanity; were you held prisoner and experimented on, Torn? Did you spend two years in that filthy palace dungeon, spending each day waiting for them to pump more Dark Eco into your body, wondering if this would be the injection that finally kills you and frees you from this living nightmare?" Jak was on his feet now; Torn stood, too, not willing to allow the younger elf an advantage should things get messy. One could never be too careful with Jak.
The blond in question paused mid-rant to let it all sink in, then apparently thought better of it and plowed ahead. "And then, when you think it's all over, one person comes for you; one person cares enough to save you, to risk their hide for yours. One person. It took him two years, but Dax came for me. This city isn't mine, it's not my home, no one here cares for me. I've killed civilians in my rage to get at Praxis; this city and these people mean nothing and hold no connection to me. So tell me, if Daxter dies, then what do I have that's worth fighting for?"
Surprisingly, Torn had listened to the entire rant without opening his mouth once to interrupt. He waited patiently for Jak to calm down slightly – or at least catch his breath – before giving his quiet, straightforward reply, his raspy voice taking on the persuasive leadership tone that had earned him his position of second in command. "This city holds no connection to you, but it's your home now, like it or not. Wherever you're from, you're not going back. You'll just have to accept that. Instead, you have to focus on what you can change. This city's seen better times; maybe we can bring those back. Maybe we can give it hope. Maybe we can make it something worth fighting for."
Jak stared silently at him for several minutes, and Torn wondered briefly if he was going to hit him. Then Jak sat down heavily on the concrete floor and laughed cynically. "Why do we always argue?"
"I don't know," Torn said honestly, running a hand over his red hair, "Just the way we are, I guess. Maybe we're too much alike."
Jak snorted, but it held no contempt. More like he found some memory humorous, and wasn't really listening to Torn. "Heh… someone once told me it was a way of hiding pent-up emotions."
He didn't notice Torn flinch slightly in the darkness. "Maybe."
There was another lull in the conversation, but it wasn't saturated with tension this time – something for which both men were grateful. Torn finally broke the silence as he came to a decision.
"Look, if it makes you feel any better, I'll talk to the Shadow. He knows something about healing and shit, and you've done a lot for the Underground lately, so maybe he'll be willing to help," Torn was rambling, he knew, but he couldn't seem to make himself shut up. Jak's depressed-but-trying-to-hide-it expression was completely messing up his mind. "If anyone can save the furball, it's him."
"Why? Why would you do that for me?" Suspicion arose in Jak's voice despite his efforts to remain casual. It did not go unnoticed by Torn.
The taller elf paused as he ran through the possibilities in his head. There were many reasons; he didn't have to lie to pick an acceptable one. Because you're a valuable asset to the Underground. Because we need you to fight for us. Because it's the least we can do. Because I can't stop thinking about you and it's bugging the heck outta me.
"Because… because I don't want to see you hurt." The words sounded strange to his ears, but they weren't too presumptuous and it was true – though he couldn't believe he'd actually admitted it. Something was seriously off with him today.
Unfortunately, Jak still took it the wrong way. "Yeah, I know. I'm too valuable to your 'cause.'" The last word was spat out with contempt.
Torn's eyes narrowed but he otherwise ignored the comment. "You'll have to stay upstairs," he said gruffly, climbing to his feet, "There's a spare room on the second floor if you want it. Next to the one with the plants growing out from under the door."
"I see I'm still not worthy of meeting the infamous Shadow," Jak muttered under his breath, just loud enough for the other elf to hear. "I'm beginning to think he doesn't even exist."
The redhead rolled his eyes and headed back down the ladder. These mood swings were really beginning to piss him off.
Jak watched the red lights dance across the horizon, gold and purple and orange as the sun rose, marking the dawn of a new day. It was beautiful, he thought, but it was ugly at the same time. No one could deny how pretty the sunrise looked, an orchestra of color in a world where everything was gray. But Jak knew, like everyone else in this pathetic excuse for a city, that it was the chemicals in the air that made it such. The amount of pollution created in the years Praxis had been in power was monumental. Jak could only imagine what it must be like to have lived in such filthy conditions for so long; even the mere two years of dirt and smog he'd experienced seemed to have knocked years off his life.
A dark shadow fell across his face; he squinted up at the intruder, but all he could see was a lithe silhouette with pointed ears against the harsh light of the sun. Instinctively he lunged for his gun; he was tired and edgy, and he'd forgotten he was on the roof of the Underground, where it was very unlikely anyone with hostile intentions would find him. Besides, it didn't hurt to be cautious.
A familiar voice growled, "It's me, dumbass," and he laid the gun aside as Torn walked around next to him, out of the direct glare of the light, and sat down beside him. Jak could tell from the sag of his shoulders and the purplish tinge around his eyes that the older elf hadn't gotten much sleep – if any. Then again, Jak hadn't either, so he supposed it evened the playing board for witty banter a bit. He yawned mildly and shook his head. Stupid random thought tangents.
"You've been up here all night," Torn said simply. It wasn't a question, just a statement, but it was one that required affirmation.
Another pause. Damn, their conversations were just smothered with them these days! What happened to the fast and furious verbal battles of yore? "We've done what you've asked. Now when. Do we see. The Shadow?" "When I say so, if I say so. But before I even think about it, how about you blowing up this Ammo Dump we've targeted in the Baron's palace?" and "The whole city's on red alert! What have you two been doing?" "We climbed up to the Baron's palace, and we… tripped a few alarms." "What?! I didn't authorize a strike on the-" "Hey, we kicked the Baron's ass, okay?"
Oh, for the good old days. With Daxter pitching in, of course. Actually, Daxter's contributions usually made up most of the conversation – and certainly the most interesting aspects of it. Maybe that was why they were so silent now…
"Is Daxter…?" Jak couldn't bring himself to finish the sentence; he left it at that, knowing Torn would understand what he was asking.
Jak let out a sigh of relief, a breath he'd been holding for hours, ever since Torn had brought Dax in looking like he was hit by a Class 3 Racer and a stampede of yakkow.
"He'll have a nasty scar where he was shot, and his shoulder will probably never fully heal – he may have a limp. Or something," Torn muttered something about 'damn rat anatomy' under his breath, then added, "But he'll be fine and back to his squirrelly chatter-boxed self soon enough. Unfortunately."
"Can I see him?"
Torn frowned in consideration. "I… the Shadow's still down there… I think you're ready to see him, but… if you meet him now, he's bound to send you off on some mission, without Daxter. The furball's not ready for missions yet, not by a long shot. If you want to go down, I won't stop you, but don't say I didn't warn you."
There was a small frown and a sigh as Jak looked back out over the city, flooded with red light that made it look like the very stones were bleeding. It was disconcerting, to say the least, but Jak had learned to ignore such things. "I'll wait." He watched the streets of the slums below; they were silent at this hour of the morning, the only movement being that of the Krimson Guards patrolling the area. Beyond the slums he could see the industrial and residential districts – he remembered overhearing that the qualification races were soon; he'd have to pay the mechanic another visit at some point in the near future and see if he couldn't convince her to let them race for her team. Hopefully she'd be a bit more cooperative this time. He grimaced as he remembered why she'd bitched at him before: "You work for that slime ball, Krew. What's not to like?" Ironic how he'd ignored her scathing words; he should have taken her (indirect) advice and ditched the monster while he had the chance. He wondered idly if Daxter would be up for the races when the time came. "Any idea how long Daxter will be out of commission?"
Torn blinked and snapped out of whatever reverie he'd been in. "A week, I'd guess. He probably won't wake up for at least a couple of days-"
He was cut off by a loud screech and an equally loud but very familiar caustic voice: "OH, NO, NOT YOU! THIS IS ALL YOUR FAULT, OLD MAN!" How such a small creature can have such a loud voice will probably forever remain a mystery to the world.
Jak smirked at the redheaded rebel. "You were saying?"
Torn couldn't help it; he grinned. "I stand corrected," he said with a mock-sigh.
"It's good for you," the blond laughed, "You can't be right all the time – it inflates your already too-large ego."
"My ego?" Torn snorted derisively, "You're a fine one to talk." His voice became a slightly higher pitch and overdramatic as he mocked: "'That's fine. I want the Baron to know it's ME who's hurting him!'"
"Hey!" Jak's tone was indignant, "You'd want revenge, too, if you'd been through what I have."
"I want revenge anyway," Torn pointed out quietly. He didn't like this conversation; it was too personal. Time to change the subject.
"Both you and the rat have recovered incredibly fast," Torn murmured thoughtfully. He pulled out his dagger, now cleansed of ottsel blood, and began to toy with it for lack of anything better to do.
"Maybe it's the Dark Eco," mused Jak.
That threw Torn for a loop. "Daxter was experimented on, too?" he asked incredulously.
The renegade shook his head. "No, nothing like that. He… fell into a vat of the stuff a few years ago. Hence the ottsel shape."
"You mean he hasn't always been that way?"
"Nope. He used to be as elfin as you or me."
"And the Dark Eco changed him… Interesting…" He ran a finger along the blade of his knife, testing the edge. "I'm surprised it didn't kill him."
There was a companionable silence before the conversation took a turn for the worse.
"Yeah?" He tossed the crescent-shaped knife into the air, and it twirled impressively before he caught it deftly by the hilt.
"Why'd you kiss me?"
Torn froze instantly, halfway through the motion of throwing the dagger again. He stomach dropped like a rock and he felt suddenly cold. "What?" he choked out around the lump in his throat.
Jak avoided looking at him, instead gazing out at the sunrise. "When I was… possessed, Dark… and we fought… you kissed me. Why?"
"You- but I thought you couldn't- you remember that?" Torn stumbled over his words; this was a completely unexpected and unpleasant turn of events, and it was bringing his entire stoic, self-contained world crashing down around his ears.
"I don't. He… it told me," the blond frowned slightly, as though confused, then amended, "Erm, showed me. Sort of. It… it said it thought I should know."
"You can talk to… it?" Torn's voice sounded small, broken…
"Sometimes… It's like… another consciousness. Every once in a while, it shows me something. Usually I retain enough during transformations to at least be aware of my surroundings. This last time was an exception."
Jak glanced sidelong at Torn, who looked as though he'd just discovered that Armageddon had come early. Or perhaps like someone had just told him he'd be spending the rest of his life locked in a small room with only Daxter for company. Jak's resolve almost melted then and there, but he held out and prodded: "You're avoiding the question. Why did you kiss me?"
"I… I wanted to."
The blond elf hoisted his morph gun into his lap and fingered the valves, checking that each part was in working order with practiced ease. There was nothing wrong with his gun; he'd examined it several times over the course of the night, out of boredom, but he picked it up now to give himself something to do, something to hide his nervousness and the shaking of his fingers. "I see."
There was a pause, and Torn fidgeted uncomfortably. "Would it help if I said I was sorry?"
Jak didn't look up from his task, and his expression was bland as he answered, "Not really."
Torn licked dry lips, then decided to throw in his dice. He really didn't have anything left to lose… "What if I said I loved you?"
Jak started for a moment; he hadn't been expecting that one. "…It might," he said coolly, running a finger down the smooth metal of the morph gun. "But you got what you wanted." Gently, he laid the gun aside, then in one fluid motion, he reached over and grabbed Torn's collar, pulling him closer so that their faces were mere inches apart.
"My turn," he whispered, and kissed him.
Torn's world melted once he recovered from the initial shock of the kiss. In a world where nothing made sense, he felt a sudden serenity; even though the Baron was still ruling with an iron fist; even though the Metal Heads still lurked just outside the city walls; even though he didn't know whether or not he would still be alive tomorrow. He had no idea how the story would end, but he suddenly knew that everything would work out, somehow. And that was all that mattered, he thought simply as he fell into the sweet ambrosia that was Jak.
And he tasted like pine.
I did a miserable job of keeping them in character, didn't I? 'Specially at the end there. It was so freakin' hard…
I have no idea how old Jak really is. Something tells me he was 15 in the first game, (intuition; I don't think they ever actually said) so two years later makes him 17. On the other hand, one could argue that you should add another year or six months between the two games, so that might make him 18… I really dunno. It doesn't matter.
So. Whadaya think? Please leave a review (constructive criticism welcome- encouraged, even!) and give me your impressions!