Letting the dreams leave

A Day without Sessions

For the rest of that evening, Keira kept holding Jak as emotion after emotion tumbled out of him. She had no idea how long she held him. He just cried and cried and cried. The shirt she was wearing became so drenched, but she did not care. The mechanic realised that for the longest time, all she had really wanted to do was hold Jak like this; have him release his pain and suffering, yet know she will always comfort him, keep all his secrets safe and give him someplace warm, just during those moments he felt weak. This was a scenario Keira could understand, not Jak’s chosen action of locking away his grief under his anger, consequently becoming cold and distant to everyone (those closest to him included).


It was dark, when his cries finally quietened to sobs and sniffles. Keira tried to move her stiff body, finding it hurt where she had been pressed against the floor for so long. He lifted himself off her uncertainly, staring at her both apologetically and desperately. She smiled softly, telling him she just wanted to move away from the floor. When asking him if he wanted to go to the bed or the couch, he answered “couch”, so she stood up, guiding him by hand to the sofa where Yerran and Pern had been sitting earlier. The full moon shone through, providing them enough light. She curled up against the arm of the sofa, allowing Jak to rest his head against her chest, lying along her and the sofa. He apologetically muttered that her shirt was wet, making her giggle and telling him not to worry.

In this position, he voiced his thoughts. He expressed them as a stream of comments, sometimes observing things, sometimes attempting to self-analyse himself, at other times he was simply babbling. Keira stayed quiet, listening to everything he had to say; sometimes she rocked him, at other times she ran her hand through his hair in a comforting motion. Between sobs and sniffs he talked, sometimes rambled, about his feelings during his incarceration: how afraid he had been, how anxious he had become when people talked over him, how humiliated and upset he had been by the showers he was allowed, by his force-feeding, by being punished with the taser. He had felt somewhat safe in his cell, but then loneliness had engulfed him. He recalled his desperation at wanting to escape; he had been so shocked when he had killed his first Krimzon Guard, the overwhelming feeling at the time was guilt. However, waking up to find primary Eco being dripped on him, damaging and melting his skin the way it did, had convinced him that he could no longer stay on the higher moral ground. Praxis was ordering that anything and everything be done on him, so why did he have to restrain himself? Seeing Praxis gloat over him instilled great anger and, for a moment, the pain had gone away.

He had to be ready to take life again. He had fantasised many times over the ways he would kill Praxis and Erol, imagining the most gruesome tortures possible. This had to become normal to him, enjoyable even. It had made him warm, less lonely, less aware of his situation.

The weeping, shaking young man mourned this self-metamorphosis. He mourned, deeply, lost in his thoughts, almost meditating. This sadness went beyond tears...

Jak was silent for some moments, appreciating the sound of Keira's heartbeat, her hand stroking his hair, her breathing, the smell in her clothes, on her skin. He lifted his head. Staring at her pleadingly, he desired some sort of acknowledgement. "Do you understand?" he asked anxiously. "All those things I did, I had to do it."

Keira stared back at him for some time. She personally felt that Jak had gone overboard, he had not needed to slaughter all those guards during his escape, he could have just found a more effective escape route. She then decided this was not the time to bring this up; Jak would learn and realise himself in time. At least she hoped he would. "I understand." She nodded. "I do, I do really understand."

Jak laid his head on her chest once more, realising that he did actually feel warm and safe in her arms. He let himself enjoy the feeling, this feeling he had been deprived of during his forced incarceration. Those days when he had felt so desperate to return to his childhood home, simply because he had had no idea why he had been captured, what they had wanted to do to him, the effects of the Dark Eco they had kept injecting him with. He had been so afraid of the effects of the insidious matter, constantly thinking about what had happened to Gol and Maia. He had been so scared that he would eventually end up like them. No, he had become a lot worse. He had denied himself the truth for so long that this realisation felt like a horrific stab to his heart. The thought made him cry again.

His cries startled Keira, who had become used to his silence and had been stuck in her own world. She quickly wiped away the fresh tears, while Jak revealed between his sobbing and whimpering that it had hurt to think about Sandover Village. Every day during his first year in Haven City, he had regretted and cursed his foolish decision to go to Misty Island. He had missed Sandover Village so much he had wondered why he had been so eager to go through The Rift. Keira interjected quietly, pointing out that, had he not gone to Misty Island that day, Gol and Maia's plans might not have been discovered until it was too late. Also, Keira had been the one to build the Rift Rider, without which travelling through the gate would not have been possible. She had regretted leaving Sandover Village as much as Jak had. This admission of hers made him hold her tighter, whimpering as he did so. She realised that, unlike her, he had forced himself to stop thinking about Sandover Village for too long as a self-defence mechanism; these happy, blissful memories were genuinely too painful for him. They kept reminding him of his incarceration that followed.

She suddenly realised she was thirsty. Jak had to be as well. She suggested they have some hot chocolate. They walked to the kitchen quietly; he held her hand like any shy child would. Keira switched on the light - the first light to be switched on at all in their apartment that night - and found herself staring at Jak in the kitchen's harsh yellow glow. His cheeks were awash in magenta streaks, flowing from his eyes. His eyes were still rather moist, while also slightly red. He fidgeted uncomfortably under her stare. Seeing him slumping onto a chair gave the mechanic her cue to prepare the mugs of hot chocolate, humming pleasantly as she did so; from his chair, Jak watched her quietly. He didn't know why, but he had a great compulsion to keep her in his sight, almost as if she might disappear at any moment.

Such an occurrence obviously never came and he found himself staring at the hot chocolate in front of him. He drank slowly. The couple drank in silence. Keira wandered off into her own little world; there, she imagined her beloved as a more gentle, benevolent, kind being. She felt guilty for feeling tired of offering him comfort; after all, this was what she had wanted, shrugging off the responsibility now was out of the question. Jak was very vulnerable right now, in fact, such vulnerability she had never seen in him since...since... The night he first made love to me. The thought made her blush.

"Don't they hurt you?" he asked, very quietly, although his subdued voice filled the room.

"Don't what hurt me?" she asked back.

"The memories. Of Sandover."

She smiled gently, her confusion evident. "Why would they hurt me? I had a happy childhood, we all did. Those memories make me happy, helped me through my darkest moments here."

He sighed. "Just me then."

Her smile vanished, the guilt returned threefold. "Jak..." What could she say? "Look, I...I know, you told me, it hurt too much to think of Sandover when you were in the prison, but should it hurt you so much when you think of them now? I don't think they should."

Her suggestion only caused him to feel less comfortable. He fell silent again. Keira felt very self-conscious and deflated; her intention had been to make him feel better, not worse. She found herself yawning. She was suddenly aware of just how exhausted she was. What time is it? It was very close to the middle of the night.

She flashed her beloved a friendly smile. "You must be tired, wanna call it a night?"

Jak stared at her sullenly, somewhat stonily, as if the question were an unusual one. Without saying anything, he looked away, stood up and walked to their bedroom. The mechanic admitted to herself she was secretly relieved. She washed up all the used cutlery as quickly as she could. He had been very sensitive all night and she really didn't want to leave him alone. When she was done, she switched off the kitchen light and hurried to their bedroom, finding Jak in his boxers, brushing his teeth in the adjoining bathroom. Satisfied, she began her usual before-bed routine.

About 5 minutes later, she left the bathroom to find Jak sitting on the bed, staring anxiously out of the window. He turned to her, visibly worried about something. "I want to sleep, but I don't want those nightmares again. Just like back then."

"You mean in the prison?"

He nodded. "And just after. I can't remember when in the prison I first got the nightmares, but when I realised they were happening every night, or almost every night, I'd just sit in the dark, hoping I don't dream. After my escape, I hoped I'd never roll onto my back." His chin began quivering. "Sometimes, right in the middle of the nightmare, that monitor would come on playing Praxis' stupid propaganda. Being woken up by his voice..."

Keira wrapped her arms around him, clutching his head to her shoulder. "You're working yourself up. This all happened years ago, you're here, with me, now. OK?" He gingerly nodded his head. After that, she coaxed him to lie on top of her: head on her chest, his legs curled underneath hers'. Like this, they snuggled under the blanket, Keira switched off the bedside light. Sometimes she stroked his hair, other times she rubbed his back, most of the time, she rocked him gently. This made her think of a mother and a baby, so she began singing lullabies from their shared childhood. He would hum along sleepily, at times, remembering the same tune. Eventually, the only movement from him was his steady breathing. She craned her head round, checking the sleeping form on her. His eyes were closed, his jaw slack; she even whispered his name and he did not respond. Content, she leaned back against her pillow and fell asleep.


He was someplace warm, safe and soft. That much he knew. He was still; he was covered in a blanket, most of him lay on his soft mattress. The rest of him did not lie on a pillow, but a woman. Keira. His own heartbeat fluttered at this realisation, he did not need to open his eyes to know his head was resting on the top of the abdomen, the creamy-coloured soft patch rising and falling with her breathing. He thought he could hear her breathe out a sigh. He felt warm sunlight resting on his exposed arm, through the window he heard some birds tweeting and some muted, jovial chatter between neighbours. He was convinced this was a perfect dream. Dream...

Jak stretched his back, readjusting his position somewhat. He suddenly remembered what he had told Keira the previous night: he feared re-experiencing the typical nightmares he had been suffering. He had slept wonderfully, so he was happy about that. But how he had felt the entire evening, the previous evening, rematerialised in his consciousness with a sudden crash. Once again, he felt truly sad, alone, weak, anxious and entirely pathetic; small amounts of self-loathing peppered these feelings. He did not want to go through the day feeling like this, he did not even want to acknowledge these emotions. If he didn't have to face anyone else, he should be okay. It's one thing that Keira knows, no one else had to. He can hide in this bed.

Keira shifted. He forced himself to stay still, limp. The way she started scratching herself somewhere suggested she was awake, although he wasn't certain if she had been already awake, or if she had woken up just now. She was suddenly still again, taking a deep breath. He now knew she had only just woken up; a habit of hers was to lie in bed for a few minutes after waking to adjust to consciousness, while she also planned or considered something in her mind. After a few more minutes, she wriggled out from under Jak, then sat up before eventually standing and stretching. Jak forced himself to stay still, keep his eyes closed and not reach out for the blanket in order to re-cover himself. He felt a little exposed at that moment.

Keira eventually left the bedroom, not completely closing the door. It was some time before Jak opened his eyes, seeing the bedroom door slightly ajar. He reached over, re-wrapping the blanket over himself. This time, he did not re-close his eyes. He just numbly observed that it was a beautiful day and one he should be enjoying, he was just unable to; his feelings flowed between numbness, sadness and dull pain. He stayed in his frozen, calm world while listening to the various sounds from the kitchen. Keira decided to cook something for their breakfast this morning. He concentrated on the smell, identifying it as pancakes with cinnamon, lemon and wumpa fruit. His mind wandered back to the happy days of his childhood, those bright mornings when he had woken up to the smell of those pancakes, making him race to the table. He then thought about his 'uncle' again. Not for the first time he wondered why this man had agreed to raise him. Also, why did Samos choose him out of every potential foster parent in the village? He thought he should ask...but then remembered what he had said - shouted rather - at Samos the last time they had spoken.

He was surprised by the sounds of Keira marching to the bedroom. He quickly closed his eyes as she swung the door open. He heard her sigh. "Jak, I know you're awake."


"Open your eyes." On her sharp command, he slowly opened them. "Did you sleep okay?" He nodded. "Good, now, get out of bed and have your breakfast. I made pancakes, just how you like 'em." She found it unnerving how blank Jak's facial expression was. He made no response to her last statement. "Honestly...aren't you hungry?"

"No," he answered quietly. His stomach chose that moment to growl in protest.

A grin flashed on Keira's face as she forced herself not to laugh. "You might not be in the mood to eat, but your body needs its food and energy. Come on, just eat as much as you can."

Once Jak was sat at the table, it became apparent he would have no trouble emptying his plate. He tentatively took a bite, chewed and swallowed. Then he repeated. Then he repeated again, and again, and again. He might not have been wolfing the food down, but the steady pace he ate in betrayed how famished he had felt. He did not say very much, only responding with one-word answers whenever Keira asked him a question. She explained that she needed to finish some of her jobs at the garage, as it would not be open the next day. This meant Jak could either spend the day at home or be with her at the garage. He instinctively felt he did not want to be alone, so he asked if he could go to the garage with her and clean the pile of spare vehicle seats she had (she hated cleaning the seats and always avoided this task whenever possible). The mechanic agreed, thinking this would be a good idea. Following on from her statement that the garage would not be open the next day, she asked whether Jak wanted to go to the street party later. His only answer was to ask which street party.

"You know, the one held to celebrate the fall of Baron Praxis? It's the 2nd Year Anniversary today." Jak's widened eyes reminded Keira of an animal trapped in headlights. He refocused on his pancakes, sullenly stating he did not wish to attend.


Keira covered the finished vehicle with a dust sheet and walked to a nearby workbench to find her clipboard. As she so often had that morning, she glanced upstairs to where the small workshop-come-office was located. Jak was up there, working his way through the pile of dirty, dusty, discarded chairs, most of which were in reasonable condition. Inwardly, she felt immense relief that his current mournful mood did not prevent him from being productive. While his sullen, lifeless look had not changed much, it was apparent to her that he desired to be kept busy. Her thoughts were interrupted by a customer coming to pay for her services and then collect his vehicle.

A little later, her father dropped by. Samos was in a fairly good mood, talking about his friends among the botanists, who will join him in the forest while the party is in motion that evening (he had never been too keen on loud music). For what was probably the fifth time, he invited his daughter to join them, but she declined. He then looked rather uncertain, asking how Jak was, completely unaware that the topic of his questioning was upstairs and listening attentively. Keira kept her explanation vague, but said that the young man's mood had completely altered from before, now being very mournful and almost inactive. Samos gave his sympathies, but voiced his relief that the young hero was no longer a threat to her. The mechanic retorted that Jak would never hurt her.

The sage smiled sadly. "Are you sure? I used to be. I deluded myself into thinking he still respected me as his elder. It was only in the last few weeks I realised how truly dangerous he was. And it's nothing to do with the Dark Eco in him, Jak is just a very angry person, he is so full of hate and mistrust and thrives on violence." Samos sighed. "The argument we had the other day just made this more obvious to me."

Out of shock, Keira demanded more information. Regretfully, Samos told the tale. Jak, listening to this, felt himself curl smaller, almost crushed by the weight of his regret. Samos was a constant in his life, someone who had gone to great lengths to train him and make him the hero he is, and will be yet. The mournful hero thought back to when he had found out that he had been sent back in time as a boy, accompanied by only Samos to spend his childhood in the idyllic Sandover Village. At the time, he had sincerely thanked the Sage for all the old man had done for him. He could only imagine how harsh a slap-to-the-face his outburst the other day had been. He was not surprised to hear Keira rush up the metallic steps after her father left.

She leaned against the door, staring at her slouching beloved in disbelief. "Useless? You called him useless?"

Jak sighed, staring at the floor. "I really didn't mean it, I just-"

"You got angry." Keira blew out a sharp breath. "That's just the same story with you, isn't it?" This was not a question. "Something sets you off, you get a tantrum that goes outta control, then you cause damage. And when you snap out of it, you can't believe what you did. And all because you so badly wanted to hide...whatever it is now. The hurt part of you." She let out another breath. "You know, Pern gave me some advice, after Yerran found out about our fight. I know you don't want me trying to help you, trying to analyse you or suggest ways of making you better, but what you're going through affects me too, so what I think and say still counts. Mar knows I know nothing about people's minds or how they work, but I know you. I don't want you to come to this party tonight and pretend to have a good time and dance the night away. I want you to come, spend some time with our friends. Apart from Daxter, no one has seen this side of you."

The change in his expression had been gradual, but Jak looked petrified at the idea, his skin turning ashen-white. "I can't...don't make me."

"I'll tell them all not to bring any of this up, I promise."

"They can't see me like this. How's this a good idea?" He looked directly at her for the first time in this conversation, his moist eyes pleading for mercy. "They don't know me like this, they can't...can't respect me like this. And Haven City...they definitely won't."

Keira gave him a hard look. "It's time for your wake-up call, Jak. They resent you a little, did you know that?" He looked at her with his silent question. "Torn and Ashelin; it's their Freedom Guards you keep attacking. They figured out a while ago you still see them as Krimzon Guards but none of us had any ideas what to do about it. They knew if they ever confronted you about it you'd just deny it, or even attack them." She rubbed her eyes, suddenly looking tired. "I was the one who kept defending you. I knew you, you'd never attack anyone without a reason, and besides, the problem will go away at some point, right? But your nightmares got worse, your attacks got worse, your flashbacks got worse - and we never knew that's what you were having...and you're attacking and yelling at people you care about. No wonder the people of Haven City are afraid of you. That's right, Jak, they're afraid of you. Why do you think they keep arming themselves? They're waiting for the signal that a new war's gonna start and you'll be the enemy."

"But...I saved the world."

While obviously very frustrated, Keira was surprisingly calm. "That's what I said. To the people that came here, to the people in the bars I go to, to the people on the street. But that was before you said you enjoyed killing Krimzon Guards. And wham, I was back in that garage over 2 years ago, seeing you for the first time in a long time, but being afraid of you. You really haven't done anything to show you're the good guy in a while, so I understood why people see you the way they do." ... Her face steeled. "This is a good change for you, even if you don't realise it yet. You're coming to the party tonight, it'll be good for you and for everybody else."


"She said I only had to be there for an hour so, I guess, I'll just go, hang with you at the bar and then leave," decided Jak as he prepared himself for attending the street party. He had his communicator activated, talking to Daxter while he dressed up in his final items. He had been allowed to have the bedroom to himself, Keira having chosen the bathroom and living room for her preparation. Jak gave himself a quick glare in the mirror. "I look miserable, I feel miserable. Why does she think this is a good idea?"

"Because ya look and act as steady as a doorknob," retorted the ottsel over the communicator. "Seriously, I've been watchin' you and you're way more relaxed than ya have been in months. You don't look all...jumpy and tense. Or paranoid and all...tryin' to protect a big secret. Sure you're feelin' low now, but it'll pass."

The young ruler considered his best friend's words. "OK, now I feel a little better. They've never seen me like this though. They're gonna say something, I...really don't wanna talk about this." His clothes completely fastened, he began combing his blonde hair, the green roots standing out.

"No problem, I can just call ahead and tell them not to say anything. If you're gonna tell 'em, you'll tell 'em, right?"

Jak still wore the same sullen look he had had the entire day. "Thanks Dax, I really appreciate it." The ottsel replied with "Anything for a pal!" before complaining about the difficulty in finding a tailor to make him suitable clothes. Daxter then began detailing the arduous journey he had undertaken to get a decent costume for the party, throwing in quips and exaggerated remarks while telling the story. Jak didn't really pay attention; when his friend told such stories, he preferred to listen and laugh, but this time he was more concerned with his self-image. Realising he was now ready, he took a long, hard stare at his reflection. He was handsomely dressed, wearing dark green britches, a sleeveless lime-green tunic with a golden sash wrapped around his waist. His usual red scarf was wrapped around his neck, much of his chest exposed by the tunic. He looked ready for a party, but seeing his listless, uncaring face made him feel even more depressed. "I really don't wanna go."

It seemed this comment had interrupted a part of Daxter's story, as the ottsel stared through the screen with a stunned expression. "Look, you can waste the hour drinking juices and peeing a lot. It won't be so bad, you'll see."


Keira walked along easily in her sleeveless, pink dress. This was not a colour she normally chose, but Jak had to admit, she looked rather pretty in it. He held her hand. To the throngs of people walking along, dancing to the music, enjoying their drinks and snacks or simply taking photos and videos, the pair looked like an average couple walking along with their hands held in a conspicuous, yet subtle, demonstration of their attachment for each other. In reality, Keira was guiding him. Bizarrely, Jak felt somewhat like a child in his mournful state. He noticed various people staring at him, or giving him funny looks. His inner paranoia told him they knew what was wrong, they knew he was exposed and vulnerable and would soon exploit him. His more rational self shouted down the paranoia; the city knew he had been visited daily by some of the "roaming practitioners" (how can its citizens not, considering their presence is not hidden when they approach his door?) but few truly knew why and what happens. However, he was not that confident that that likelihood was the truth. He did not understand what other reason the people could have for looking at him like this.

"No wonder the people of Haven City are afraid of you. That's right, Jak, they're afraid of you." This memory of what Keira had told him that morning stormed him with feelings of guilt and anxiety. He tried his best to avoid eye contact with them. What had his father told him? To be the hero for the people. He felt afraid, pathetic and mournful; some hero. Not for the first time he wondered whether he should relinquish his title.

After nearing one of the many bars lining the streets, they found a table where Daxter, Tess, Ashelin, Torn and various other ex-Underground members were seated. Ashelin and Torn were arguing hotly. Jak and Keira quickened their pace out of concern.

"It was bad enough we saw it once! He's getting help now, he doesn't have to know!" exclaimed the baroness.

"So we're hypocrites?" growled the Freedom League Commander.

"About what?"

"I'm tired of us hiding secrets from our so-called friends! If we'd confronted Jak months ago, he wouldn't be as bad as he is!"

"What secrets?" asked Jak innocently.

Everyone stared at him in shock.


Daxter fidgeted. Tess nudged him, giving him an encouraging nod. Shakily, the ottsel drew himself up from his spot on the table-top. "I'm really sorry, Jak. One of the times you slept in the Underground bunker? Remember? Um, I couldn't stop these two from seeing you, in your...nightmares." Daxter stared up at his friend pleadingly.

Jak merely stared at Torn and Ashelin. He felt a heavy lump in his throat. "I know you didn't trust me much back then, but...you had to spy on me when I slept?"

Ashelin shook her head. "We were just being stupid, Daxter was falling over himself trying to get to the bathroom and we thought we...he said something about you getting nightmares, we didn't think it was serious." Torn remained ashen-faced and quiet.

"You never said anything, all this time. Why?" Jak struggled not to cry. He was desperate to not cry in public (he tightened his hold around Keira's hand). He already felt exposed and he now felt extra vulnerability when facing his friends, who had discovered his well-kept secret. He hated that he had never found this out.

"I told them not to say a thing, Jak," Daxter quickly put in.

Torn growled. "It was self-preservation, pure and simple. I knew what you could do and back then, you were the biggest and most dangerous asshole in the city, there was no way I was gonna get you ragin' at me."

Anger flared. Jak gritted his teeth, charging forward. "Damn right I woulda-"

He found himself being pulled back, Jynx (a grouchy demolitions expert) and Keira keeping a firm hold of him while desperately pleading he calm down. At first this annoyed him; he had finally regained that comfortable feeling, of being angry and dominating, feeling confident as a result. But like a tidal wave, seeing Torn stepping away from him and Ashelin moving to protect her Commander, his guilt and fear slammed back into his being, making him lose all confidence. He could not allow himself this anger again; it caused hurt and misery and made him lose all control. This anger of his, it is terrible.

With all energy sucked out of him, feeling himself withdrawing from the world around him, he allowed himself to be led to a chair and sat down. He nodded numbly when he was offered some juice as a drink. He had no idea how long it lasted, but he sat in his place, lost in his world of confused paranoia and oblivious misery. He drank from his juice every so often, never noticing the taste. He was sometimes aware of someone trying to talk to him; Keira, Tess and Daxter, maybe someone else as well, but he always ignored them. He had never heard what they said so never responded. He was aware that he was becoming more lucid when he found himself drawing circles in his juice with his straw. He also realised Torn was now sitting next to him.

Jak stared at him blankly. "Are you afraid of me?"

Torn considered his answer. "Sometimes. Just sometimes." He sighed. "I am sorry though. I had an immature moment back then, I just hope we can move past this."

The blonde frowned. He found it difficult to concentrate. Could he forgive Torn? And Ashelin? Should he? He eventually came to the somewhat-logical conclusion that he might as well forgive them, simply because he could not imagine them not being around. "Sure. I forgive you. And Ashelin." He re-focussed on his juice.

The Freedom League Commander felt relieved. He wanted to say something...but he could find nothing. Jak was clearly in no mood to talk.

Said young man was pondering one thing though. "Do you hate me?" he asked quietly. Torn was so surprised by the quiet sound that he had to ask the younger person for a repetition. "Keira said you and Ashelin hate me."

"Hate you? Na! Sometimes pissed off at you is more like it. That's not too different from back then, sort of." Torn took a gulp of his beverage. "Back then, you'd attack Krimzon Guards unprovoked. That pissed me off 'cos it could - and sometimes did - ruin some plans in the works. Now, you randomly attack Freedom Guards and the former Krimzon Guards are askin' if you want revenge, while the ex-Underground members think you've lost it. You becoming our King is looking like a bigger joke every day and we're runnin' out of excuses to keep 'em loyal." The Commander looked squarely at Jak. "You know what some said to me a few days ago?" The younger man shook his head. "They said, their loyalty is to me, to Ashelin, not to you."

Torn returned his gaze to a vague direction in front of him. He sighed. "I know what you can do, Jak. To win back their loyalty, I mean." The blonde said he knew little about policing and militia. "That's fine, no one's askin' you to study. What our Guards want, and what these people want, is for you to prove why you're King. Why you deserve their loyalty. You know how to do it, you've done that already. You helped us topple Baron Praxis, you faced the Metal Heads head-on and beat 'em. Twice! You saved the world, you won the Championship in Kras City." Jak mumbled that nothing was currently happening. Torn let out a violent breath. "Leaders...rulers don't sit around waiting for problems to happen, threats to develop. A good leader keeps an eye on everythin' around him, sees what problems can develop, then solves them before others notice." The young ruler started to talk about the Solar Power Station. "The Power Station was a good idea, makes us all less dependent on Eco and stuff, but that's not the kind of thing that amazes people, that makes people loyal to their leader. That's your problem, you think you only have to do so much. You proved you can moderate a City Council Meeting; congratulations, but that's the easy part. That's the side of politics that bores most people, but that's the only one you focus on. You go to these meetings, then spend the rest of the day doing what you want, racing with Daxter, hangin' around with Keira, talkin' Eco with Samos, or whatever you do. You just fill up your time with whatever you want to do, but you're the King: you don't have that luxury!"

Jak was openly confused by this. He stated he just liked to make good use of his free time. "Well that's nice," responded Torn, "but you have a lot of it. Think what that makes you look like. You don't think about the citizens in this city, what they need and how they see you. You just do whatever's expected of ya, then you do whatever you want. Sorry to break it to ya, but you can't just think of yourself any more. And seriously? You think every obligation you have will be spelled out for you by some big event? That's not how life works." Jak hated how Torn's words made him feel. He knew they were all true, but he could not imagine himself changing his behaviour, nor his general thought process. He had no idea how to rule, how would he have known any of this? It wasn't his fault. He wanted to defend himself, but the only way he could feel strong enough to do so would be by giving in to his anger. He was desperate not to do that. Instead, the young ruler pitifully muttered that being a hero was the only thing he knew how to do and he had no clue how to be one in peace time. "You'd be surprised. Ash told me a few stories about Damas, your father really could prove himself a hero once a week. He must have left a journal, why don't you go read it?"

The mention of his father's name had brought tears to his eyes, accompanied by a palpable feeling of shame. "I'll never be as good as him, will I?" he sniffed, a tear rolling down his cheek. "I just...don't know, I don't know a thing about this." More tears escaped. "It wasn't like he was around long enough to teach me, if I only I'd-" Jak wiped his tears suddenly, forcing his emotions under some sort of control. He was aware the chatter round their table had grown quiet, a number of eyes staring at him. He sniffed. "Where's the bathroom?"

He was provided the directions by one or two voices, he was not sure who. He nodded glumly in thanks and stood up.

"Jak?" called Keira. "You sure you're okay on your own?"

Jak was convinced he had just been patronised. He bit down his sudden swell of anger anyway. "I just need to pee, I'll be right back." As he wandered away, he heard Daxter demand Torn explain himself.

As he walked along, the young ruler started wondering the same thing: what was Torn trying to do? He suddenly hated him for mentioning Damas. In his currently exposed, melancholic state, Jak was more easily reminded of his loss. He suddenly missed Damas terribly. His father was not exactly the sort that gave out encouragement easily, he was not one to comfort and embrace either; what he did do, was see someone's talent and point straight at it. He had always made Jak feel like he could strive more, try harder, believe that he really could achieve anything and make destiny his own. He thought fondly of the time when Damas had lectured him on the strength and flexibility of sand. These thoughts made him feel even more depressed.

Just as he had felt when Keira had denied his romantic preparations (was that really yesterday?) he felt himself suddenly overcome by a great anger. How dare Torn humiliate him! He made me cry, in front of everyone. What was wrong with the Commander? Did he wish to see Jak weak? After all those years of Jak claiming the glory? It's not my fault Torn chose to bark out orders and keep away from the action! Or maybe it was something else? Does he hate me being his boss? He suddenly wished he could relive the times they had spent in Kras City, progressing through the Championships. If only he had actually spent time gloating back then, really ramming it into Torn's face that he won every round, not the Freedom League/ex-Underground Commander. Oh yes, Kras City, he was truly at a high back then...

Suddenly, Jak found himself looking at a very familiar object. It was Torn's prized custom Firebat. He had won it during the course of the Grand Championship and had customised it both during and after the races. Jak's lips curved in an evil smile. He had made the mistake of never gloating back then. Time to fix that!

He morphed into his Dark form, causing a few people to scream nearby. He began pummelling the metalwork and even scratched parts of the surface for good measure. He released some of his Dark Eco into the driver's chair, setting it aflame. He tore through the passenger seat behind. He stomped on the fire, before it could get out of control, then released his Dark form and changed back to his normal self. It felt so good...to release that anger.

He smirked, admiring his handiwork. He knew Torn would figure out who had done the damage as soon as he saw it. But he didn't care. The grouchy Commander should have never upset him so badly. Jak continued feeling smug as he continued his way to the nearby public toilets. He continued feeling smug as he washed his hands and left. He happily took a second look at the damaged car. The damaged car. Torn will know it was me. He suddenly panicked!

What was I thinking?!? The Firebat really was a nice vehicle...and Jak ruined it. Over what? Hurt feelings? He anxiously inspected the ruined metalwork. None of the electronics or mechanics were damaged, just the aesthetics. That was at least something, Jak can fix it himself. But he really had no desire to admit his actions to Torn, to face his wrath. He was desperate to avoid a conflict with anyone...

He hurried away.

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Written by Ruth Hüneke 2013

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