A.N. There aren't enough young Mar fics, I swear. This takes place in Jak 2, but with major spoilers for Jak 3 just on the off chance I get a reader who has by some miracle not made it that far in the games.
Sand And Sea
The kid didn't like the underground base when it was quiet. Most of the time, it wasn't like that. Rebel soldiers came and went at all hours, and there was almost always a light on or a person awake, even in the dead of night. He didn't mind that. This derelict building with broken plumbing and smelly furniture was the only place where the scary red people never came to find him and no one pointed guns at him or chased him until his feet ached. A place where he could drift off to the gentle murmur of voices and know he was safe.
But once in awhile there came a lull in the activity. The maps were rolled up, the lights shut off and everyone was told to stay very, very quiet while a 'sweep' went on. The kid didn't like those 'sweeps' because then the base became too quiet. There was nothing to look at or listen to, nothing to fill the awful silence that made him shiver beneath his blankets and bite his lip as hot tears trickled down his cheeks. It was late at night and The Shadow had suggested kindly that he sleep through the sweep, like many others were, but he just couldn't no matter how hard he tried.
Because in the dark and quiet, he remembered. And it hurt to remember.
He remembered his name.
He remembered his home.
Salty waves lapping at the rocks, warm wind in his hair...
He remembered his father.
Perched on a pair of strong shoulders, hands steadied on his ankles so he wouldn't fall...
"You really like the sea, don't you, Mar? I'll bet you didn't know, but your name means 'ocean'. This is meant to be a place of exile, but despite that, it's beautiful in its own way."
And sometimes, just for a moment, he almost remembered how to speak.
The kid muffled a sob with his fist as floodlights swept over the boarded-up window. He waited with a pounding heart for the lights to pass and tried not to think of the day he was taken from the home in his memories. He didn't remember much of that day, only that someone had given him candy that made him so sleepy he didn't even dream...and then he'd woken up in a strange city with a rat-faced man that he didn't know or trust in the least.
He had done the only thing he could think of. He'd jumped out of the zoomer and run away while the man shouted curses at him. Days later, an old man called The Shadow had found him and brought him to the underground base where a lot of strange people asked him questions he didn't understand. The kid had been so frightened that his voice stayed locked in his throat as he cried and cried. He still remembered The Shadow's hand on his shoulder and his gentle words.
There, there, child. You don't have to say anything if you don't want to.
But Samos, what about his amulet? If the seal is genuine, we've got to know if any of his family survived!
It's enough that THIS child lives, Torn. This is the hope we've been waiting for, and we will protect that hope with everything we have. We will protect HIM with everything we have.
At least no one had taken the seal away. It was the only thing the kid had to call his own and all he had left of his home. He dug a pudgy hand beneath his shirt and gasped when he realized the seal wasn't around his neck anymore. What could have happened to it? He never took it off!
Quickly, the kid scooted to the edge of his bunk and climbed down. His crocadog snorted but slept on as his master crept to the door and fumbled through the dark hallway that led to the central room. Many of the bunks spaced around the room were occupied by sleeping soldiers, and the kid moved on tiptoes so he wouldn't wake anyone up. He checked around the center table and behind ammo crates, then one by one peeked beneath the bunks. At last, he spotted a glint of red on the floor. The kid darted forward eagerly, and his foot landed on something small and fuzzy that yowled like a cat.
"OW! SON OF A—!"
The kid covered his mouth in shock at the string of very, very bad words spewing from the ottsel's mouth. The loud and extended rant woke up some of the soldiers who either shushed the ottsel or said some bad words of their own. One man seized a boot and chucked it straight at them, but a hand caught the boot just before it would have hit the kid in the head. "Daxter, shut up already," a tired voice ordered from the bunk next to them.
"But he stepped on me, Jak!" the ottsel complained. "On my tail! Here I was just mindin' my own business and up comes the kid with his ginormous feet and stomps all over it! That friggin' hurt, man! Look at it, it's all crooked now!"
The kid backed away from the angry ottsel, bottom lip quivering. He hadn't meant to, he hadn't even seen him! But much as he wanted to apologize for hurting the blond soldier's talking pet and waking everyone up, he could only stand there and sob helplessly.
"Dax, you're making him cry."
"I'm...I'm what?" the ottsel said in trepidation. His ears went flat, and he started waving his paws frantically. "Oh man, don't cry, kid! I-I'm sorry, Uncle Dax is sorry, he didn't mean it! Well actually, he did mean it, b-but you don't gotta cry about it! Quick Jak, sing a lullaby or somethin'!"
The soldier named Jak straightened up with an irritated snort. The kid shrank back in case he was angry too, but Jak only hooked his hands under his arms and hoisted him up. "Take it easy, kid. Let's get you back to bed."
He shook his head quickly and pointed at his seal on the ground. Jak leaned over to scoop it up. "That's what you're looking for?" he asked, and the kid nodded. "Okay, then let's not lose this again."
The kid sniffed miserably into his shoulder, arms twined around his neck in apology as a warm and familiar scent filled his nose. Salt and sand, just like his father, and despite how sad it made him, he couldn't get enough of it. Jak carried him back down the hallway and nudged the door of his room open, crossing to the bed while the crocadog looked up curiously. The kid smiled at his pet and received a tongue-lolling grin in return. His croca had been with him ever since he found himself lost in the city streets and hadn't abandoned him since. It made him so glad to have at least one friend in this place.
Jak sank down on the bunk heavily, and the kid wriggled under the covers while the croca hopped on the mattress to curl up at his side. From there they watched the soldier examine the seal and then the cord it hung from. "No wonder it fell off," he muttered. "The clasp is broken. Hang on..."
He fiddled with the broken clasp, eventually using his teeth to gnaw both pieces of metal off. Deftly, he tied the frayed cords together and tugged to test the knot's strength. Satisfied, Jak hung it around the kid's neck with a smile. "There, that should hold much better than that cheap clasp."
The kid beamed happily and hugged the soldier without reserve, again letting that nostalgic feeling wash over him. "Papa..."
Jak stiffened when the word slipped without conscious thought and held him at arm's length with a pained look. "W-What did you call me? I'm not...kid, you know I'm not your father, right?"
The kid hung his head and nodded dejectedly. He remembered his father very clearly. His father was strong and wise, he was kind and he smiled a lot. He loved the ocean, and everyone looked up to him and admired him very much. And his father wasn't in this city. He was far, far away in his great tower of stone and sand and would probably never find him...
"You miss your father, don't you?" Jak murmured. He looked off into the dark corners of the room with sad, distant eyes. "I'm sure he misses you too, kid. But you know, you're lucky you still remember him. No matter what happens, you should try and hang onto those memories. One day they might be all you have left."
The kid wasn't quite sure what he meant by that, but he nodded all the same. Jak gave him a slight smile. "And try to talk more often, alright? It'll keep people from pushing you around so much."
With that, Jak stood and vanished through the door where the ottsel was peeking in curiously. He grinned and wiggled his fingers at the kid before pattering down the hallway after the soldier. "Ya know, Jak, this is the future of our world. That bein' said, it's always possible that you really are that kid's..."
"Save it, Dax," Jak said quietly. "That's one complication I do not need to think about right now..."
The kid huddled under the blankets as the voices faded and the dreaded silence closed in again. The crocadog whined, sensing his unease. After several long minutes of deliberation, the kid slid out of his bunk and made his way back to the central room with the croca on his heels and the seal clutched protectively to his chest. He kept a careful eye out for stray ottsels as he sidled up to Jak's bunk, staring at the back of the soldier's head until his presence was noticed. "What now, kid?" he groaned into his pillow.
Taking that as an invitation, the kid climbed up and cuddled against the broad back, burying his nose in thick, coarse hair. Jak sighed and scooted closer to the wall to make room for him, causing Daxter to grumble when he lost his spot on the pillow and was forced to take the foot of the mattress. The croca eyed the sleeping arrangement and opted to remain in a heap on the floor.
And for the first time in years, Mar slept in peace and dreamed of the sand and sea.