Happy Hour, Take 2

"- owning one's always been a dream of mine, you know."

The words brought Jak down to earth, and he realized that Daxter'd been talking while he'd been brooding. He felt slightly guilty – well, not really, but enough so that it mattered. Too many people took Daxter's voice for granted and ignored it, and it really hadn't been all that long ago that Jak would have done anything to hear even a single word from his best friend. He remembered when they'd first met all those years ago, how delighted he had been to find someone who understood him – who listened when he couldn't utter a word – and how he'd then vowed to always return the favor and be equally as attentive.

That promise had faded over the years – he still listened, of course, more than anyone else did (though had this been about anyone but Daxter, it wouldn't have been an excuse) but he'd gradually realized that most of Dax's prattle was for both their comfort, not really meant to be responded to; as much as he could demand others to participate, Daxter never expected the same from him. And so, more often than not - especially now that he was out of Praxis' control - he would just let the soothing chatter wash over his mind and ease his anger and hurt.

Still, he liked to tune in once in a while. For once, they were alone - not exactly unusual, but it was rare that they had the time to just sit back and talk.

And so, Jak forced the grim thoughts out of his mind and paid attention to the ottsel's ramble.

…He didn't realize that that had been his friend's objective all along.

"Well, not always. Don't think they had any bars back in Sandover, place didn't even have indoor toilets – gotta tell you, big guy, that's the one thing I don't miss about home." He sipped a bit from his cup, spilling a bit unto his chin, and he wiped it away with the back of his paw. "...Precursors, those outhouses. Yuck. So friggin' uncomfortable, and they really started to stink after a couple of days without cleaning… an' ol' greenie kept making me do it all the time, that jerkwad." He shuddered. "But anyway, like I was saying, doubt there was anything like a bar back in the village. Though I'm positive old Samos had an alcohol fix stashed around somewhere." His eyes glittered contemplatively. "He did go to the back room after every time he'd tell me off… betcha he was trying to drown his frustrations. And I'm not talking green eco, either."

Jak raised an eyebrow.

"What?" he said defensively. "Ya gotta admit, Jak, the guy was a little unstable. Remember how he used to yell at me whenever anything bad happened? Didn't matter what or why, it was always 'go clean the barn!' and 'I hope you fall into a ditch someday, you brat!'. One time he even blamed me when the yakkows weren't giving milk!" he recalled indignantly. "Not the act of a sober man, my friend."

He toyed with balancing his chair on two legs. "Maybe that was because someone tied their tails together and frightened them to death?"

Daxter scoffed. "And who was it who let them loose in his hut afterwards, Jak? Huh? Tell me, 'cause I sure don't remember having anything to do with that one."

"Dax, that was you."

"Was not!" he objected.

"You knocked and told me to open the door."

He put down the mug and folded his arms stubbornly as he abruptly sat down, crosslegged. "But you didn't exactly refuse, did you now?"

Jak swiped his coffee mug back, ignored Dax's indignant yelp of "Hey, I was drinking that! Jak!!" and leaned even more into his seat, tipping the chair back dangerously and letting one arm hang limply at his side.

"And how was I to know you would bring in two yakkows into the house, Daxter?" he asked the ceiling, returning to the conversation.

"I dunno, maybe because you know me?" came the immediate, flat reply. Which made sense, really. "Besides, I told you the day before."

One hand lifted to scratch his head sheepishly as he remembered. "I didn't think you were serious."

Snort. "…And we've been friends for how long?"

"And anyway," Jak continued doggedly, "you sort of neglected to mention that you'd tie their tails together and make them insane and run through the village chasing you."

There was silence as he finished, and Jak raised his head to look at his friend in curiosity, realizing that he'd just spoken more than he'd ever had in the few months since their reunion, and wondering if his friend was having difficulty recovering from the shock.

But it appeared his friend had only been in his own little world, for he was smiling into space with a starry look in his eyes.

"…Okay, that was just brilliant improvisation on my part."

Jak snorted. "What was brilliant was how I managed to calm them down before they stomped you to death."

Dax made a dismissive gesture. "Don't be stupid, Jak. They wouldn't have touched me."

"Would that be because you were hanging from the ceiling and cowering for your life?"

"It's called strategic maneuvering – but then, you wouldn't recognize strategy if it crawled into your arms and called you asshole. Asshole."

Jak laughed.

The strange sound was still tickling his throat when he realized that it was the first time he'd laughed since falling into Haven.

He stopped awkwardly. Daxter would probably make fun of him for losing his 'badass routine' – as the ottsel liked to call Jak's newfound personality disorders – or stare at him and look away like anyone else would, uncomfortable with the possibility that the Dark Warrior might actually have a lighter, human side.

This is why he hated relaxing – if he wasn't careful, people might start to think he was safe. That they can push him around. And hell if he was going to go through that again.

...But it was just Daxter, he didn't want to be on his guard around Daxter… then again, the ottsel was only human inside, after all. Couldn't blame him if he acted like it.

…He shouldn't have worried.

"Face it big guy, plannin' ain't your strong suit. Mar's balls, Jak, you think fishin' for info means jumping into a regiment of Krimson Guards and askin' them if they'd heard any evil monologues lately." Dax shook his head sadly. "But that's where I come in. Yup, that's me, mister dashing street smarts, all cool and collected like – is there something funny, blondie?" he glared.

A hasty shake of the head, and he held a hand firmly against his mouth in an effort to stop himself from sniggering and cover his grin.

"Oh, I see. I know what's goin' through that li'l head of yours. Where wouldja be without ol' Daxter, you're thinking - am I right or am I right?" A confident grin, and a small hand rose to scratch casually at an itch under the goggles. "Jeesh, you'd think someone who can bulldoze his way through a buncha reds would take better care of himself…" He paused. "Then again, most normal people wouldn't be bulldozin' those creeps to begin with. Not all of us have a death wish, y'know, unlike SOME people I could mention."

Face settled back into its normal, proper expression, Jak took his hand off and rolled his eyes. A small invisible smile tugged at the corners of his mouth, and he couldn't believe he'd almost started to lump Dax with the rest of them.

As if Dax would ever act like everyone else.

…Mar, but it was nice to be taken for granted once in a while.

"Nope," the ottsel continued and leaned back, making himself comfortable against a large, ugly and sturdy black vase that was very ill placed on the table, "this ottsel ain't havin' none of that - once we stop the Baron an' all that jazz, I'm gonna own me one of those bars and fix up the angst mood in this town." He grinned and threw his arms up in the air, hands in a victory sign, crowing, "Happy hour every night, baby!"

The hero rolled his eyes.

Despite spending a great deal of his time in bars, Jak wasn't all that fond of them besides the occasional drink or two and the chance to obtain more information on his enemies. As senseless, mind-numbing activities go, he'd much rather go out to the wasteland and bash a couple of metalhead heads.

…Then again, when no onslaught of violence was nigh he didn't exactly protest an glass of scotch, or whatever passed for scotch in this shitty town. When it came down to it, Jak supposed he was really only reluctant because he knew that in the end he would have to pay Dax's tab as well. The little creature had unsurprisingly low tolerance, but once intoxicated he could drink the entire bar dry if not stopped in time.

Jak frowned, green eyebrows furrowing as he glanced at his little friend, still chattering enough for the both of them. Now that he thought about it, Daxter seemed rather too comfortable with bars - alcohol in general. When they'd first stepped into a bar together after escaping from Praxis' prison, the ottsel had hopped over to the counter, asked for 'something strong and manly for my boy here' and 'just a rum runner on the rocks for me, old man', as if he'd been going to bars all his life.

Which he hadn't; not in all the years Jak had known him, which was practically ever since baby-dom. He would have known.

Besides of which, Daxter was right – there was nothing like Hip Hog Haven in Sandover. Boggy Billy had offered them a taste once, but they'd politely refused (as politely as "heck no, get that nasty away from us!" could get, anyway), privately thinking that anything that Billy had to offer was something they probably didn't want to mess with in the first place.

"It tastes somethin' awful anyway," twelve-year-old Dax had whispered knowingly to a wide-eyed Jak later. "Ya don't wanna touch that stuff."

So that meant that something must have changed in the two years he'd been gone. Something drastic.

It wasn't that big a deal, really – they were old enough (world-weary enough) to do whatever they felt like, and he wasn't Samos or some kind of parent to criticize Dax for doing something he shouldn't, especially as he'd be a hypocrite for doing so.

But Precursors, he was curious. Because when you thought about it, it bloody made no sense.

Jak was a moody, broody, violent fighter who liked the occasional inebriating solution to his problems. But he had an excuse for being that way, thank you very much - and anyway it really wasn't his fault that the rebel headquarters happened to constantly send him to alcoholic establishments for missions. Okay? Not his fault. Hell, he wouldn't have cared if he'd had to go meet Krew in a tree house - though what kind of tree house could withstand Krew's weight, he couldn't even begin to imagine.

Maybe it was just this new world, or something to do with growing up… but that couldn't be all. This was Daxter. Perhaps once the ottsel had been the less sincere, less innocent of the two of them – but that universal truth had abruptly turned on its head. Now… things were veru different.

And because of that, it still didn't make the slightest bit of sense.

Dax was now the one that yet shone with the childhood innocence of Sandover. Despite everything his best friend ever said, glossed over or insinuated, he was barely any different from the boy who'd protested the journey to Misty Island, not because it was scary (well, not entirely), but because it was wrong, and they weren't supposed to.

Daxter… he'd seen hardships, witnessed things that would crop up in anyone's nightmares - but that's all he was, really. Just a witness.

Jak had suffered. Jak had things to forget, frustrations to drown, actions he was ashamed of, people he couldn't stand. Daxter… he hadn't even been touched by Praxis.

He hadn't been imprisoned. He didn't get pumped full of eco, didn't get-

…Fuck, he hadn't been tortured for two years, all right?

A/N: Hooray for Daxterian dialogue! Hopefully I didn't manage to screw it up too badly... Please tell me what you think! The reviews for last chapter were so amazingly uplifting, you guys get an extra-long update! Hope you liked!

Hmm, Jak's being kinda harsh, isn't he...