Key Lime Ice Cream
Disclaimer: I do not own Jak X: Combat Racing, or any of the characters there within. They are all property of Naughty Dog, etc…
Tramping up to the doorway, Sig had found his old comrades from Haven City at last. Of course, the blaring television screens outside were a big help, annoying as they were.
"The odds makers say your team falls short." That voice sounded familiar. It couldn't be one of the old crime bosses, could it?
Sig didn't miss his cue.
"That's because most fools haven't figured me into the mix."
Everyone in the room turned in shocked surprise to see Sig walk in, even though he was one of the people invited to the reading of Krew's will. Despite the frills and flourish of the invitation, Sig had residual feelings of betrayal towards his old boss and, as a final rebuff, decided not to attend the event. He and Samos had stayed behind in Haven City, not trusting of anything the deceased crime boss would have in store for them and tended instead to the arms lining the walls of the Naughty Ottsel. This inaction saved them both from toasting a pig of a man with a poisoned drink. Kiera had informed Samos, and that was how the pair of men found out about the wicked concoction—a last curse from Krew.
Most of the group was still shocked at seeing him there, but Jak and Daxter were quick to overcome their surprise and greet him with enthusiasm. He knew he always liked those boys.
"Is my camera out of focus?" the television reporter interrupted. "The great Sig has entered the competition. This is going to be…better than I thought. But if you'll excuse me, I've got some real interviews to do." G.T. Blitz, Sig recognized him now, made a hasty but fashionable exit, leaving all behind to watch after him. Sig remembered a time when an interview with the big bosses would have given him a reasonable endorsement of weaponry and salary enough to freelance a hunting business; but Blitz had been sure to put Sig down for all he was worth. Suffice it to say, Sig lost his chance and stayed paired to Krew like that piece of crusty cheese he never removed from his side fat.
"Yeah, you do that." Blitz appeared not to have heard him. So Sig did likewise. "Sorry I'm late for the party guys. I heard about Krew's little potion." He walked down the steps into the center of the room. "That's why I never drank on the job. I say never trust a dead man. Don't worry, I'll help you get that antidote."
Ashelin did not seem placated by this sentiment as she stood from the couch.
"Easy for you to say, your life's not on the line."
"For my friends, it is." Really, it was the least he could do after they had all helped crush the Metal Head leader and rescue the Wastelander from an early death. He was resolved to returning the favor. He had had few friends growing up, and he was not about to lose the companions he learned to trust during the war.
Jak had walked up by this time, grinning and holding out one hand.
"Good to have you back, Sig."
The older man returned the smile and clasped Jak's forearm with his hand, shaking it firmly.
"Great to be back. Now let's see about this so called 'competition'."
"Yeah, let me pull up the stats on the router for you." The blonde haired man headed toward the garage and Daxter hurried after him as an orange streak. A silence followed in his wake. The Wastelander scratched at the back of his neck.
"So, how has life been treating you guys—besides the poison thing of course…" Sig asked, turning around the room. His eyes fell on a familiar, rosy face framed in sapphire hair. He couldn't believe his eyes. "Whoa, someone tell me I'm seeing things because that can't be Krew's little girl."
Said little girl stood from the round sofa.
"Hello." She smiled shyly.
"Rayn! I haven't seen you since you were this tall." The Wastelander leveled a hand at mid-thigh. The woman laughed.
"It has been quite a while, hasn't it?"
"Yeah, you've, uh…grown up since then."
Sig wanted to smack his forehead for stating the obvious, but it took him a moment to absorb it all. The crime lord's daughter had grown from a gangly, shy schoolgirl into a beautiful young woman. She had become impossibly curvaceous and now possessed a sense of style present in her choice of clothing. Green. She'd always liked that color. A light evergreen blazer served to accent her curves, as well as the white bellbottom pants she wore. Sig had to suppress the urge to raise both eyebrows at her high heels; those formal shoes were fit for the exceptionally wealthy class. Most women took to wearing boots, and for the poorer civilians, a simple cloth was wrapped around their feet. Her sapphire blue hair, apparently uncut since her youth, was bundled into a massive bun and pinned by several chopsticks at the back of her head; and as a stylish touch, she let a few tendrils frame her pretty face. A pair of earrings hung from each ear. So she did get her ears pierced twice, against her father's wishes. Her features had filled out—her pinch-able cheeks of youth were more angular now, yet she was still soft. The only thing unchanged about her were those brilliant amber eyes.
"You're still as tall as I remember." Rayn said, breaking into the man's trance and holding out her hand as she neared him.
Sig laughed to hide his sudden nervousness and grasped her hand in his own. A different type of shake than with Jak; this was more reserved, more ceremonial. His hand was much larger than hers; her fingertips were barely visible for the friendly handshake, but Sig was pleased at how firmly she clasped his hand. He cleared his throat, unsure of his next question.
"How have you been?"
She smiled and glanced to one side with a light shrug; her expression betrayed a trace of sadness. Her grip slackened in Sig's hand and he instinctively let go.
"I've been getting along." She obviously missed her father. How could she when the rat-bastard had poisoned her? She glanced back up at him coyly. "And you?"
"Wait, you two know each other?" Torn broke in on the conversation with his gravely inquiry. Rayn and Sig seemed to break out of a nostalgic daze. They each glanced at Torn, then back at each other, wondering who would tell the story first. Rayn smiled.
"Sig was a right-hand man to my father, at a very young age from what I understand. He was sent out on all sorts of missions against Metal Head forces and claimed several trophies, and still wears them I see," Rayn glanced at the Wastelander's shoulder and shin guards, all of them made from Metal Head skulls.
Sig smiled and smacked at his chest with a fist. "Haven't failed me yet."
Rayn nodded cordially then looked between Torn and Sig as she folded her arms over her chest, "So our tough as nails weapons specialist here was, unfortunately, forced to baby-sit one day…"
"Sig, come over here now!"
Sig gave the new Peacemaker a final, affectionate buff of polish before carefully replacing the weapon in its holder on the wall. He allowed himself a small smile and moved off toward his boss's office. The young man was just at the edge of turning twenty and accepting increasingly difficult assignments from Krew as he proved himself time and again. He had already won a trophy from the Wastelands; a Metal Head's skull which he now wore over his left shoulder.
He watched the Peacemaker glint in the artificial light as he walked past, only turning to face front when he turned the corner around the bar counter. Entering into the room beyond, Sig was nearly squished into the doorframe by his boss's rather…pressing presence as he hovered hurriedly by. Taking evasive action, Sig ducked and stepped to one side of the red carpet.
"You called, boss?"
"Yes, Sig," Krew huffed a little as he flitted from one bookshelf to the other across the stateroom to toss a few last minute items into a briefcase. Sig shook his head imperceptibly, how could the boss be tired when the anti-gravity machine was doing all the work for him? If anything, the machine should be the one panting having to carry all that excess blubber.
One final search of the books by the door and Krew had found his important, hidden paperwork. He examined the wrinkled paper briefly, then grinned and let the age-worn book fall to the red carpet without a second thought as he carefully placed this paper in his briefcase before shutting it. "I have…another assignment for you, Sig."
The Wastelander stood at attention, his hands clasped behind his back, though his face held a measure of excitement.
"Another Metal Head hunt? Can I take the Peacemaker with me this time? I want to test it out on the field instead of those cardboard dummies…"
"No, no, not today." Krew said, waving one hand, almost impatient with the boy's obsession with the metal headed creatures beyond the city gates. Sig did his best to hide his disappointment. He preferred hunts to the tedious delivery jobs Krew sent him out on every so often. The last time Sig went on a delivery assignment, it took two weeks for his eyebrows to grow back. "As you know, today there is an important…meeting for the big name bosses of the city." Sig nodded once, but Krew was hovering towards a bookshelf, unaware. "However, I did not tell you that my daughter will be staying here a short time—while her vacation from school lasts, at any rate." Krew turned to face a flabbergasted Sig; the Wastelander didn't even know the boss had a daughter, let alone she was coming to visit. "She will be here any moment now, and I will be leaving shortly. The meeting does not adjourn until late this evening, so I will be staying the night. That means you will have to look after my daughter until tomorrow morning. Do I make myself clear?"
Sig must not have looked very comprehending with his eyes wide and jaw slack; the rebuttal against this sabotage unable to form completely in his mind. Krew appeared ready to reprimand his subordinate when just then, a high pitched squeal broke into the tense atmosphere and both men turned to see a little girl all in proper plaid school dress hurdling toward them, sapphire hair streaming from a ponytail behind her and arms opened wide.
"Daddy, daddy!" she leapt into Krew's embrace and kissed his plump cheek.
Sig didn't know it was possible to be shocked even more. He was expecting the girl that had just been revealed to him to possess at least half of the girth her father bore, with the same chubby face and cruel eyes—but this young thing was…pretty. She must have inherited her mother's looks…
The Wastelander stood by uncomfortably as Krew and his daughter caught up on school and other business. When the boss inquired of his daughter's chauffeured trip from the airport, she replied that it was bumpier than usual. Krew promised to have the man fired at once, but the girl laughed and said she enjoyed the bouncy ride. They spoke a moment more until Krew drew his daughter's attention to the other person in the room.
"Do you see that man over there, Rayn dear?" The boss pointed at Sig. The girl, Rayn, turned to stare at dark-skinned stranger, amber eyes curious and questioning. Krew waited until his daughter nodded before continuing. "He will be watching you for the rest of the day."
The girl's jaw dropped as she turned to look back at her father with a hurt gaze.
"But Daddy, I wanted to spend time with you. My school vacations are only once a year. You promised to put off the meetings this time so that we could go see the races and shows."
The remorseful expression on Krew's face was staggeringly surreal to Sig.
"I'm sorry dear, but Daddy can't miss this meeting. There may be important, unveiling information of the crime family that is trying to ruin Daddy's business. You remember, those nasty Mizo's."
Rayn nodded, but her cheerless expression did not dissipate. Apparently, there had been discussions like these before.
"When will you be back?" she asked in defeat.
"Tomorrow morning at the latest," Krew said in a surprisingly heartfelt way, "then I will be home and we can do anything you wish. Until then, Sig here will take you out for anything you would like to do. Now run along and get ready." Again, Sig was staggered speechless as the boss pressed his fat lips to his daughter's forehead. The girl smiled shyly to be kissed in front of a stranger, then she made to leave. She gazed up at Sig as she walked by, having to crane her neck back to get a good look at him. Sig strangely felt as though he were being analyzed in that brief gaze and he suddenly felt inadequate. The pair of them watched as Rayn stooped to recover the book her father had dropped to the floor and tenderly placed it back in its slot on the shelf before obediently stepping out of the doorway.
This girl was nothing like her father. She was shy and tender and fair, she wasn't adopted was she? Sig jumped when Krew appeared next to him, as nasty as ever.
"If anything happens to her, I will personally see to it that the Metal Heads make a trophy out of your skull." The crime lord hovered directly before Sig, their faces mere inches apart.
"I understand." Sig said unflinchingly. Krew growled and squinted one eye, not entirely trusting, but the meeting across town could not wait. The obese man retrieved his briefcase and hovered back toward the doorway, shoving a wad of bills into Sig's stomach as he went.
"Spend this on anything she wants to have." He growled and hovered out the door. Sig watched his boss go then curiously unfolded the chunk of money, his jaw dropping once more. There was more than a year's salary for a championship racer in his hands. What in the name of Mar could that girl possibly want that would cost this much? "Sig!"
The Wastelander jumped and hurried from the room, wiping his brow and stashing the cash in his pocket (and when it didn't fit, he halved it into two wads and housed it in two separate pockets), he too, made for the door. Krew and Rayn were already at the entrance to the Hip Hog Saloon, clasped in a farewell embrace. Krew's daughter had found time to change into a light green top with ruffled sleeves and lace crisscrossing over the back, light beige khakis that flared at the bottom and low-heel, interlacing sandals. She had also found the time to change her hair from a ponytail to the popular frill-tress; a hairdo that looked like a bird's wing flaring out the back. The style suited her.
The boss kissed his daughter once more, then cast a meaningful glance at Sig and entered the extravagant hover car waiting for him outside. Rayn followed after him with Sig at her heels, and she waved until the hover car turned out of sight. A moment passed in silence when Rayn rubbed at one eye and looked up at her temporary guardian. Those sad amber eyes seemed to drill into the Wastelander.
"So, uh, what do you want to do?" Sig said uncertainly, not sure of how to react if she were to cry. Rayn glanced to one side and tilted her head, the flare of blue mimicking behind her. Pushing one tendril of sapphire hair behind her ear, she smiled faintly up at Sig.
"Well, I haven't been to Haven City's Ice Cream Parlor in awhile." She said with that slight accent that furthered Sig's suspicion the girl had to be adopted.
The Wastelander returned her smile; he hadn't had been to the Parlor in years himself.
"Ice cream it is."
Sig read and reread the hanging menu in disbelief. Vanilla, Chocolate and Strawberry were the only flavors listed. His favorite flavor, Rocky Road, was gone. Apparently the store, nestled in a prime location on a corner right by the edge of the bay, had lost most of its business and was cutting back on its losses…by cutting flavors. The Parlor had once boasted some thirty delicious home-churned and exotic flavors, but had dropped them all to a meager three. Oh well, strawberry had been his second favorite.
He stepped up to the counter and extracted a bill that could not be exchanged for anything less than numerous hundreds of singles.
"I'll take a strawberry, double scoop. What flavor ice cream do you want?" Sig asked the girl next to him as the man behind the counter took the money and blinked several times. Rayn studied the sign then looked unflinchingly at Sig.
Sig glanced again at the sign; none of its three flavors had changed. He looked back at the girl, whose expression had not faltered. Those amber eyes could never have been more serious, so far as he knew.
He cleared his throat uncomfortably. He did not want to see those eyes look up at him sadly again.
"Ah, hun, they only have the three flavors up there on the sign. So how about a vanilla ice cream cone?"
"But, key lime is my favorite." She said, the corners of her mouth frowning slightly; the frilly tresses of hair swirling behind her as she spoke. "My father will be so unhappy to hear about this."
Sig half-shrugged rather helplessly, anxious of how this unfortunate circumstance would effect him as well. "Well I'm sorry, but they only have vanilla, chocolate, and straw—"
Suddenly, a green colored ice cream on a sugar cone was thrust at Sig's face.
"Here you are, sir, one key lime ice cream. And here is your strawberry ice cream and change, have a nice day!" Rayn happily accepted her ice cream as Sig stupidly accepted the change in one hand and his own strawberry cone in the other. "Please enjoy your ice cream little miss! Good-bye!"
Rayn was already walking toward the exit as she licked at the dessert, while Sig had to be pushed and prodded outside. The glass door behind them slammed shut as the owner turned the sign over to read "Closed" and he quickly went about shutting the drapes. Dumbfounded at these barbaric actions, Sig had begun to understand how the business was crumbling, until his thoughts caught up with him. Rayn, where was Rayn?
He spun around until he spotted her walking toward the water's edge. Striding quickly after her, he heard a few children walking with their parents and asking how that girl had gotten a green ice cream treat, only to be harshly shushed by their mothers.
Rayn was comfortably seated at the water's edge when Sig came up, swinging her legs over the metal edging. He hovered behind her for a moment, trying to organize his thoughts.
Did this girl even realize the power she possessed? The people of the town knew who she was, even if she was not in the company of her robust father, nor a regular citizen herself. These people, as the ice cream vendor proved, were ready to fall over themselves to give this girl what she wanted, for fear what her father would do if she were to be disappointed. The conversation about the chauffer ride popped into Sig's mind. She had asked in a most unimposing manner, but the threat behind the inquiry, indirect or otherwise, was there. Sig numbly wondered if he could have had his Rocky Road after all.
The Wastelander shook his head and moved to sit next to his charge. He grunted as he squatted and kicked his own legs out over the edge.
"How is it?" he asked. She looked up at him and smiled.
"It's very good." She bit into the cone and spoke again around the mouthful. "Houfs yerfs?"
They lapsed into silence.
"So, where do you go to school at?"
Rayn licked at the key lime and swallowed, as though delaying the answer on purpose. "The Prestige Academy for Girls."
Sig nearly fumbled his ice cream cone into the water.
"Isn't that the really expensive school that only accepts the smartest, most talented girl's in the country?"
Rayn nodded, decidedly indifferent about the whole matter as she took another bite out of the cone and crunched away at it.
"Wow." Sig looked over to her, impressed. "What grade did you say you were in?"
"Seventh. I'm actually ahead two years." She shrugged. "My father expects me to be finished with the college when I'm twenty." The deadpan of her accented voice struck Sig.
"Do you like your school?"
Rayn suddenly looked over at him and smiled, as though trying to cover for her immediate disapproval of the boarding school. "Oh yes, but it can get very lonely. I don't have too many friends." She stopped eating her ice cream to look into the water.
"Oh." Sig was at a loss of words. However, Rayn was not finished with her sentiment.
"My mother used to attend the Academy. I see her name a lot on the plaques in the halls and the professors that knew her say I look just like her." She giggled shyly and glanced away from Sig, though he could see a pink blush creep across her cheek. "There's a lot of expectation for me to do well." A pause as she licked at the dessert again. "My father said he met my mother at a graduation fete the Academy held in the gardens on school campus. They were all having such a good time when it started to rain on them. So my father and my mother both ran to a secret grotto only she knew about and they stayed there until the sky cleared up. That was the first evening they spent together, back when my father was still young and had 'all the girl's chasing after him.'" She laughed, pausing to attend the melting sides of her ice cream. Sig didn't dare intervene. She took another refreshing lick and continued. "So that's what my mother named me when I was born; Rayn, after the rain that had brought them together." Rayn's smile faded as she leaned forward; her eyes glazing over. "But then she died not too long after. She was shot by another crime family..." She trailed off and did not continue.
Sig didn't know what to do at that point. Did he apologize? He generally frowned on that, it's not like it was his fault she didn't have any friends at that snooty school or what had befallen her mother, but he felt he should comfort her. Maybe a pat on her shoulder? But then people would see and that would complicate matters far beyond his control. Krew would saw off the arm that touched his daughter. Perhaps just a kind word then? Eh, he generally wasn't very good at giving his condolences. The words would get all jumbled and come out wrong—he just wasn't the type. What to do…
"Your ice cream is melting."
Snapping back into reality, Sig glanced at Rayn, who was staring fixedly at the hand that held his ice cream; he looked too. It was coated in a liquid pink goop. He grunted his surprise and licked quickly at his knuckles, to little avail, but it got Rayn to smile more brightly as she laughed. He glanced over at her and laughed himself.
"So is yours!"
Rayn stared at her hand to see several rolling, greenish-liquid lines slipping dangerously toward her hand. She gasped and made a heroic effort to lap the cone clean. She cheered in delight at her success, and though Sig's hand was wet, sticky and pink, he whooped too.
The pair of them lapsed into another silence as they stared out over the water; Rayn was down to the last bite of her dessert, while Sig was still trying to salvage what was left of his strawberry cone by chewing quickly and weathering the painful brain freezes.
"How did you get that trophy?" Rayn asked, staring curiously at the skull on Sig's shoulder after having finished her ice cream. He smiled to himself, finally a subject he was familiar with.
"Well, your Dad sent me out on a mission to claim a few more trophies for him to hang in the saloon, and the best spot to catch the deadliest Metal Heads are at the pumping station outside of town…"
Sig launched into his story of taking out four nasty Metal Heads in a single afternoon and how one had gotten close enough to take his arm. He went through all the motions, animating his aiming technique and swinging around when an imaginary Metal Head caught him by surprise. Rayn proved to be a rapt audience about this adventure and gasped in all the right places.
"I kept this one here," Sig shrugged the shoulder that had the skull on it; "to show all those other Metal Heads they can't catch me by surprise." Rayn exhaled in awe, her amber gaze had shifted from shrewdly analytical to admiration. Sig grinned proudly at the accomplishment.
"You weren't scared?" she asked.
"Nope. Those Metal Heads can try and creep up on me, but I know their tricks."
She smoothed a wrinkle out of her top and gently tugged it back into place. "You're very brave. I'm glad my father chose you to take care of me."
The man rubbed at the back of his neck with one hand and shrugged.
"It's no problem."
Rayn smiled shyly up at him. Sig cleared his throat in the short silence that followed.
"What else would you like to do today?" he asked as he shoveled the last bit of cone into his mouth. The girl raised her shoulders and shook her head.
"My father usually takes us to whatever events are being held the week I visit, but I haven't been here for a full year. I don't know what's going on."
Sig thought a moment then snapped his fingers.
"There's supposed to be a race this afternoon, do you wanna go see that?"
Rayn's face lit up.
"Oh, could we?"
The pair of them stood up and began the trek back to the Hip Hog Saloon to make arrangements, walking by the now closed ice cream parlor which Sig only glanced at once in passing and decided not to brood on it any longer.
The crime boss's daughter was positively ecstatic about being at the track, as she clapped her hands together and studied the stat boards that littered the noisy, cramped lobby. Sig was having a little bit of trouble staying close to the girl as she slipped easily through the crowd, while his build made it much more difficult for him to pass. He started to elbow people out of his way and, ignoring the disgruntled stares that followed him, he trailed his charge through the thriving mass.
"Oh, I hope Clancier wins!" she shouted over her shoulder, nearly clear of the mob. "He has the best looking car of the bunch! Hurry up!" the girl paused by a less trafficked entryway which were lined with armed guards. Sig was almost sure, by the stance of the guards, that Rayn could have passed by without question, but they would have shot Sig if he strayed another three feet closer. They had already shoved off a couple of lost spectators with curt words and ready weapons. Sig cautiously walked up to join Rayn.
"This is the private sector, no pedestrian's allowed." the guard on the left snarled harshly, but Sig carefully handed over the receipts for the insanely priced tickets he had just purchased. Rayn had insisted they get the private seats, as her father always did. It did take a chunk of money, but there was still an entire roll left in Sig's other pocket. Truth be told, they were choice seats; reserved usually for only the most wealthy and successful of Haven City. The guard took several moments to study the tickets, disbelieving this dark-skinned laborer had secured such seats. The stubs were reluctantly handed back to the Wastelander. "Enjoy the show, miss." The guard spoke to the girl and said nothing more. Rayn thanked him and continued on as though nothing out of the ordinary had transpired.
"Come on, Sig! I haven't been here in so long…"
Her energy was infecting him enough to forget the reluctant guards at the gate, as he strode forward in a contained excitement. He may have been Krew's heavy, but he was still a young adult that loved the races as much as the next guy.
They found their seats; individual lounge chairs, fully padded and outrageously comfortable compared to the rest of the public stands of the arena—they settled back into them. It was not long before a smiling caterer came around with a tray of delectable fruits, pastries, and drinks—all free. Sig was hesitant at first, spying a potential enemy where the girl did not; but Rayn, obviously accustomed to this type of treatment, readily accepted an exotic looking fruit (she claimed to be her favorite), a tall glass of sparkling cider, and a flaky, cinnamon smelling, icing-covered pastry. Sig nudged at her jokingly, saying that all of these desserts would spoil her appetite before dinner, but she only smiled deviously up at him. Sig accepted another dessert himself and a goblet of wine. The caterer wished them both an enjoyable show and hoped they would choose an entrée meal later and bowed slightly before moving off.
The foodstuffs were not long lived as the both of them gobbled the pastries and only the drinks remained as the race began. Rayn sat up in her seat the instant the lights began counting down to start.
"You call that a start?" she shouted as her chosen fell behind when the green light flashed on. "What, has your leg gone numb? Get those wheels rollin'—push on that accelerator pedal!"
Sig was startled to say the least, this prim and proper young lady he had been introduced to had changed into a hooting, waving, rambunctious wild child at the track.
"Hug the corner, ya tart!" she yelled. "Pass him on the inside—the inside!" She shrieked along with the rest of the crowd as yet another racer passed Clancier.
Sig mildly wondered if the girl's sparkling cider was spiked, as she slumped back into her chair in frustration.
"He has the most gorgeous car of the lot, but he can't drive worth his salt. Just makes you want to get out there and race yourself, doesn't it? If he would only hug that second turn and power slide into the third, he would leave the other racers high and dry!" she groaned and covered her eyes in one hand. Sig had noticed that trick of the track and he found himself impressed with her once again. She shot forward in her seat as a cry rose up through the crowd. One of the racers had just careened headlong into a wall and car and driver had gone up in flames, giving Clancier the lead. The people began screaming their delight at the explosion and standing from their seats whooping and yelling.
"Brutal sport, isn't it?" Rayn smiled at Sig. "I hear the next popular racing series will be a sort of demolition, combat type racing. What do you think?"
"I believe it." Sig agreed, but was too caught up in the race now to pay proper attention. Rayn smiled in understanding and gave her own full attention to the track as now the both of them shared their shouted advice to the racers.
The end of the race saw Clancier as the winner and many fans cheering in the stands, Rayn and Sig among them. The event continued with a few other smaller races; Sig and Rayn devoured their mouthwateringly fresh steak dinners that were cooked to tender perfection as they enthusiastically discussed who would win the next event. Sig had never enjoyed a meal and race so well that day (not to mention such prime seats!).
The event finished by sunset and the people exited the arena, flushed from the race and excited for the next big race later that week. At one point, the young man was elbowed by a fanatical man that clasped at a gambling ticket with both hands. Sig wanted to tell the upstart off, but stopped as he recognized the red hair and black racing insignia on his shirt—he was one of the people Sig had been careful to elbow hard to stop eyeing Rayn after she had shouted her hopes for Clancier. Now that Sig thought of it, many of the people there had looked at the crime boss's daughter when she shouted…and now many people were lining up to collect their winnings.
"Sig!" Rayn called, somehow already through the crowd and at the exit. He couldn't take his eyes off her for two seconds or she would slip right past him. The Wastelander caught up to her once more and escorted her out, his mind buzzing. This girl was beginning to unnerve him.
Rayn animatedly went over the events of the race in detail; naming favorite bits and the best cut away's—even the most grisly explosions.
"That was the most fun I've had in months!" Rayn clapped her hands together. "I wonder if I can ask dad to get me a racing car…"
Sig mentally shook his head from his thoughts and laughed. "You gonna start an early racing career?"
Rayn leapt ahead of him and stopped, hands on her hips. "You don't think I can?"
The Wastelander shrugged. "I don't think your dad would like it."
Rayn glanced to one side, this sentiment was all too plausible, but she looked back up at him deviously anyway. "I bet I could race—and I would beat all the boys!"
They both laughed together and Sig could not stop from clapping the girl's shoulder. She was all right. She grinned up at him, the widest smile he had seen yet to grace her features. They walked side by side back to the saloon.
The remainder of the night was spent over a board game in which Rayn slaughtered him mercilessly and he relinquished to the girl's obvious intellectual prowess and shooed her off to bed, her giggling at her victories all the way. He stayed awake all night, ensuring that Krew's bar and daughter were safe until morning came and everything generally returned to normal. Krew returned, demanding for his daughter and anxious on her behalf, but she was positively radiant that morning and he took his daughter out for all of that day, she waving happily to Sig before they left. He smiled and returned the wave and was out as soon as the door closed. His boss's daughter could be quite a handful. As he put his head down for a short nap, he noticed a little note sitting at his elbow. He picked up the paper and read the tidy, curly print; a smile pressed into one corner of his mouth.
Let's go out for ice cream again soon.
Sig remembered that he never got the chance to take the girl out for another cone as Krew was entirely selfish about his daughter for the remainder of her stay. She never complained about the attention and she was whisked back to school before long. Krew rode a wave a contentment that lasted a few days after her departure, but was back to being nasty in no time at all.
The Wastelander faintly wondered if she knew how her father's death had come to pass.
Sig shook off the memory and was attentive to the story Rayn had been telling for the last few words of it, before she turned to him expectantly; most likely for approval that she had all of the facts straight.
"I hope I wasn't too difficult to handle." The woman smiled, a faint hint of her devious youth glinted in her eyes.
"Aw, you weren't so bad to baby-sit, Rayn." Sig waved with one hand.
Rayn smiled over at him. "Well, you did make that day rather enjoyable."
Sig crossed his arms over his chest and stood up straight. "All in the line of duty." Rayn laughed.
"Hey guys, there's been an announcement for all the racers, you have to come see this." Jak said from the doorway to the garage, making sure all had heard him. He looked once at how close Sig and Rayn stood together and gave Sig a questioning glance, before he disappeared back into the garage and everyone rose to see what the matter was about. Sig did not miss the way Rayn had smiled after Jak and he realized his young friend had never confessed to the girl. Did he even plan on coming clean? Still, it was not Sig's place to intervene, Jak would just have to tell her when he was ready…she deserved to know the truth—no matter how ugly.
"Anybody there?" a hand waved in front of his eyes and he glanced at a smiling Rayn. He returned the smile as he had those many years ago. "Well, we will be heading to Haven City soon for the next few races…and I believe you owe me an ice cream."
Sig grinned and folded his arms over his chest.
"Key lime, right?"
She beamed up at him, that same wide smile he had seen on her as a child, and, to Sig's surprise, linked her arm around his.
"Precisely the one."
Author's Note: The idea popped into my head the instant Sig walked in during Jak X and I couldn't resist writing a scenario where Sig would have to babysit. Originally, I wanted Rayn to be eight years old and Sig twenty-four, but I checked the stats and found they were only eight years apart, so Rayn had to come up in age and Sig down. I DID have to rework some of my story to fit a younger Sig there, but the grand design came together how I wanted it to. What really got this story going for me was a flavor of the month at a custard shop: Key Lime. I was thinking, "YES! That's exactly the ice cream Rayn would like! It's green; she likes green." and boom, I had my fic. Could have used Pistachio too I suppose, but key lime found me first.
I realize I took some liberties with this story--the grade system for Rayn's school, ice cream itself, and the use of cars on the track in Haven City as opposed to those hover bikes like in Jak II--it's weird now that I think of it. Why go from hover vehicles back to ground ones? Ah well.
Ha, I actually went back to Jak II to do some research on Krew (i.e rewatching cutscenes) and realized just how often Rayn "quoted" her father. It was most fun.
Anyway, thanks to all who read the story and I would love to hear some reviews from ya folks!