One Hand Clapping

Author's Note: Okaay, this is a bit embarrassing. I don't actually play any of the games, and yet I got hooked on the fandom.

Um. Yes. Anyway, this is just a prologue for a fic I'm writing, a little precursor drabble I wrote to get into the characters' heads - if anyone actually likes this, I do have more written.

Feel free to read and review even if you don't know anything about Jak and Daxter - it's certainly not preventing me from writing...

It wasn't often that Jak smiled.

That was perhaps the first thing anyone noticed about the man. Second if you counted the chattering, hyperactive orange thing that perched casually on his shoulder. And really, the latter fact only made it that much more obvious, because there's nothing quite like hearing someone (for whatever it was, the little animal was definitely a someone) tease and chuckle and joke to make one realize that no one is laughing along.

(What is the sound of one hand clapping, after all?)

And then one noticed more - the dark, violent look in the blue eyes, that creeping feeling of vengeful potential, as if something would in a moment turn loose… the handsome face, drawn peculiarly tight, much too harshly for the lack of wrinkles adorning it...

And then, depending on the person, they would feel either intimidated, challenged, completely and utterly vexed… or safe.

(Needless to say, though, there weren't too many of the latter - at least not among those who didn't know him well, those who saw the hero of Haven as a ticking time bomb, a weapon, and even as they were glad to have it on their side they were scared as hell that it would someday turn on them.)

But even as this is subconsciously observed... if one took the time and didn't look away, if one wasn't just a bystander but actually spent time in his company… one could almost forget this side of Jak. Oh, the boy's dangerous, certainly – silent strength leaks from every pore – but at the same time, he no longer seems so gruff, so aloof, so utterly revolted by the world.

This was not because of anything special Jak does; indeed, he could care less what anyone thought of him, so long as they didn't stand in his way or threaten something he cares for. He has a sense of humor, sure, cynical and ironic though it may be, and he is just as content with not speaking as with speaking – more, even, considering he'd spent most of his life a happy mute. He isn't specifically cruel, and there is definitely a heroic side to him that people admire – but only those close to him or especially observant could see that.

But really, the main reason for this was Daxter.

Daxter, the chattering, hyperactive orange companion of Jak's who everyone loved to dislike and yet couldn't imagine a world – much less Jak – without.

It inadvertently put the hero in a brighter light; inevitably, it led one to either concede to a grudging admiration for anyone who had to put up with the infuriatingly mouthy, loud, cowardly ottsel, or to pity him for the exact same reason - never mind that there didn't seem to be a reason for the little animal's presence in the first place, and Jak didn't seem to be affected or adverse to its company in the slightest.

For Daxter was, simply put, a presence. He seemed to have no compunction whatsoever to run off his little mouth no matter the circumstance, no matter the hour, tactless and ridiculous and flirty and just so goddamned irritating that it was impossible to take him seriously. When one looks to Jak, their attention is inadvertently drawn to Daxter, if only to glare at him and mention that fur was in this season, and they'd been meaning to get a new lining for their coat.

Jak didn't mind, or perhaps a better way to put it was that he didn't care; two years is a long time and he hated being under the spotlight. Daxter, unusually observant in this matter, saw how his presence affected the way people saw his friend, and made even more of an effort to provoke the phenomenon. Not that he took the insults lying down – the ottsel gave as good as he got, nearly always managing to get in the last witty word.

They have a strange sort of connection – even after years together, years apart, both of them changing in appearance or personality (or both), they can still share a glance and know exactly what the other is thinking. It's in the rolling eyes, the lifted eyebrow, the twitch at the corner of their mouth, the set of the jaw; not even the fact that Jak can speak for himself now hinders them from somehow understanding each other completely.

That's what it seems like, at least. No secrets, no grudges, nothing on the surface indicates anything less than acceptance. It's as if Jak had always spoke, always been able to make verbal jabs back at Dax; it's as if the ottsel had always been there, always woken Jak up before the nightmares got too bad and the man woke up sweating and aching with remembered pain. The two years doesn't seem to perturb them in the least – it's as if they had their new roles etched into their souls long before the innocent boys from Sandover had even imagined that anything could happen to them.

Anything, like two years of separation.

Of prison.


Anything, like a smiling mute becoming a hardened, bitter young man. Like an orange furball becoming Jak's one link to sanity.

Like hardships.

Like change.

...Yet always, at least one thing remained the same.

Whether a boy or a man, whenever Jak did smile… it was because of Daxter.