Disclaimer: I don't own anything. I'm just playing in Naughty Dog's sand box.

Summary: With the Krimzon Guard seemingly out for both their heads, Jak's idea of babysitting the kid was hiding in a ditch.


Escort the kid to Kor. Yeah, sure, easier said than done. Jak held his breath as he hid in the ditch, one hand covering the mouth of the terrified kid in his arms. Booted feet pounded on the planks overhead and men shouted out orders as sirens blared.

"Where is he?"

"I've lost sight of him!"

"Somebody search that warehouse over there!"

Beside them, Daxter huddled in the scant protection of a clump of tough grass, doing his best to hide the eye-catching orange of his fur. The fourth member of their party, the green and brown crocadog that belonged to the kid, stood stiffly with its hackles raised, but it thankfully didn't utter a sound. Someone must have trained it, because most crocadogs Jak had run into didn't hesitate to growl or bark at anything they didn't like.

The footsteps quieted and the voices of the Krimzon Guard began to fade away. Jak continued to hold still for several minutes afterward until there was nothing but the soft, plodding footsteps of weary Havenites and their occasional hushed conversation. Slowly letting out the breath he'd been holding, the teen eased up his hold on the kid. The boy wriggled a bit, then slid out of Jak's arms. That was fine with him. He'd need to have his arms free to get them out of the ditch.

But not just yet.

"Come on," he said, keeping his voice low. Without thinking, he reached down to take the kid's hand. In retrospect it was probably a good idea - the kid had a tendency to wander off - but Jak's brow furrowed anyway. The move hadn't been calculated. He'd just... done it.

The kid blinked up at him, and for a moment Jak felt a sense of deja vu. He blinked back. Weird.

"G'wan, you mangy mutt. You heard what Jak said." Daxter's irritated voice snapped Jak out of his thoughts and back to the situation at hand. The crocadog had planted its butt on the ground and was giving Daxter a grin full of teeth.

Despite the danger they were still in, Jak found himself grinning, too. "C'mon, boy," he called to the 'dog. "Let's go." As funny as it was to see his friend trying to face down an animal only a few inches shorter than him, now wasn't the time. They needed to get the kid to Kor. Then he'd tease Daxter about this.

The crocadog's ears perked up, then in another show of its training, it stood up and trotted after Jak. Satisfied, the teen began to pick his way across the rubble and pipes that filled the ditch, lifting the kid by the arm and hauling him over the larger obstacles that sometimes blocked their path. Daxter scrambled after them, then eventually jumped onto Jak's shoulder. The green-blond teen didn't even stumble under the sudden added weight. He was used to it, even with the two years they'd been separated from each other, and frankly he wouldn't have it any other way.

Once they reached the shallower end of the trench, he stopped and turned to pick the kid up, then lifted him up to the ledge. Without any prompting, the boy clambered out, never once making a sound besides slightly heavier breath. The crocadog went next, then Jak jumped up and hauled himself out. Quickly he scanned the area for any Krimzon Guards.

His eyes landed on a Hellcat cruiser sliding through the lanes of traffic.

"Damn!" With a curse that Samos would have blistered him for if he'd ever uttered it in Sandover, Jak grabbed the kid and dove back in the ditch - and not a moment too soon.

"This is a restricted area!" someone barked out over a loudspeaker. "Do not try to leave!" The low hum of the Hellcat shivered the air as it passed over them and turned.

But it didn't stop, which meant the driver hadn't seen them. Heart pounding in his chest, Jak released a shuddering breath. That had been close. Too close. In his arms, the kid whimpered and clutched at his shirt. They'd already had too many close calls, and they weren't even halfway there.

"...sweeping the area."

Somewhere not too far away, boots thudded on the ground and tinny voices grew a little louder. A cold tendril of dread wormed its way down his spine. Damn it, they were already coming back?

"Make sure you search thoroughly. The Baron wants that kid alive!"

Jak stilled at that piece of information - but what did it mean? Why would Praxis want the kid alive? Even if the kid was the heir to the city, like Samos thought he was, wouldn't Praxis want him dead so he couldn't pose a threat to the Baron's authority?

Ask later, he told himself sternly. Right now they had much bigger things to worry about - like not getting caught in the KG sweep. Slowly, carefully, he inched his way farther into the ditch and back to the bridge that crossed it. There was a small crevice in the wall of the ditch there. It wasn't much, but hopefully it would offer enough protection to get them through the sweep.

Unslinging his gun from his back and positioning it where it was easy to grab, Jak wedged himself and the boy as far back into the crack as they could go. Still on the teen's shoulder, Daxter twisted around to make himself as comfortable as he could in their new and cramped position. And the crocadog...

Jak frowned. Where was the crocadog? He hadn't seen it jump down from the ledge, but it wasn't there anymore. A dozen possibilities immediately cropped up, but Jak shook them all away. Not my problem, he thought gruffly. It'll have to take care of itself.

"For those that need a reminder, the suspect's description is..."

That voice was entirely too close for Jak's comfort, and he instinctively tightened his grip on the kid. The boy shuddered, as close to a sob as Jak had ever heard the kid make, but other than the soft, ragged breath, he stayed silent. Always silent. It was becoming more and more obvious that the kid wasn't just quiet or shy. He seemed to be genuinely mute. Jak grimaced. He knew what that was like.

Right now, though, it worked in his favor, because he really, really doubted he had any skills as a babysitter and could keep the kid quiet on his own.

"This is Unit Alpha..."

Jak tensed as another set of boots tromped across the bridge.

"The area is secure. No one's getting in or out until we're sure they're not here."

Damn. There went his hopes of escaping anytime soon. If it had just been him and Daxter, he might have risked it, and even if they'd been spotted, it wouldn't have been the first time he'd had to plow through some of Baron Praxis' men. With the kid to take care of, though...

"Looks like we're going to be stuck here for a while," he breathed, so softly that only Daxter and the kid would be able to hear. When the kid tightened his own grip around Jak's neck in response, Jak awkwardly placed a hand on his back. Unfortunately, that move alone exhausted his knowledge of how to calm a kid down. He'd spent little enough time with kids his own age back in Sandover, back when he'd been a kid, let alone now that he was a wanted man fighting a war in a future that was nothing like his home. Kids just weren't something he was used to, or ever around much to begin with.

The kid didn't seem to mind his hesitance, though, or Jak must have done something right, because he sniffled and buried his face in Jak's chest.

That didn't make this any less awkward at all.

"...yeah," he finally offered. "You just... take a nap." He couldn't afford that luxury himself, not out here in the middle of a sweep, but if the kid could nod off, he'd probably be better for it.

"Don't mind if I do," Daxter responded cheekily. "Wake me when ya need me, huh, Jak?"

The corner of Jak's mouth twitched. He knew Daxter knew he hadn't been talking to him, not that he'd begrudge the ottsel any sleep he managed to find. Precursors knew they both got little enough of late. He'd be surprised if Daxter really slept, though. Maybe a light doze, but when it came time to move, he had no doubt that his friend would be wide awake and alert.

As Daxter curled himself up against Jak's neck, the ragged teen looked up at the underside of the bridge. More footsteps, more voices from guards. Yeah, he wasn't going to be sleeping anytime soon.

A cold nose nudged against his leg, startling him. Oh. So the crocadog had come down. The creature panted a grin up at him, then promptly burrowed into a position next to Jak. The renegade smiled. He didn't know why, but something inside him was glad the animal was all right.

"Hey, Jak?"

"Yeah, Dax?"

"He's not asleep, y'know."

"Yeah. I know." He could feel the kid's heart beating far too fast for sleep.

Daxter made a show of stretching, then went limp as a noodle, paws hanging down just low enough to ruffle the little fluff of green hair that poked out from under the kid's leather cap. The kid looked up. Daxter grinned back.

"Go to sleep, kid. Don't worry, we'll keep ya safe. Me an' Jak are the best babysitters from Sandover you'll ever meet, I swear it. Those KG come down here? We'll send 'em packing back to their mamas."

The promise earned a weak smile from his charge, then the kid rested his head against Jak's chest again. Jak had to refrain from a small laugh. Daxter and his boasts... But they worked. They worked just as well now as they had when Jak was a kid himself, hiding under the porch with a little redheaded boy who claimed he'd steal the lightning if the thunder didn't shut up.

"...continuing sweep..."

Another guard crossed the bridge, more slowly than the others, and for a few minutes nothing more was said. Even hushed whispers could get them in trouble with a guard right over their heads. By the time the guard left, the kid's breathing had evened out.

Of course, that didn't stop Daxter from ruffling his hair again. "Cute kid," he murmured. "Reminds me a little of you."

This time Jak did laugh, softly. "I hope not." Settling into the crack just a little bit better, he let his free hand fall across the crocadog's head. And he smiled - but he didn't mean it.

What a sorry fate if the kid ended up like him.