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."
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."
in a place
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-"
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
owned, you hear
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.
Keira came home.
By the way the
and the way
in, he could
tell she was
What the fuck
were you thinking?!"
He stared back
"Why did you
tear up Torn's
brought it in,
like all hell,
did it, he
a single dime
him holding up
a piece of
paper in front
her, his look
it from his
hand and read:
'I think I've
lost 3 people
close to me
don't want to
you, so I'm
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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by Ruth Hüneke 2013
© Naughty Dog and Sony