This is just little Jak & Daxter angsty oneshot that has been sitting in my hard drive gathering dust for about a year now. I figured I'd just go ahead and throw it up here for any of you rare Jak & Daxter fanfic readers to hopefully enjoy.
Rated M for bad dreams and a couple of F-bombs.
[Edit] So I spelled Ashelin's name wrong like an idiot when I first uploaded this. All uses of her name have been fixed. Sorry about that error, readers.
In the early hours of another dreary day in Haven City, two elves were wide awake while the rest of the city's inhabitants still lay sleeping in their beds. In the hideout basement of an unassuming house, nestled in the back of a nondescript alley, the second in command of the rebel Underground stood looming over a set of plans spread out on a table. Torn, the ever scratchy-voiced ex-Krimzon guard, drummed a finger impatiently while he mulled over what he was reading. Beside him, the Baron's daughter Ashelin watched over her comrade as the cogs in Torn's head slowly turned.
This particular mission plan was giving him a lot of trouble; the mission itself was supposed to take place later that afternoon, but he had yet to work out all of the kinks. Torn had refused to sleep until it was done, so Ashelin had opted to stay up as well to offer whatever help or encouragement she could. Every now and then, Torn would glance at the slumbering Underground members laying in the bunks by the headquarters' front door. Ashelin could tell he was exhausted and nearly fed up with the mission plan, so when a sound came from the back of the room, she was not surprised when Torn's attention was quickly drawn away from the papers. He was desperate for a break from his work, and whatever was moving about in the back was a welcome distraction.
A small crashing sound and a light 'thunk' was ensued by a hushed "dangit!" came from the back hallway. There was no mistaking that shrill voice; Daxter the ottsel was out and about, causing havoc even at this ungodly hour of the morning.
"Everything under control, pipsqueak?" Torn mused. Being an ottsel, Daxter had superior night vision to elves. He must have been extremely exhausted to have not seen the pile of scrap zoomer parts laying next to the door leading to the garage.
"No," came a grumble from under the pile. "Help me outta here."
Torn's almost permanent sneer wavered momentarily. Daxter, asking for help? That was beyond odd. The little orange creature that Torn had eventually learned was once an Elf like himself was extremely proud. Torn assumed Daxter did not want to be treated like his size was a handicap, no matter how much of a handicap it really was. Despite teasing the ottsel on a regular basis, Torn did have a little respect for Daxter's tenacity in a world that was a few sizes too big for him, which is why he complied with Daxter's request for help. Torn knelt down and began unpilling the scrap until the slightly squashed ottsel could bring himself to his feet.
"Thanks," Daxter said has he realigned his goggle strap that had been knocked askew by the avalanche of scrap parts. "Can't even walk to the freakin' bathroom without gettin' squished."
Ah, Torn thought. So that's what he was doing in the main room. Jak and Daxter slept in the garage that housed the Underground's zoomers, hover cars and weaponry, so it was strange to see the ottsle in the main room at night. When Jak had first joined the Underground, he had taken one look at the communal sleeping quarters and turned up his nose, opting instead to sleep in the back seat of one of the hover cars far away from everyone else. At first, this had struck Torn as odd and somewhat arrogant. However, as he grew to know Jak, the Underground leader came to realize that minus his constant fuzzy companion, Jak was your classic tough guy loner. Jak was clearly not like the rest of the Underground's members. The other members were not Jak's comrades; only camaraderie he felt for anyone was for Daxter. Ultimately, Jak was using the Underground to achieve his final goal of revenge on Praxis. Why should he feel compelled to sleep with the rest of the members if they were nothing to him but an means to an end?
Torn's tattooed ear perked up as an unfamiliar sound filtered through the opened door to the garage. He noticed that Daxter's smaller, rounded ears had twitched as well, but the ottsle made no indication of having actually heard the noise. He was still brushing off his fur with a scowl when Torn spoke.
"Daxter, what's that sound?"
"Huh?" Daxter looked up at Torn groggily. "Oh...uh, I think Jak's just having a bad dream," the ottel rubbed the back of his head with a furry paw, as if he were embarrassed on Jak's behalf.
Ashelin snorted, a brow cocked in amusement. "The big bad Jak having a scary dream?"
"That's something I've gotta see," Torn said with a smirk, making his way toward the garage.
"Wait, guys, don't go in!" Daxter said, suddenly much more alert. His outburst warranted two questioning looks from the pair of much taller elves. "I don't want you to wake him up. We're supposed to do that mission tomorrow for you, right? I don't want him to be tired or we'll be Metalhead chow."
Despite this very valid reason to not enter, Torn smirked as he made to go through the door. "We'll be quiet."
With an unabashed look of distress plastered to his face, Daxter abandoned his initial mission of a trip to the bathroom to follow Torn and Ashelin into the garage. Torn wondered how Jak and Daxter ever got to sleep in here at all; it reeked of oil and the ventilation system hummed constantly like a zoomer in desperate need of a tune up. But even the obnoxious vent's constant noise could not mask the bizarre sound coming from the sleeping Jak in the back seat of a red, family-sized hover car. The sound itself was not bizarre; it was the simple fact that it was coming from Jak.
Jak the loner, Jak the hard-ass, Jak the fear-nothing, kill-everything, one-man army...was whimpering.
To call that pitiful sound issuing from Jak's mouth anything but a whimper would be a lie. As Torn and Ashelin stepped closer, they could see Jak's face contorted in pain, as if he were being tormented by some invisible entity. Daxter's excuse of a "bad dream" seemed to be a gross understatement. Something that could make someone like Jak look like that could only be described as a nightmare from Hell. Jak looked like he was in Hell.
Perhaps triggered by their presence, Jak shifted suddenly from his back and onto his side, facing backward toward the back of the seat. He had neither a pillow nor a blanket, so his every move was clearly visible. His knees were sucked up toward his chest, and his hands snaked up and over his face until his fingers found his hair. They dug into his scalp just a few inches up from his hair line where Torn knew beneath that unruly mane of emerald & blond hair were two small stubs that elongated into full blown horns whenever Dark Jak came out to play. Jak seemed to be clawing at them, trying fruitlessly to pry them off his very skull, while pressing himself ever further into the back of the seat.
He soon gave up on the hidden horn stubs, grasping the jade roots of his hair in frustration. The whimpering kicked up a notch as his curled up body trembled, the occasional moan piercing the awkward silence that had settled in the room. Torn and Ashelin were frozen where they stood when Jak's moans morphed into mumbled words.
"Stop...don't," Jak murmured. Then, with a desperate whisper, he added "please."
Torn had never heard Jak say please, accept sarcastically. To hear Jak practically begging…it was so wrong. Torn, not knowing how to react to this incredibly unsettling scene, looked over at Ashelin. She, too, seemed to feel the way he did. They had come in here thinking they would see something they could tease Jak about; perhaps him talking in his sleep about monsters from the utility closet or frightening Metalheads with extra heads. This, though...Torn felt as though he were witnessing something immensely taboo, and his stomach lurched at the thought of violating someone's privacy like this. The ex-Krimzon guard swore that if animals could blush, Daxter's face would have been as red as the hover car his friend was sleeping uneasily in. The ottsle looked mortified, and realization dawned on Torn as he looked down at the embarrassed Daxter.
Daxter had been unable to stop Torn and Ashelin from seeing Jak in this state, and for that, he was obviously deeply humiliated and ashamed. He had already had one embarrassing incident brought on by his minuscule stature when he needed help being unburied from the scrap. To not be able to protect his best friend's privacy during his most vulnerable hour, Torn mused, must have been a massive blow to Daxter's pride.
Torn's thoughts were interrupted by sudden movement in his peripheral vision. Ashelin was bending down over the side of the hover car, her hand outstretched toward the still shaking Jak. Her face was not that of the hardened Baron's daughter, or even that of a Krimzon guard's. For the first time, Torn saw on Ashelin's face the expression of a concerned mother. Torn remembered seeing that same look on his own mother's face from time to time as a child growing up whenever he had been sick or upset. He thought it peculiar how strong that motherly instinct must be in women for the even the no-nonsense Ashelin to be triggered by someone as haggard as Jak.
Though rough around the edges, Jak was still technically a kid. One wouldn't guess by just taking a look at him, but Jak was only 17 years old; not even old enough to order a drink at Krew's bar, though Torn doubted anyone would even try checking the age of someone who looked like they could rip your head clean off your shoulders and not think twice about it. Asleep, vulnerable and cowering, Jak now looked very much his age, if not younger. It also helped that his goggles, red scaf, gloves and boots had been removed before he settled down to sleep. In just his tunic and pants, Jak was much less intimidating. Yes, Torn could understand how Ashelin was no longer seeing the gruff Jak they knew, but a scared kid who was obviously in pain.
Ashelin's hand grew closer to Jak's head, as if she planned to gently pet his head to comfort him. However, the gesture was never made, for Daxter leapt from the floor and onto Ashelin's arm to stop her. The attempt only jostled Ashelin forward, though, and her hand made an abrupt contact with the top of Jak's head.
In a split second, Torn saw Jak bolt up straight, eyes now wide with wild fear as he looked at Ashelin's startled face. Like a terrified animal, Jak shuffled backwards away and over the opposite side of the parked hover car, and Torn heard the back of his head connect with the hard garage floor with a resounding 'whack'. Apparently, the sudden fall from his makeshift bed had also knocked the wind out of him, and Torn could hear Jak wheezing as he peered around the hover car. Jak's chest was heaving, and his hands had once again found their way to his now very sore head.
Before Torn could do anything to help Jak, Daxter waved a gloved paw furiously at him to get his attention. The ottsel was now on the top of the hover car seat, glaring with deadly intent at Torn and Ashelin. He pointed toward the open door and whispered a vicious but near silent 'get out!' at the two elves. Daxter normally did a fairly good job of seeming like an elf trapped in an animal's body; his facial expressions and gestures were just as elf-like as they probably had been when he still had an elf body. But when neither elf made any move toward the door, any sign of an elf inside that ottsel's body had vanished. With teeth bared, ears back, fur ruffled, and nose wrinkled, Daxter was silently snarling at Torn and Ashleyn like a beast.
And for a brief moment, Torn was actually frightened. Sure, Daxter was smaller, but he had teeth and claws that right now he didn't look afraid to use. Torn took the unfriendly hint and headed for the door, grasping a stunned Ashelin by the arm and guiding her out in front of him. As soon as they were through, Ashelin's shock seemed to vanish and was replaced by embarrassed anger.
"Growling at us like some wild animal, I'll teach that little—" she began in a hushed voice before Torn cut her off.
"Shh, we can probably still hear," the Underground leader whispered. He leaned closer to the open doorway and ever so sneakily peered around the edge into the garage, and Ashelin followed suit. Luckily, Jak's back was toward them.
The young elf was just now beginning to shakily sit up, one hand propping him up while the other still clutched his throbbing head.
"You okay, buddy?" Daxter said softly as he leapt down from the hover car and next to Jak, his fur still standing slightly on edge.
"No…I'm not," Jak answered, to Torn's utter surprise. This was not the Jak he knew. The Jak he knew would have never admitted he wasn't alright, nor would he have sounded so pathetic while admitting it.
"I was in the lab again," he said shakily, pressing his palms over his eyes as if to rub away the memory of the nightmare. "I swear, Daxter, I saw their faces so clearly this time."
"Whose?" Daxter said, panic in his voice. Torn's panic began to rise as well. What would Jak to do them if he knew he and Ashelin had seen him like that? Neither he nor Ashelin stood a chance against a raging Dark Jak, and he knew it. He was contemplating making a mad dash for the Underground's door before he heard Jak speak again.
"Krimzon Guards," Jak practically choked out. "They only ever took off their helmets when I was strapped down so they could fucking laugh at me before…"
Jak trailed off, the memory too horrible to recount. Torn didn't know everything that happened to Jak when he had been in prison, but he had a fairly good idea; from what he had gathered, Jak was strapped down to a chair while an overhead machine injected him with Dark Eco periodically throughout his two year imprisonment. Knowing Jak, he didn't get strapped to that chair without one hell of a fight, which probably was where the Krimson Guards had been involved. Every time Jak was scheduled for a Eco injection, a team of Guards must have been required to transport him from his cell to the lab.
Having once been a Krimzon Guard, Torn understood what must have been running through Jak's tormenters' minds. Being a low level guard assigned to thankless prison duty was degrading, not to mention dangerous. Any guards that had to handle potentially lethal prisoners like Jak were most likely constantly on edge, and any situation where a dangerous prisoner was made helpless was a golden opportunity for Guards to exact a small piece of revenge for their constant anxiety. When Torn had been younger and stupid, he probably would have done it, too.
"Bucket," Jak suddenly moaned. Without a moment to lose, Daxter retrieved a spare bucket from somewhere in the garage. Once Daxter handed it to him, Jak promptly began to empty the contents of his stomach into the bucket with a sickening splash. Torn was a tough guy; you had to be to get out of the Krimzon Guard in one piece. But hearing somebody else puke always made Torn's skin crawl.
Without his scarf to contain his long hair, stray blond strands threatened to get covered in sick until they were held back by two furry paws. Daxter stood beside Jak and held his wild mane out of the way as Jak continued to heave into the bucket. It was as if this wasn't anything new to Daxter, and Torn solemnly wondered how often the ottsel preformed this task for his best friend. Was this a regular occurrence? How many nights had passed where Torn slept soundly in the Underground's communal sleeping quarters while just one room away Jak puked his guts out at the horror of memories that plagued him in his sleep?
Torn suddenly felt very guilty. Despite the fact that he was no longer a Krimson Guard, he still had the facial tattoos all guards were required to get. They were permanent, and there was nothing Torn could do about it, but that fact did little to ease his newfound guilt for constantly reminding Jak of the men who plagued his dreams.
"Jak, it's alright. Tomorrow, we're gona go beat the shit out of some Metalheads and probably some Guards, too, and you can pretend they're all Praxis."
"It's not enough," Jak said miserably.
"We gotta go through the Metalheads and all the Guards and Erol to get to Praxis, remember? They're all just the warm up until the grand finale. We'll get there someday. You'll get to kill him soon, okay?"
"But until then, you gotta go back to sleep, buddy."
Jak just sat there motionless for a moment with his head bowed and bucket full of sick still clutched in his hands.
"Jak, you're fine," Daxter said, tugging on his sleeve to jostle his friend slightly. "You're stronger than them. There's no way they'll catch you."
"I'm only strong because of what they did to me," Jak spat, facing away from Daxter.
"Bullshit," Daxter said, yanking the bucket out of Jak's hands and placing it to the side. The ottsel jumped up on Jak's knees and grabbed the hem of his collar, making Jak look directly at him.
"Remember Gol? Remember the Lurkers? You were strong then, and that was years ago, Jak; before the lab, before Haven City. Sure, tall, dark and gruesome might give you a little boost now and then, but you can only control if because you were strong to begin with."
Torn wasn't entirely sure what Daxter was talking about. It must have had something to do with the duo's unknown past. Torn had never been all that terribly interested in either miscreant's lives prior to their involvement in tune Underground, aside from some passing wonderings about Daxter's current furry state of being. But you just didn't ask a man like Jak about his past. Besides, acting interested made you seem like you cared. It wasn't that Torn didn't feel any sort of attachment to the odd pair, who honestly had been a great help to the Underground, he just didn't need to show it.
Despite Torn having little idea as to what Daxter meant, the ottsel's little speech seemed to have an affect on Jak. He heaved a defeated sigh and rubbed a hand over his face in a gesture of exasperation.
"Okay, Dax," he said quietly. "I'll go back to bed...Thanks."
As Jak began to rise to his feet to climb back into the hover car, Torn and Ashelin retreated from the door to the garage and back toward the desk. There was no way they were going to chance being seen or heard near the ajar door by Jak. There they stood in uncomfortable silence until the Daxter's inevitable return. They only had to wait a few moments before the most pissed off looking ottsel either elf had ever seen came storming through the door and toward them. He hopped up onto the desk and pointed a threatening clawed finger at the pair.
"If either of you ever tells Jak you saw that tonight, I will personally disembowel you both before Dark Jak even gets the chance to," Daxter snarled.
"I'm not going to hurt his pride like that," Torn said, somewhat embarrassed by being threatened by a creature half his size.
"Good," Daxter said, easing up a bit. His shoulders became less tense, and his fur smoothed down just a tad.
"Does that…happen often?" Ashelin asked awkwardly.
"He sleeps on his stomach or his side because lying on his back feels like lying on the chair where they pumped all that Dark Eco into him. Some nights he rolls onto his back, and I'm not exactly strong enough to push him back over. When that happens, he has nightmares like he did tonight."
For a moment, Daxter looked upset, before agitation returned to his face.
"But if you two bozos hadn't suck your stupid little tattooed noses where they didn't belong, it wouldn't have been as bad as it was tonight. You're lucky he was too freaked out by the tattoos to recognize your faces, or to just go straight to Dark Jak and rip you apart."
He was right. They were beyond lucky. But so was Jak, to have a friend like Daxter.
"You two are quite the pair," Ashelin said after a long moment of silence. She must have been having the same train of thought Torn was. Jak was the strength that Daxter lacked, and Daxter was the sanity Jak lost.
"Don't get all sappy on me now just because you've seen Jak's little secret," Daxter moaned. "Let's all just act like this never happened."
"I can do that," Torn said, keeping up the bravado of a stoic leader. He knew it wasn't true though. He knew that come tomorrow, he would be less harsh when talking with Jak. But just a little. He wasn't going to pity Jak and let him go soft by babying him. Because, Daxter knew Jak the best, and if Daxter believed Jak was strong, then Torn would believe it as well. Maybe if enough people believed it, Jak might someday, too.