Letting the dreams leave


He wandered slowly back. Aware that he had done something terrible - and that he had been spotted - he felt even more self-conscious and insecure, if that were somehow possible. Jak avoided eye contact with everyone, but tried not to hurry, attempting to be as inconspicuous as possible. His attention was drawn to the dancers along the street. None of them paid any attention to him. They danced in their friendship groups, in pairs, in family groups, even in circles with neighbours. He then noticed a change come over the crowd as the music blaring from various speakers decreased in tempo, becoming calmer. The crowd broke into pairs and couples, larger groups took this chance to get more refreshments. Some of the children practiced ballroom etiquette. Jak smiled gently, charmed by the scene. Everyone dancing was lost in their little world. Unwilling to face any more conversation, he resolved to bring Keira to the dancefloor. Or crowded road.

Jak walked slightly quicker back to the table. Ashelin intercepted him before he got near.

"Hey, before you grab Keira, I just wanted to arrange something." The baroness shrugged. "I wanted to ask earlier but your communicator was disabled. Yeah I get it, you didn't want to talk to anyone. It's about the post-Ratification ceremony, that's its official name now." In answer, Jak only frowned in mild confusion. "Our clothes have been delivered and we need to try them on, in case anything has to be changed. Should I arrange it for tomorrow afternoon? The sooner, the better, I'd say."

His reasonable side agreed with his baroness. His domineering emotional side dreaded the encounter tomorrow. "Will Talia stay quiet?"

Ashelin chuckled, somewhat darkly. "She was much quieter the last time I talked to her. The entire thing shouldn't take more than an hour, at most, it'll be fine." The two of them agreed to meet the next afternoon in their shared office, in the City Council Offices. Satisfied, they returned to the table.

Keira was surprised when the blonde asked her to dance, but she happily went with him, glad to see him not so glum as before. They promptly joined the crowds of dancers nearby and held each other as they swayed to the music. Jak allowed his eyes to freely roam Keira's form. He found his reverie interrupted by the change in music to something a little more lively, very percussion-based. His annoyance quickly evaporated as he found himself able to dance to a rhythm and match Keira's timings. She laughed and smiled enthusiastically, the skirt of her dress bobbing up and down, teasing the sight of her upper legs. She felt herself blush when she realised his blue eyes were fixated on her thighs. It was almost a relief when, after several minutes, the tempo slowed down again.

With the tempo being much slower than during the previous set of slow dances, the couple wrapped themselves around each other, leaning their foreheads against each other. Sometimes they closed their eyes, fixating themselves on one sensation, focussing on one aspect of the other. He sometimes shifted his head, just enough, to breathe in the scent of her hair. She allowed her fingers to feel the form of muscles on his back, sometimes pressing and massaging them. At some point both moved a hand to stroke the arm of the other.

After a row of romantic slow songs, the tempo increased slightly, only slightly; while the music was still calm, the dancers found themselves separating in order to keep up with the tempo. Jak preferred to not let her go. He kept hold of Keira at arm's length while they swayed. His focus was on her, only her. She focussed on the music but her gaze was lost in his eyes. He squeezed her hips, gently. He continued his kneading of her lower muscles, making her bite her lip from her attempts to suppress her pleasure. Only then did she notice her increased heartbeat. Only then did she realise they had stopped moving. His gaze was intense.

He slowly leaned in. She thought he wanted to kiss him, but their lips only lightly brushed as he continued his way. She felt his breath tickle her ear. "Why don't we get out of here?" he proposed in a low, husky voice. "Have our own, private party?"

A small voice at the back of her head thought: It's been over an hour, right? The purple-orange sky certainly agreed with her. She nodded. He gently clasped her hand and led her between the dancers.

They didn't exchange a word on their way back to their apartment. They made their way by foot, as the distance was not too great. Keira observed the scene around her. The neighbourhood was quiet, some children sat in a corner and played basic board games. A few birds tweeted here and there. She smiled. Walking hand-in-hand with her beloved down such a quiet street at sunset was certainly romantic.

They got home and Jak opened the door. Acting the silent gentleman, he had her enter first. He slammed the door shut.

Before she knew it, Jak's lips were on hers. One hand pressed her hand against the wall and the other grabbed her wrist, pressing it against the wall, above her head. She felt the wall press against her back, Jak grinding his groin against hers, forcing her to let out an involuntary moan. Her wrist was freed by the hand crawling up her skirt, while a tongue teased her lips. She broke the kiss and looked to the side. "Not against the wall, please."

Keira was surprised by how lustful and focussed his blue eyes were. A smirk crawled up one side of his face, cockily. He casually shrugged. "Alright."

He grabbed her waist and hoisted her up, making Keira wrap her arms around Jak's shoulders in surprise. His hands then gripped her under-thighs, persuading her legs to wrap around his waist. He walked along, squeezing and massaging her upper thighs and buttocks, gradually pulling down her panties. He even planted a kiss or two on her neck as he moved. He started to nibble on her neck, while she wondered why his hands were unwrapping her arms. She was sitting on one of their sofas.

"Here?" she asked as he slid her panties down her bare legs.

"Why not?" Jak looked very determined as he began removing the clothing below his waist. "Doing it on the bed all the time gets boring."

As he pulled off the last piece of clothing, he kissed her vehemently, succeeding in pushing his tongue into her mouth. She did not resist when he opened her legs and rested them against his thighs; she felt his knees positioned against her derriere on either side. Within their lip-lock, he let out a vocal sigh. He pushed himself inside her. Keira let out a squeal and gripped the top of the sofa.


She suddenly woke up. It was late in the night, it was dark. She was also completely naked. She was lying on her back, but was resting against a torso. How did I end up like this? With an intense heartbeat, Keira remembered the trysts she had earlier shared with Jak. Their first climax was on the sofa, still partially clothed. They were then naked and making love on the floor. They were on the bed for the 3rd round; despite being quite exhausted by this point, he had insisted she kneel on all fours. After that 3rd climax, she had passed out, of this she was certain. She also had a foggy recollection that Jak had had an extra climax during those trysts. She needed the toilet.

Keira decided she should sit up. She needed to relieve herself in the bathroom, remove her make-up and - she grimaced as she shifted her legs - clean herself up. Before fully standing up, however, she turned in her seated position and watched Jak. He was also lying on his back, sleeping peacefully, blissfully unaware of the mess enveloping his nether-regions. It seemed they had both fallen asleep on top of their shared blanket. She was reassured by the sight of Jak on his back and not suffering from his nightmares. Feeling assured, she stood up and walked - or waddled - to the bathroom.

She squinted when she turned on the bright light. She kept her eyes closed most of the time, doing her business and cleaning up the mess. After she washed her hands, she inspected the smeared make-up. She took a removal cloth and wiped her face a few times, before her natural complexion returned. Satisfied, she switched off the light and made her way back to bed. Jak was twitching and struggling, his wrists were pressed against the bed by invisible shackles.

"Oh no."

Keira rushed to his side, calling his name. She tried grabbing his shoulders and shaking them. This only resulted in his wails becoming more desperate. Trying to jolt him out of his nightmare, Keira grabbed his arms and wrenched them up. The sudden imbalance had him release a quick scream and spring into an upright sitting position. Jak blinked owlishly, trying to make sense of his dark surroundings, while gasping for air. It's dark. He could not register that Keira had just called his name. In his confusion, he felt panic build up, as it did when he had woken up in isolation. He let out another primal yell before she wrapped her arms around his shoulders, clasping his head to her shoulder. Relief washed over him. Jak pressed his hands into her back, panting as his panic ebbed away, thanking the Precursors a million times over he was with this amazing, beautiful girl.

Keira stayed kneeling. She heard his gasping fade, felt his breathing normalise. She herself was in shock. She remembered the position he had been in when she had left him.

"I'm sorry," she whispered. "I'm so sorry." She ran a hand through his soft hair. "I was in the bathroom, you were asleep on your back, but you looked so peaceful before I left. I thought you'd be okay. I'm sorry, Jak, I-"

His hands gripped her shoulders. He pushed himself off her. He stared right into her eyes, initially with a look of pained confusion. Such confusion cleared and his eyes hardened, his mouth formed a firm line. Jak regarded her with suspicion. Slowly he moved away from her. In the darkness, partly illuminated by the sky through the uncovered windows, she watched his dark form climb off the bed, then walk away.

"Jak? Where are you going?" Keira chased after him, having to jog to keep up with his strides. "Jak." She grabbed his arm.

He tore it away, but stopped moving. "Leave me alone."

... "What?"

"Leave me alone," he threatened.

Keira frowned at his back. "Why would I do that? I want to help you. I love you."

"It's not me you want!" Jak snapped in her face, forcing her to back away. "You want the boy from Sandover! Well he's dead! He died in that
prison! He's never coming back! So you're stuck with me!” He seethed with fury.

Keira's instincts were screaming at her to flee. She wasn't safe here. But she couldn't just run out, she needed clothes. Trying to stay calm, she backed away slowly. She kept taking steps until she realised Jak wasn't following her. He wasn't stalking her, he wasn't attacking her, he just continued to stare angrily. She thought about how desperately timid he had seemed after that session the previous day. She thought about how frightened he looked every time he had a nightmare. Then an idea came. It just clicked into place.

"I don't think that's true." His angry stare remained fixed in place. She quickly switched on a desk lamp, tired of the darkness. "It can't be true. He can't be dead because the boy from Sandover still comes out to play sometimes. I see him when we're in the forest. I see him when he handles Precursor artifacts. I see him whenever he's singing a song from our childhood." His angry stare softened, considering her words. "But I know you're not completely him. You've gone through too much, you've had to change. Some of those changes were good."

"Only some?" he sneered.

"That's not what I meant. I...I just want the real Jak, whoever he is. I don't properly know who that is because you hid so much of your real self until last week. I don't think you know who that is either. You just go around with this mask on, sometimes with this attitude problem, other times acting like you don't care. And when we're alone you act like no problems exist. Whoever Jak Mar is, I know it's not the blonde racer with temper issues."

Jak was quiet for some time, staring at her blankly. He was puzzled by her words. How could he not know who his real self is? He is Jak - Mar - whatever people called him. But then his dream returned to him, unbidden. He remembered the fear, pain and desperation as he had tried to reach the door. The upset and defeat he had felt when his older - tougher - self had opened the door and forced him back onto his bed. How had he been? Young, that he was sure of. He had been told - ranted at - that he had been kept in his cell for his safety, but his dream-self had considered his cell anything but safe. He had still been so desperate to go outside. All those feelings, they were just as he had felt during that first year in the prison. Every day, he had hoped someone would admit a mistake and free him. Or maybe that the door would open and it would be someone initiating his escape.

Defeated he wandered to a nearby sofa and slumped onto it, head bowed and elbows resting on knees, feeling defeated. When he spoke, it was in a hushed voice. "I only ever felt small in that place. I never felt grown up in Sandover, but I felt like I was almost there. I looked forward to it. But in that prison, I was just small. Invisible. Dr. Falton and Dr. Gravis were the only ones that treated me like a person, and some of my confidence came back. Most of the time, I just had to not care. I didn't care when I was hungry, scared, sad, lonely. I just didn't care. I still don't. ... I still don't want to. She made me care, yesterday and today. It feels worse now. It's horrible, I can't take it any more."

Keira nodded. "It will go away though." Jak looked up. "It might take a little longer, but it will go away. All those...negative feelings. You said you didn't care? You had to shut part of yourself away? I know what I went through was tiny and pathetic compared to what happened to you, but I was at least honest. I know how I felt back then, I know how I feel now, about back then, about myself, about us."

"You want to help in this," he stated. She nodded. "Then get rid of this feeling!" he hissed.

She looked at her beloved sadly. "I wish I could, but I don't know how. And I think, that's the point. Just stop fighting it, for once." She drew closer. "I can make it easier, like yesterday."

Jak felt his chin quiver, making him hang his head again, staring downwards. He felt such shame about himself. He then realised something embarrassing. "I need to wash up," he said bashfully.

Keira fought to contain her grin. "I already used the bathroom for that, you can go."


Keira had to sing some childhood lullabies to get Jak to sleep. To her surprise, he had joined in initially. They both slept under the blanket, Jak lying on his front while draping an arm across Keira’s front, resting his head against her shoulder. Her right hand played with his hair. She was somewhat surprised when she woke the next morning and found the sleeping king hugging his pillow.


At least he’s relaxed.


At some point, Jak had to wake up. He did so slowly. Once he was aware he was awake, he kept his eyes closed. He could hear some music from the kitchen. This time he had no interest in facing anything he found too uncomfortable. He snuggled against his pillow, feeling cosy, safe.


“Jak, I know you’re awake, so get up already.”


Guilt made him open his eyes. Her tone of voice made it very clear she was in no mood for his antics. He was suddenly reminded of all those mornings in Sandover village; whenever it was a school day he had been reluctant to get out of bed, so his aunt had to order him out or else. Keira watched him sternly as he slowly climbed out of bed. He walked reluctantly to a drawer, pulling out fresh underwear. From his side, she handed him a loose shirt to wear. She left him, returning to the kitchen.

When he did join her, he did not say anything. Neither did he respond to her kind smile. He sat down, staring at his breakfast. Oats and fruit, the same breakfast he had most days. He took a few bites. He felt his eyes welling up and his tears roll out.

Keira asked what was wrong, but he could only shake his head. "I don't know, I don't know!" He rubbed them away. "I just...I hate this feeling. I keep hoping it goes away but it just comes back. Shit. I have to go to that stupid costume-fitting. I wanna stay here."

The mechanic sighed. "We have responsibilities. I told you I'd open the garage today, for half a day. And I really don't want you staying here all by yourself."

"Why not? I'd feel safer here." He paused, realising what he had just said.

Keira frowned. "Safer?" Jak continued eating, refusing to look at her. "Do you feel safe here?" He nodded. "Nowhere else?" He munched and chewed thoughtfully.

He took a moment after swallowing before he answered. "The Wastelands, Spargus."

She slumped. "Are you serious? You feel safer in a place where you have to fire your gun the whole-"

She stopped herself asking the full question. She was frozen, staring at Jak, as if enlightened by a sudden revelation. He does. He feels much safer in a place where he can adventure and shoot stuff all day, even with those dangerous storms. Awkwardly, she re-focused on her food, choosing to ignore the blonde most of the time. I don't understand you, I really don't. Once again, she found herself comparing the Jak in front of her, to the memories she had of him in Sandover, trying to match the two up. Sometimes, he really did act like the young boy she remembered. At other times, he behaved like a completely different person. She understood now a lot better why that was, but it was still difficult to accept. She had to remind herself that curing him would not mean his former personality would return; he had been through too much. But it was not just the negative elements of the previous four years that would prevent this return, it was the good parts as well. She found it difficult to imagine the easily-blushing 15-year-old being intimate with her, confident while at it. She also could not imagine the young boy being able to cope with affairs of state, nor any of the life-endangering races he has taken part in.


In the end, Jak went to the garage with Keira, much like he had done the previous day. As there were no more chairs to clean or refurbish, his task - whenever he felt up to doing a task - was to tidy up the garage and clean it as much as possible. He was actually rather effective at his task, in spite of his mood. Keira had also called ahead and Ashelin had agreed to collect Jak. At the allotted time, the baroness entered the workshop, looking for her king, who did not have a very kingly appearance. She exchanged some pleasantries with Keira, before making sure Jak was secured in his seat and then drove her vehicle away.

She gave him a funny look. "You trashed Torn's Firebat."

"None of the electronics were damaged, it should still run," responded Jak, as if the vehicle were little more than a worthless toy.

Ashelin frowned as she looked ahead in her driving. She deliberated whether it was worth saying anything else. "Yeah, it ran no problem. Wasn't the point though."

There were a few moments of silence while he waited for the inevitable question. He was somewhat annoyed when it never came. "Aren't you going to ask me why I did it?"

"No point. You're not thinking straight right now. Hell, you're sometimes not thinking, and I don't have time to figure you out. I'll wait for answers." The vehicle drew to a halt as the traffic built up and slowed. She gave him a pointed look. "But get better before you face Torn. He's pissed."

Jak remained silent until they reached the Council Building. In fact he remained silent on their way to their office, keeping silent until Talia and the two tailors arrived. To his relief, Talia stayed cordial and subdued, although no less enthusiastic. Ashelin left with Talia and the female tailor, while Jak stayed in the office and allowed the male tailor to assist him in putting on the various pieces of formal clothing. The following pieces made up the clothing ensemble: black tights, knee-high brown boots, a black velvet tunic with gold embroidery at the collar, with green shirt sleeves attached, a golden sash worn around the waist, all topped off by a green cape, the colour matching the sleeves. One accessory was missing: the legacy stone, showing his lineage and his title; this he would wear on the day of the ceremony.

The tailor was satisfied that all the clothing items fit. The young king stared at his reflection. He could only barely recognise himself; he looked regal, almost too regal. He also felt a growing sense of shame. This outfit isn't for me. He was convinced he did not deserve to wear such an outfit. Yet he was King, ruler of Haven City and Spargus. He tried to imagine himself carrying out the ceremony, bestowing the title of baroness on Ashelin, announcing her to be his assistant and replacement should he be absent, announcing the constitution ratified and outlining the key roles and tasks of the City Council. The only certain thing he could see was that he would fail. He would make a mistake somewhere, perhaps forgetting some words, or be so quiet thanks to his nervousness. He was convinced that this beautiful costume would witness nothing but his humiliation.

He heard Ashelin coming in. He continued to stare at himself in the mirror as the ladies chatted. At some point, someone called his name, so he turned around. And stared at Baron Praxis' coat. He knew that pompous coat anywhere! He could see the former baron wearing it with pride, grinning smugly, as Jak watched him from his spot hidden in the alley, or strapped down on a bed. Krimzon Guards followed the dictator. This is my chance! He rushed at the baron...

Ashelin screamed and punched the attacking Jak. She could see his black eyes and was desperate to have his blue ones back. He gripped her coat; it tore as she pulled away from him. The blonde, now normal, stared around him, trembling as the torn-off parts of the red coat hung in his hands.

"Mar's name, Jak!" exclaimed the baroness. She stared at the pathetic remains of her coat. Talia tried to calm down the female tailor, who was aghast at the ruined coat. Ashelin shrugged it off. "Shit. What was that? Another...day-mare? Or flashback?"

He nodded dumbly. "Yeah, flashback." On the floor, by her feet, he stared at the torn coat. He dove down to grab it, staring at the cloth, as well as discovering the pieces in his hands. "This...this really is Praxis' coat." He stared at the red-haired baroness in confusion.

She nodded briskly. "Yeah, that's my father's coat. But it's also the title coat. When members of my family were presented the title of baron, they wore that coat at the ceremony. Hey! What are you-"

Jak threw the shredded red garment onto the floor and stamped on it in a rage. "NO WAY! YOU'RE NOT WEARING THIS! YOU'RE NOT WEARING THIS THING, EVER!" He stopped his stamping and growled at Ashelin. "You're not wearing a thing that bastard owned, you hear me?"

One of the tailors tried suggesting an alternate item, but the pair ignored them completely.

"Fuck you! I'll wear whatever I want!" rebelled the baroness.

"And prove me wrong?" he challenged. "All those times I defended you against those critics? Who said you would act like your father? You were never interested in any of his things, and now you want to wear his coat?"

"My ancestor's coat! It wasn't his!"

"But he wore it! So no, you can't wear it." Jak then grinned in smug self-satisfaction. "If you do, I'll take away your title."

Ashelin stared at him aghast. "Over a coat?!" In answer to her exclamation, the King merely nodded. She tried her hardest to find a retort, but she realised he could very well do that. The Haven City Council has no mandate or say in any of the King's selections or demotions regarding titles, so even if the reason for such a demotion was truly frivolous, no one could stop it. She clenched her jaw. "You're being a dick, you know that?" Jak remained resolute.


Ashelin dropped Jak off back at his home. Both of them maintained a tense silence, not even saying goodbye when they parted. He got inside as quickly as possible, opening some windows to let in some air. He flopped onto a sofa, switching on the TV that sat in the wall at one end of the room. He was watching some sort of comedy show, but he was not paying any attention. He either sulked or fumed, depending on what he was thinking. At some point, he picked up a pen and paper. He found himself writing a list of the people he had upset. He debated whether to add Keira's name.

"Yo Jak!" Daxter bounded off the window sill and presented himself on the coffee table. "We got lots ta catch up on! I mean, you and Keira musta been dancing over an hour yesterday, and then you snuck off! Uh, Jak? Aren't you gonna say anything? And while we're at it, what's with the glum look?" Jak chose not to say anything, choosing to start writing on his notepad instead. "If it's anything to do with wrecking that Firebat, I'd say Torn had it comin'." The ottsel suddenly found himself staring at a written-on piece of paper. "I've pissed off 3 people this week, I don't want to fight you too." The smaller creature raised an eyebrow. "And what would we fight about?" The blonde wrote something else. "Look, about the time I spread the rumour you kissed Ashelin, that's ancient history and we're both passed it."

Jak refused to look at his best friend as he held up his pad of paper. He had scribbled the words 'Please Just Go'. Daxter looked downcast.

"Eh, alright. OK. If...that's what you want." The upset ottsel stared at his friend for a while, simply out of concern. Then he let out a sigh and made his way to the open window. Once he was out of sight, Jak put the notepad back onto the table. He sighed, trying to watch the TV but unable to.

Eventually, Keira came home. By the way the door was slammed shut and the way she stiffly walked in, he could tell she was unhappy. "Jak? What the fuck were you thinking?!" He stared back at her apathetically. "Why did you tear up Torn's Firebat like that? I mean, OK, it runs, but...he brought it in, pissed off like all hell, and said that as you did it, he shouldn't pay a single dime for the repairs. Some of that's expensive material! You're losing me money, Jak!" She suddenly found him holding up a piece of paper in front of her, his look still apathetic. "What's this?" She ripped it from his hand and read: 'I think I've lost 3 people close to me already. I don't want to fight with you, so I'm not saying anything until Yerran gets here.'

She stared at him crossly. Keira had no idea what to say to this. She was also trying to ignore her instincts screaming at her to throttle him. Part of her knew he was not acting like himself, but she has had to deal with many days of Jak not acting like himself, perhaps even longer now that she thought about it. She was fed up and just wanted it to end. "I'm sick of this...I really am."

On the outside, Jak made no reaction, simply turning his gaze back onto the TV. On the inside, he felt a well of guilt.

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Written by Ruth Hüneke 2013

© Naughty Dog and Sony