Summary: It had been a surprise for Torn when the Ottsel came back to Headquarters … alone. It was also a surprise that he decided to care at all. No pairings.

Disclaimer: If only, if only, the plot bunny sings.

Rating: Teen

A Shoulder to Lean On

---

Of a king and his loyal lords

He rules them with a pointed sword

And they always fight his worrying wars

Though it is in dismay

Once in a while, day to day

A horse comes back without its rider

So the king must transpire

Rise from his throne and take the reins

New is the day, the King must say

Then he leads the horse away

---

"Ehag!" cried Daxter as he barely had time to dodge the knife that Torn had just thrown at him. "Jak, save me."

The rodent then proceeded to rush in his companion's direction, jumping onto the warrior's shoulder with the grace of a fruit bat. He then poked his tongue out at the Underground Leader as if mocking the ex-Krimzon Guard's stance in the Underground and all his power. Torn merely growled, and slowly, redirected his attention to the youth; he knew it was a useless vendetta to follow up on his threat to the rodent, Jak was one of his finest men and it was best to keep him in good graces. If that meant putting up with Daxter, so be it, but Torn had silently promised himself that if the ottsel was ever left in the barracks alone … well, he might just have a new hat.

"I take it the mission was successful," said Torn as he placed his hands back on his table, his eyes traveling over the map before him.

"Those KG didn't even know what hit them," said Jak with a tint of coldness in his voice. In truth, Jak liked dealing with Metal Heads over the Baron's guards, but as Samos had told him early on, sometimes you have to sacrifice a few for the good of the many. No matter how badly Jak didn't want to admit it, that innocent boy from Sandover was still deep in his chest, dying with ever pair of dulled dead eyes that would stare up at him.

Torn merely nodded his head, already knowing that was going to be the boy's answer. Jak never failed a mission. Never, but the elf was rather hard to get a hold of from time to time though, so he couldn't send the boy on all the missions he'd like to send him on. Apparently, according to some of the other Underground members that wander the streets unnoticed, Jak was quite popular. He did favors or jobs for pretty much anyone who was gutsy enough to ask. Well, since the teen was still standing before him, patient as a statute, it seemed that he didn't have any favors or jobs to fulfill for today. Perfect, it wasn't a big job he had in mind, but Torn didn't have anyone free that was experienced enough to go wandering around outside of the walls of Haven.

"You want to go play with some Metal Heads, Jak?" asked the Underground tactician as he stood up and crossed his arms over his chest.

Jak gave him that look that said, 'What do you think?'

"Good, now remember when you went out and opened the water to the slums," said the older man, his voice cracking in its usual manner. "Well, I sent one of my men out to make sure the Baron couldn't pull that little stunt again.; plus the idiot wanted to get some samples or something. Anyway, I got a distress call from him a few minutes ago, him rambling something about a huge Metal Head. So, he's stuck up there, trapped by some type of quote, 'monster with tentacles'."

"Yah, got it," said Jak, not even giving the mission a second thought as he headed for the stairs, Daxter chiming in his ear.

"Let's grab some soy sauce before we hit the outer walls, I have a feeling we're going to need it," said the Ottsel with a tint of jokery in his voice.

Torn could only shake his head at the vermin's strange definition of humor. Perhaps one day he'd ask Jak who taught that thing how to talk so he could shoot them, because with Jak's lack of a sense of humor, it sure wasn't him.

XXX

Daxter leaned forward on Jak's shoulder, his little body waving into each step in order to keep balance on his perch. He could feel his heart racing. Not with anticipation of the fight, but with a soft ache. It was just something that Daxter always felt whenever they would go outside the city walls to fight Metal Heads. It didn't hurt per say, but whenever Jak would scrounge up some dark eco from a downed Metal Head, Daxter's body seemed to pace in tune with the dark powers that were and would become Dark Jak.

Yet, despite this strange feeling, Daxter found no true reason to state his weariness when fighting outside the walls. Personally, if it were up to him, he'd rather watched Jak hand a few Krimson Guards their asses, but he wouldn't ask such a thing of his long time companion. When the eco channeler was out in the oozing wilderness, he didn't have to hold back, didn't have to worry about his actions or how hard to hit, and he didn't have to worry about Dark Jak's actions.

Yah, then there was Dark Jak. At first, the ottsel hadn't thought much of the hero's new 'addition'. To him it had seemed little more than a flashy new toy to play with. Daxter was sad to admit he was wrong. Dark Jak … Dark Jak was kind of his own being, yet he was Jak, which was okay to a part. The body borrower didn't seem to mind Daxter at all and that was fine with him, but that was when the ache started. It started the first time Jak transformed into Dark Jak. In the beginning, the ottsel ignored it. It wasn't 'really' hurting him and it would be a huge inconvenience, not to mention hazardous, if Daxter were to jump from his perch whenever Dark Jak decided to let himself be known.

So, over the weeks, the ottsel just let it be. That is until recently. Now, the ache seemed to be a pounding and Daxter found himself 'feeling' whenever Dark Jak wanted out. He truly felt it. Then there was the behavior of the intruder. Initially, Jak's other half didn't think much of the ottsel on his shoulder, it was as if Daxter was just body art. Then, as the feeling grew, one day the ottsel noticed that the beast hadn't play with his kill as long as he usually did. He had stopped just so he could 'pet' Daxter on the head, scratching behind one of his ears with his long nail as if rewarding the ottsel for something. Not that Daxter felt very rewarded, he had been scared out of his mind when the bulky beast had halted in his killings, standing still for a moment just so he could bring up one of those clawed hands, dark eco jumping everywhere, to scratch behind Daxter's ear before he returned to just Jak. Now Jak never truly recalled much when he was transformed and was quiet surprised when he saw the expression on his pal's face. He had even asked what was wrong.

Well, what was wrong? Dark Jak scratched behind his ear. He didn't draw blood, didn't growl at him, didn't throw him off, and didn't do anything that would be considered threatening. So Daxter, not wanting to worry his companion, said nothing. For a time, he even forgot about the strange reaction, until they went outside Haven's walls.

It had been the usual Metal Head ambush, the freaking monsters coming from everywhere. Yet, as luck would have it, before Jak even noticed he was getting low on ammo, Daxter felt Dark Jak coming on. It was the usual escapade after that, purple lightening exploding over Jak's form, his body violently taking a new shape, and Daxter's heart suddenly falling in tune with … the dark eco pumping through Jak's veins.

The battle didn't last long. In fact, it was almost sad how easy it was for Dark Jak to strike out with a single blow and take out half of the Metal Head ambush. Then, as soon as the last beast fell, its dark eco flying into Jak's form, Dark Jak didn't disappear like he usually did when all the enemies were gone or beheaded. He merely stood there, staring at the metallic tiling of the sewer floors as water dripped somewhere in the distance. Subsequently, before Daxter could even twitch, he noticed that those dark orbs were turned towards him, his form reflecting in those dark pools. For a second Daxter considered making a run for it, but before he could even move a leg, a clawed hand plucked him from his roost. The next thing he knew, Dark Jak was sitting on the damp floor, crossed legged, and using his thumb to try and wipe some grime that was sticking to the side of Daxter's cheek. The ottsel merely remained still, uncertain if he should even breathe. Yet, Dark Jak must have caught on to the ottsel's nervousness and started to scratch behind Daxter's ear. Slowly, despite himself, Daxter found himself leaning into it. True, he was not a true ottsel, but he still had the body of one and it felt nice. In fact, he was almost sad when the scratching stopped, making him look upward.

For a moment, as if time had decided to bury itself into the present, he saw Jak. Not the Jak that had been born from experiments in the Baron's prison, but the Jak from Sandover. It was the Jak without a voice, but a much happier Jak in a much happier time. True, Dark Jak didn't look like the youth of the past, but his smile, despite the shark-like teeth, as a smile the mute Jak used to say so many things with. Yet, before Daxter could even think of re-introducing himself to the mute body language Jak had once used and decipher what Dark Jak had just said with that grin, he found himself being plucked and put back on Jak's shoulder.

Without even a tint of warning, normal Jak blinked once, staring at the confused expression that had been on Daxter's face before asking, "What's wrong Dax?"

"You don't remember?"

"Remember what?" said Jak, truly uncertain of what had just proceeded.

"Daxter?"

The little ottsel almost fell off of his roost when his mind was suddenly dragged back to the present. The boy-turned-pet blinked once at the face was now staring at him. It was Jak yet it wasn't Jak and could never be the Jak from Sandover.

"Is something wrong? You've been quiet for a while now?" said Jak as he stood near the door that led outside the 'safety' of Haven, watching as its gears clicked into place.

For a moment, Daxter was silent. His mind wanted to say something cocky or witty, but for some reason he didn't feel like smiling. He didn't want to be the only one smiling anymore.

"Just thinking, Jak. I'll tell you about it later," said Daxter, uncertain if he even had the guts to actually say anything at all. Maybe if Dark Jak did it again, maybe.

Jak merely smiled at his partner, shaking his head before the morning light bathed the two heroes as the doors opened to the outlands of the world, all it's nightmares included.

XXX

Jak shook his head as he stared down at the crumpled mass of elf hiding amongst the pipes. The hero generally didn't pay much attention to the other Underground members being that he was not a team player, but this fellow had caught his attention. No, it wasn't because he was some type of robust hero or twitchy genius, it was because he had been adorn in a Krimzon guard uniform. After tackling the guy and nearly taking off his head, Torn had managed to pull Jak off the stunned double agent. Diaz was his name and leaking information was his game.

Personally, Jak could have cared less after that. That is, until, Diaz had offered to buy his 'pet' ottsel from him. Apparently, he worked in the science division of the KG forces. That, in itself, was more than enough reason to hate him, but offering to buy Dax almost made Jak shoot him.

Now, it wasn't that Jak blamed anyone for calling Daxter a pet, because his childhood friend did look like one. It was just that every time someone said that, there was a silent taste of guilt on his tongue. He had promised Daxter that he'd help him get back to normal, even though that had merely been a nod of his head and a smile back then, but it had been about three years since then and Daxter was still an Ottsel; probably would forever be one too. It was just something Jak didn't like to think about so it had stung deeply for this madman to ask for his 'pet'.

It is easy to say that Torn wasn't very happy after Jak punched the guy in the face, but what would he understand. The ex-KG thought Daxter was little more than a glorified pet that had somehow learned to speak.

"Huh, so it's you?" said Jak as he placed his gun back in it holster, coming to a halt in the waste-lands of the pumping station, dust settling at his feet.

The scientist pulled up his face mask to properly show his displeasure as well.

"Tuh, I would have rather waited for Jinx … even though he was going to be gone for the next two days," grumbled Diaz as he pulled himself from his hiding spot amongst the pipes. He'd hate to look cowardly, but he was a scientist first and foremost. He was the guy a unit dragged around to fix some broken tech or ask for the quickest way to kill a particular Metal Head, not to personally kill the Metal Head.

"Well, the feeling's mutual," added Jak as his eyes swept the landscape lazily. "So, where's this 'horrible' monster?"

The man nearly retreated back into his hiding spot as a whine emitted from his throat. He had been fascinated by it at first, its many long limbs reaching up from the waters as if trying to grasp the heavens with its huge sucker. But that amazed feeling was short lived when he realized just how dangerous it really was.

"You didn't see it? It's been practically guarding the way down," said the scientific biologist as he took a step forward, glancing behind Jak, his face gaining a dejected look. "But … they probably scared it away."

Jak glanced over his should in an irritated manner, Daxter yipping as he looked as well. It was a small ambush that much was for certain. With a swift, accurate move, Jak pulled his gun from his holster and gave Diaz an annoyed look.

"I'll take care of this," said Jak, a thin stream of purple electricity running up his form and making a crown around his head for a split second. "You get back to Haven. What little Metal Heads that were in the way are gone now."

Diaz gave the elf before him a look, saying, "Is there something wrong with your head? You think you can take on all these Metal Heads by yourself? Just because I'm a scientist before a soldier doesn't mean I'm not a sold-"

"Now," came a low growl from Jak as Dark eyes turned in the direction of his unwanted company, electricity starting to jump around his form in a more noticeable manner.

"Kay," said the Biologist as he jumped down to the nearest ledge, his hands shaking as he took off running. He wasn't running because of the other's threat … his scanners had been picking up large amounts of dark eco. Was this boy, could he be, was it possible … was he the Baron's escaped lab rat? Well, one thing was for certain, Diaz was ecstatic. Observing the boy would be far more entertaining than trying to obtain the rare ottsel specimen.

Jak merely growled in contentment, his fingers twitching with what could be called little more than excitement. Daxter merely crouched down on his perch. He had known this was coming the moment Jak stepped out of the doors, Dark Jak all but howled in demand, in want, in lust, to be allowed out. Jak rarely, if ever, released him within the walls of Haven, so that was why the beast inside was all but clawing at Jak's skin. It wanted out so badly and Daxter could feel it. He didn't even twitch when Dark Jak was born into the morning air, his claws raining down before his feet barely had time to change.

Soon there was a squeal and a spray of black blood as one Metal Head went down. Another fell afterward, followed by another and another. Daxter merely pulled his ears back, drowning out the sound of passing souls. It would end soon enough, Dark Jak's lust for blood and eco would be filled and he would pass like so many times before. That way Daxter wouldn't have to think about that innocent smile, young Jak's smile.

It seemed he wouldn't be allowed such folly today, Dark Jak had suddenly stilled. Daxter nearly jumped out of his skin when Dark Jak rubbed his head against his small furry body, a purr echoing in the beast's throat. It was easy to say that Daxter's heart skipped a beat, falling out of tune with the dark eco rushing through Jak's body. Dark Jak couldn't help but cock his head in confusion, his hand reaching out and plucking the ottsel away from his shoulder. For a moment, those dark orbs stared at the furry companion as if the dark creature was confused. A soft humming came from Dark Jak's throat and he brought a clawed finger forward, using it to force the ottsel to look at him.

Daxter felt an eternal shame rise in his chest as he stared at that confused, almost mute Jak expression on Dark Jak's face. He wanted to hate this beast before him, not for being a cold blood murderer, not for being voiceless, not for having young Jak's grin, not for anything but the fact that he was a reminder. A reminder and a punishment for being too slow and too stupid, for not getting Jak out of the Baron's prison fast enough. Jak rotted in there for two years … two years.

"Please don't smile at me. What are you thanking me for? For allowing you to be?" said Daxter, a coldness dripping in his voice. He had realized what that smile had meant now that he was getting a good look at it.

The smile dropped from the being's face for a moment and he flopped down on the ground, dandelion seeds and dust rising around his dark form. The eco-freak smiled again, placing Daxter on the ground so he could start ruffling the ottsel's fur in a childish manner, that mute smile returning.

Daxter signed, irritated. What was wrong with this beast? A moment ago he was cutting thought Metal Heads as if they were little more than tissue paper, and now he was petting him as if he were the cutest little buddy in the world. Despite himself, Daxter allowed his angry stance to sag, and he flopped down onto the earth, looking up at the strange beast before him. Dark Jak purred in his throat at Daxter's submissiveness and patted his head once more, electricity dancing thought the ottsel's fur. Dark Jak than moved his attention to that hard to reach spot between Daxter's shoulders with one of his dark nails, probably trying to get a grin out of his partner in crime. Despite himself, the Ottsel smiled.

"Yah know … maybe I won't tell Jak quite yet. He never scratches behind my ears or anything. He still sees me as his elf pal from Sandover. The truth is … I'm an ottsel and I'm an elf, aren't I?" asked Daxter, a sad tone roaming into his voice as he looked up to his mute companion for answers.

Dark Jak was still as if thinking, but then his smile dragged from ear to ear, dagger teeth gleaming in the morning sun.

Daxter sighed, "Either you have no idea what I was saying or you are mocking me."

Ignoring the rodent's angst, Dark Jak raised to his feet, the same cocking grin on his face. Yet as he started to reach for his partner, his fingers half wrapped around the fury being, something burst from the water's just beyond the cliff, spraying the two companions in polluted water. Just catching sight of what had risen from the waters, the huge tentacle just hanged there as if looking at its two guests. Dark Jak barely had time to growl in defiance, electricity jumping across his fingers, when the slimy limb lurched forward, warping itself around the dark being's waist. For an instant, Dark Jak merely stood there, staring at the thing around his waist in shock and accidently dropping Daxter in his surprise.

Yet, as it seems to be fate's cruel prank, the demon teen could not lash out and cut the limb from his mid section. Instead, the creature hidden still within the water, however huge it may be, gave a tug which caused the dark hero to be slammed face first into the dirt causing him to be momentarily disoriented. The last thing Daxter saw of his child hood friend was Dark Jak's surprised eyes, claws clutching to the edge of the earthly ledge, before he was drag down to the waters below. Not a sound was made, not a scream or cry, just a splash, a shivering cold splash.

XXX

Torn sat with his feet on his desk, the light from the lamp above dimmed. It was rare that he had free time to actually sit and clean his gun anymore. Generally, at times like these, he was on a mission, but ever since Jak had shown up there had been occasions for free time. In fact, way too much free time, maybe he should go out for the evening and steal Krimzon Cruisers. That would certainly piss off the Baron; especially after they'd find a few of them covered in graffiti saying that 'the Baron likes wearing women's panties'. Childish, yes; fun, most defiantly.

But, before the man could finalize that idea or not, he heard the soft hiss, the front door to the Underground Base opening. He reached for his gun automatically, but he wasn't really worried. It had been a few hours since Diaz had returned, and it was no doubt Jak following in the rear and looking for a place to sleep. It was not a rarity to find the young elf in one of the bunks from time to time. Torn had been wanting to ask if the teen had a place, but hadn't really been worried enough to ask. Jak seemed fed so what did it matter that he was sleeping at the base from time to time.

Strangely, there was not the usual sound of Jak's heavy, mud-covered boots coming down the stairs though. It was just a soft plopping noise like someone was dropping a soaking rag on each step. The elf's ear's tilted back slightly, now this was unusual. Slowly, despite himself, Torn found himself leaning forward in anticipation and a little dread. What could this be?

He got an answer rather quickly and the man couldn't help but lean back in his chair with a sigh while staring at the entering ottsel which looked like it had been half drowned in polluted eco water. It was just the rat.

Wait … just the rat? Now, that was unusual. Daxter knew Torn would kill him just for his annoy behavior alone, why would he come here with his bodyguard?

"Tuh, so it's you. Where's Jak?" said Torn raising his brow.

After a moment of stillness, the commander looked up again, slightly irritated. The rodent was still standing there, on the last step, his form half hidden in the darkness.

"Well, where's Jak? I don't have all night," said Torn as he rose from his desk to get a better look at the flea ball before him. But, he couldn't help but stall in his tracks when he heard what sounded like whimpering coming from the ottsel. The elf almost drew back in surprised. He had never even seen the rat reveal sadness in front of him, yet here he was, crying like a lost child as he stared at his feet.

"Daxter … where's Jak?"

XXX

Paw07: Dang, I don't know about you, but I love the idea of Dark Jak's affection towards the ottsel. Had to throw that in there for a little mystery before I killed our hero off. :3 You know, I know I should feel bad about doing Jak in, but for some reason I just can't. Anyway, drop a review if you like it; I know I won't be getting a lot of reviews being that this section has slowed down, but all reviews are welcome even constructive criticism.

Also, so there is no confusion. No, there will be no slash – maybe if you squint – but this is mostly a brotherly love/companion fic. If you asked me there just aren't enough of those kinds of fics on FF anymore.

Edit: Made some spelling corrections.