Letting the dreams leave

The Day of Session 6

He crawled along the floor, desperately trying to reach the stairs in front of him. It was so dark in this corridor, so cold, but he could see well enough and he knew where he was going. He pulled his weak body along. He needed to get to those stairs, he had to climb up those stairs to reach the door. He refused to cry again. How he hated how weak his body was! But all he needed was some sunshine, this he was sure of. His hand touched the first step. He was so close! But he took a breath, several even; it had been a struggle to get this far and he now needed to drag himself up those stairs. He felt the convulsions coming again. Unwillingly he coughed, he hacked, he vomited on his side. It wasn't much, it was never much, but it was enough to remind him how sickly he was, its vile taste permeated in his mouth and made him yearn for water.

He squeezed his eyes shut. He forced himself to stop convulsing, to stop spewing what little he kept in his stomach. He was now ready to take on the stairs. He dragged his bandaged legs along the floor, allowing him to shakily support himself on his knees. His arms shook as they struggled to support him leaning over the bottom step. Those weak, pale, bandaged arms somehow did the job. He shivered for the thousandth time in his hospital gown. He slapped a hand onto the next step.

Heavily, the door above him shifted open. He shrunk back, squeezing his tear-filled eyes against the flooding sunlight. He also knew who was coming. He opened them a crack to find him standing at the top of the stairs, fully equipped in the armour of Mar that he treasured. The muscular, older, threatening Jak stared angrily down at the younger, sickly, vulnerable Jak.

"How did you get this far?!" demanded the older Jak.

The younger Jak, himself, crumpled onto the stairs, whimpering pitifully as he raised his head. "Please...let me outside." His voice was so small and quiet. "I just want to be outside."

This incensed the older Jak. "I told you! It's dangerous out there!" He marched down the stairs, grabbing the back of the younger Jak's hospital gown, easily hoisting him into his arms. "You go out there, you're Lurker chow. At least in here you're safe." The younger Jak struggled to push himself out of his arms, but he was so weak. He turned his head to see the approaching open door of his cell. "There's a reason I keep you here you know. Quit trying to escape, it only means I have to come back here more often." The younger Jak felt himself dumped on his familiar bed. "I have to fix your mess and clean up your shit!" The boy let out his tears as he felt the restraints back on him in a snap.

"Please don't leave me here..." He felt the poking and prodding of all those needles. He heard the noise outside, the shouting. "Please, I want to see the sun..."


Jak sat up with a start. He was staring at the nearby window. Someone threw something against that. The shouting was coming from outside that window. He stood up groggily and wandered over to look out of the window, finding the sun already high up and the streets bustling. The shouting was being exchanged between some Freedom Guards and some youngsters, one of whom threw some old shoes at various windows. Jak shook his head. Lousy kids. With a start, he realised that this was a strange thought to have, considering he hadn't even celebrated his 20th birthday yet. He thought back to when he was younger, still in Sandover Village. Would he have thrown objects at people's windows? No, never.

He turned back around, rubbing the back of his neck as he stared at the bed he had slept in. He considered climbing back into it and sleeping some more, but the truth was he wouldn't be getting any more sleep that day. His dream still bothered him. He couldn't believe how frightened he had been by...himself. He caught a part of his reflection in the mirror, on top of the dresser (which was mostly empty). The city's ruler walked to the dresser, leaning against it as he stared at his reflection. I'm not that scary to look at...am I? To him, he looked perfectly normal and approachable. He then thought of his mindset whenever he sat in on Council Meetings, noticing how his facial expression turned cold and unreadable; this made him glad. He then tried to mould his facial features to match his anger; he thought about those dark days in the prison, those times he would fantasise about the ways he would kill a person, Praxis especially.

Jak took a hard look at his reflection. He looked murderous. He looked exactly how he had in his dream. But in his dream, he was a younger, smaller version of himself. He thought back to the photo taken the first day he had arrived in the prison; he was pretty certain that in his dream, he had looked like that.

The guest heard some noises beyond the bedroom door. Realising it was the sound of Tess preparing the breakfast table, he looked for his clothes on a nearby chair and dressed himself. Appearing much like he had the previous night, he left the small bedroom.

The flat itself was relatively small and was located around the corner from The Naughty Ottsel. Being ottsels themselves, Tess and Daxter did not need so much space, so they were satisfied with taking one room as their bedroom, while another room was a combination of a kitchen, dining room, living room and study. The other small room was used as a guest bedroom, containing the only full-sized bed. Jak walked out to find Tess atop a stool, preparing something in the kitchen.

"Morning Jak. I'm preparing some scrambled eggs, want some?"

"Yeah, thanks."

The female ottsel informed the familiar guest that Daxter would join them as soon as the food was on the table. Her prediction was accurate. As soon as she and Jak sat down, Daxter wandered blearily out. Their roles were momentarily reversed; the male ottsel had little to say while Jak teased and mocked him. After some silent mouthfuls of their hearty breakfast, Daxter finally asked his best friend the topic of his argument with Keira.

“So, what did you and Keira fight about?”


Jak’s face fell; his mood plummeted. He looked away from them, frowning in thought and dreading the barrage of questions the ottsels would throw at him. “After Yerran left, Keira said…Keira told me she didn’t like a part of me.”


“Heh, I knew you could get a lil’ gassy but-” Daxter was immediately silenced by the glares the other two gave him.


“What part was she talking about?” asked Tess.


Jak swallowed another mouthful. “She told me this because I had told Yerran about the time I escaped that prison.”


Daxter’s joviality instantly diminished. “Oh, that’s why.”


His larger friend stared at him suspiciously. “You got something to say?”


The ottsel gave his best friend an unusually sober look. “I don’t think you appreciate how scary it is, finding your best friend after a long time, only to find he’s someone else? I mean, I get it. I found you in that torture chamber, you were in a bad way, you were pissed off and wanted revenge. Fine. But instead of doing the sensible thing, you left via the most obvious way possible and killed as many Krimzon Guards as you could find. You were freakin’ out and going on a total rampage! And you enjoyed it. It took me a few days to figure out you weren’t gonna snap on me and even then, you were grabbing me and manhandling me like some useless doll slowin’ ya down.”


Jak stared at him stonily. Daxter resolutely put his hands on his hips. “Oh, wondering why I never brought this up before? 1) It never came up, and 2) could you seriously tell me that back then, you weren’t an unhinged time bomb ready to blow up at anyone who disagreed with you?”


Disheartened, Jak looked down and played with his food. He thought of his dream again, remembering how intimidating his current self looked. “Am I really that heartless?” he asked quietly, almost humiliated.


The ottsels’ eyes widened in surprise. Daxter raised his arms in a placating gesture. “Not now. You were definitely more yourself after getting those Light Eco powers. It’s only lately that…back then has really bothered you now.”


“So how do you feel, when you think about the time you got out of the prison?” asked Tess.


“It’s like I said yesterday, I feel nothing.” The ottsels shared a look. "You think there's something wrong with me too?"

"So that's what Keira said?" Daxter exclaimed.

"Honestly, Jak, we don't know," pointed Tess out reasonably. "Yerran's the expert, she can tell you that. And as for what we think? What we think doesn't matter here."

"You started these sessions with Yerran to figure things out," finished the male ottsel. "So how about this? You go to Keira, offer to ask Yerran what her opinion is of you, see how you act after the sessions are done, then Keira can find out how she feels."

Jak smiled slightly. "That's a good idea."

Tess was glad. "Good! So now that you have that problem settled, finish your breakfast."


Breakfast had actually been quite late that day. The ottsels, being bar owners, found it very normal to stay awake until very late, so waking up late was normal for them. Jak had found it very difficult to get to sleep the previous night, mainly because of his simmering anger over what Keira had said. After a good night's rest and a delicious breakfast, Jak happily told his best friend exactly how he would make it up to his beloved; he had noticed the ingredients Keira had brought home the previous afternoon, knowing exactly what she had planned to cook. He would make it for her, so that she can come home to a romantic dinner and he can make his offer. He also wondered what flowers to decorate the table with.

Jak and Daxter decided to spend the remainder of their free time racing each other round the track at the arena. In the years since the days of Praxis' regime, the pair had accumulated a range of vehicles designed for racing and some of them they kept in the hold at the local arena. The single non-wheeled racer they had each, which they used to race around the track as quickly as possible, setting new lap records and instantly trying to beat them. They sometimes got carried away in their personal competition, scraping and banging against the sides of the track as a consequence. After racing more than 20 laps, the surfaces of their vehicles were becoming too damaged, so they needed to stop and perform some maintenance.

They chatted as they worked. Daxter proclaimed which cocktails he and 'Tessy-poo' would bring to the upcoming street party celebrating the fall of Praxis. At this moment Jak admitted he had forgotten about the street party (despite the numerous advertisements for it) and was no longer so enthusiastic about attending. His ottsel friend assured him he would feel better once he had actually arrived at the party. They then talked about the silly tidbits of gossip that the citizens of Haven City shared. Even more stories had spread of Jak and Ashelin sharing a secret relationship, the ludicrousness of which made Jak laugh. There was also a growing list of nicknames the Freedom Guards had for Torn. There were also criticisms of various members of the City Council, peppered every so often with praise for some of them. Daxter then offered some insight as to how the citizens viewed their king.

"No joke, if that stupid palace that Praxis built was still standing, they'd demand you live there and that Keira live somewhere else," declared the ottsel barkeeper.

"Even the people want me to live in a palace now?" exclaimed an exasperated Jak. "Don't they want the little amounts of money to go into schools, better housing and power facilities? And what's with the me and Keira living apart thing?" He continued polishing the metalwork.

"People wanna see their king...act like a king. They want their king to have a palace so they can take photos against it and stuff. Make it a local landmark and symbol for their city. As for the you and Keira living apart thing? They don't want their king just sleeping with anybody. She has to be the future queen. You're not allowed to just date."

"I'd totally make Keira my queen!" declared Jak. The next moment, he looked unsure of himself.

Daxter gave him a quizzical look. "I see a 'but'."

The blonde continued polishing, apparently ignoring him. "Everyone in Spargus earned their citizenship. You remember what we had to do, right?"

The small barkeeper swallowed. He remembered the dangerous challenges the pair had needed to complete. "Heh heh, yeah...I'll just admit it right now, you did most of the work. Me on my own, I woulda been toast."

Jak tried to imagine her in the arena at Spargus. He found he could, a lot easier than he thought it would be. "I think she could do it, I really do. I can't just force it on her though."

The pair continued to work silently. Jak was inwardly reminiscing about the time he, Daxter and Keira had found each other here. Or rather, in the workshop nearby, where she had kept an apartment above it. Since then, she had changed her workspace. He got up to rummage for the spray can among his tools. The pair were surprised when Samos approached them.

At first, the taller of them was mildly curious as to why Samos had come. He then made a snap conclusion. "If you're here to do the 'overprotective father of his daughter' routine, I'm not playing along."

The sage seemed unfazed. "Fine, what about the 'elder who cares for his surrogate son' routine?" He grinned slightly at the surprised look on Jak's face. "I just wanted to see how you were. I know you've been seeing a practitioner every day, two even, and with everything else going on, I know you've been busy and distracted. So I thought I'd stop by, chat. Maybe you can tell me what happens in those sessions of yours?"

"Those are private," the younger man snapped. "What, you couldn't weasel the info out of Keira, so you thought you'd get it from me?" he accused. He felt a small glimmer of satisfaction at the surprised expression on Samos' face.

The Sage sighed. "I noticed she was upset, but she refused to tell me why. I asked her if it was something to do with those sessions you have, but she said she couldn't talk about them. I understand they're private, so it seemed a better idea to ask you."

Jak kept his mouth shut a moment. "We had a fight. I'll make it up to her later, don't worry."

"Good." He looked at the hero he had trained and taught a little apprehensively. "So, was the fight about something that happened in a session?"

"That's none of your business! You done being nosy?"

Samos turned grim. Daxter looked back and forth between the two in nervousness. "No need to be rude young man," warned the Sage.

Jak faced his mentor arrogantly, smirking. "You threatening me? I'm more powerful than you. You realise that, right?"

"And you're threatening me now!" Samos could not remember the last time he was so angry at the young man in front of him. "What would your uncle think if he could see you?"

Blue eyes stared at him blankly. Those blue eyes used to look ashamed at the thought of disappointing the explorer. Instead, the young man laughed, darkly. "We're not even related, you fucking liar. You just took me back to Sandover and handed me off to some couple you found. What were you trying to do?"

"I was trying to fulfill a prophecy! You needed to know about the Eco and how to use it! You had no problems sending your younger self back, I thought you understood this."

"That was before I found out my father was in Spargus. Is that what you normally do with kids? You just find them abandoned in the streets and keep them for yourself? Is Keira even your daughter?!"


Slowly, Jak realised what he had said. Colour drained from his cheeks. All his gusto vanished. "Samos, I..."

"You know exactly what Keira means to me," lectured the Sage quietly, visibly hurt. "She is my stepdaughter, no blood relation, but I love her as my own." Struggling to keep his anger under control, the Eco Sage gritted his teeth and demanded an answer to one last question. "Why this obsession with what I did?!?"

Daxter realised that he had never seen Samos so visibly anguished. Jak seemed not to notice. "I have no idea what to do with myself right now, because I should have been raised by my father. But instead, you took me to Sandover. Then you never stopped us coming back here, but you must have remembered the rift rider and meeting yourself? And you met me, who used Dark Eco powers. You always said to stay away, because of the effects of it on a person, but you never figured future-me had a problem? And I got to be locked up in a prison and experimented and tortured on...and now I need therapy for it. So thanks a lot for the useless memories you green puff-bag!"

Samos stayed stuck to his spot for the longest time. It had been a near-eternity since he had felt this uncertain. Daxter looked away from him in embarrassment. Wordlessly, the Sage exited.


"You know," began Daxter, quiet and sullen, "if you'd never gone back in time to Sandover Village, I'd have never met you, we'd have never had those adventures. ... You'd have never met Keira."

Jak's shoulders visibly sagged.


Keira returned to the apartment she shared with Jak and was surprised to smell cooking. He was cooking? For her? And was that -

She rushed to the kitchen door and stared at the sight of Jak cooking stuffed peppers and a spicy bean salad. It was the meal she had planned to cook the previous day. She was so taken aback by this, her mouth hung open. The chef turned around, beaming his most welcoming smile.

"Hey Keira, right on time. Take a seat at the dining table, I'll bring the plates over."

With her mouth still hanging open, she wordlessly left the kitchen to take off her shoes. She wandered into the dining room and blinked. And blinked. The dining room table had a vase of beautiful flowers on it. Jak had even brought out some wineglasses for them, to be used with the small bottle on the table. Her look of astonishment turned into one of wonderous awe. This was the Jak she knew and loved, the one who would not stop showing her how much he loved her; making little surprises like this, enriching their own, private little world, making her feel so special. This did not fit the Jak she had seen the previous night. The angry young man, the heartless killer. She couldn't take it. She had to leave.

"I hope you liked the surprise," called Jak cheerily as he entered with the served plates.

Snapped out of her daze, Keira snatched a plate and picked up a knife and fork as quickly as she could. "Thanks, but I'll eat alone." She dashed to the bedroom, leaving her beloved to stare at the closing bedroom door in shock.

Somehow, eating this delicious meal made Keira even more depressed. The food was carefully cooked, exactly the way she liked it. It reminded her of the days after Jak had returned from Spargus and saved the world from the Dark Makers. The night everybody had celebrated, he and she had slipped away, to a private room in a quiet part of the city, where they had made love for the first time. In the months that had followed, their love had felt very strong. Keira only had to think about Jak for a brief moment and she would instantly be filled with happiness. They had spent all their free time together, sometimes with others, sometimes alone. They had raced each other, spent time in the slowly rejuvenating forest, looked through treasure maps, talked about any old silly thing. They had loved rebuilding the world around them and they loved getting to know each other's worlds, paying attention to what made the other happy. They hadn't made love too much at first, as the city needed rebuilding and private accommodation had been sparse; but every time they had been intimate, she had always discovered something new about him, while he had discovered something about her she had never realised. Every time they had made love, it had been amazing, always leaving her glowing inside. Their love-making hadn't turned any less pleasurable recently, but it had taken on a more desperate edge.

Thinking about it, it seemed they had sometimes resorted to sex in order to cover up the cracks appearing in their relationship. Cracks? A deep, sad realisation grew within her; her love for him had turned more caring, more concerned, the first time she had witnessed him trapped in his nightmares. The first time, she had woken him up; his reaction was at first shame, then anger, that such a thing had happened at all. This was the first time their romance had hit a roadblock. As she went over her memories of the last year with him, she realised that there had been many small moments when cracks had appeared, when she had wanted Jak to reveal more about what haunted him. Every time he had refused to say anything, saying very little if he did say something, assuring her it was nothing, that it would pass. It just got worse instead.

She did not regret learning what had happened to him during those near 2 years of incarceration. Finding out was a shock, but she could live with it. What had her rattled at this moment, was that the experience had truly left a scar on him, one so bad that he had become more a ruthless soldier, mass murderer even. And he didn't care. Except he must have, as he preferred not to show her that side of him. But she had sometimes seen glimpses of it, convincing herself they had been little more than delusions. Now she knew the truth: his dark side was definitely present and it scared her. How would she react if he murdered someone right in front of her? Even in the name of self-defence?

She sighed. How could one man make her so happy and yet so fearful at the same time?

Outside, in the dining room, Jak was feeling as low as Keira, but for different reasons. He was feeling lonely. He ate the meal, making sure nothing went to waste. He inwardly chastised himself. What did you think was going to happen? That she'd forget everything after seeing you act romantic? He felt helpless in his current predicament. He had known all along that the tension between them had not been caused by him making a mistake or screwing up, things he can easily fix. But what she had said to him. "There's something wrong with you." He could not fix that. It's how she saw him now. Was she wrong?

It is why I'm having these sessions you moron. This sudden thought made him irritable. She did know that there was something wrong with him after all; he had used his Dark Eco powers to attack civilians under the belief they were loyal followers of the dead Baron Praxis. She herself had admitted to soothing away his nightmares, without his knowledge. Why was this news to her now? And I wanted to talk to you tonight, about this, over a lovely dinner. You had to take that away from me, didn't you?

He realised he had spent the last who-knows-how-long glaring angrily at an empty plate with his arms crossed. He made the defeated decision to clean up. His eyes fell on the unopened small bottle. This depressed him. She had rejected his romantic efforts. He hoped this bottle could be opened later on, during a happier occasion perhaps. He started bringing things to the kitchen, preparing to clean them. These various thoughts about his relationship with Keira would not leave him, seeing the mess he had made in the kitchen threatened tears to fall, but he refused to allow that. As he began washing up the dirty dishes, he remembered what she had also said to him the previous night: "You weren't the kind, sweet boy from Sandover". His thoughts turned angry. Of course I'm not!

He gritted his teeth as, outwardly, he stoically cleaned up the kitchen. Inwardly, he was jealous of his younger self. His younger, stupider self, whom Keira had looked at with fondness and adoration anyway. Had she ever given him that look again? Of course, those months after his return from his exile to the Wastelands. She had given him many other looks besides. Including concern...even fear, once in a while. So why the hell did she fixate on their childhoods? On himself as a child? She should quit being so nostalgic! Was it because he had been harmless? Because he had not killed a person? Because he had been unwilling to. She needs to grow up and stop being so stuck in the past. It was her fault he felt like this now! She used to adore him like the hero he was. It was her own fault she saw that side of him, her own fault she now knows the whole ugly truth of what had happened to him. She will suffer and he won't care!

"Um, Jak?" Stepping into the kitchen, holding her empty plate, Keira felt her blood freeze. He happened to be cleaning the chopping knife. The look he gave her was an angry, accusatory one. Just like when they had had their first argument, when he had refused to race, meaning Daxter had raced in his stead. Jak looked very chilling to her, she was unsure how certain she was he would not kill her. "Uh, sorry for doing that I...I just..."

He dropped the knife into the drying rack, then held out his hand. "Pass 'em over," he brusquely ordered.

Keira blinked in surprise. Just like that, he no longer seemed threatening, just angry. Wordlessly, she handed him her dirty plate and utensils. 

He spoke quietly as he washed them. "I told Daxter what happened last night. Not the whole story, just enough. He almost reacted the same way you did. But he had an idea, a proposal. I thought it was a good one. I wanted to tell you while we had our dinner. But you ran away. So I'll tell you now. When Yerran comes I'll ask her if there's really something wrong with me, she'll know after all, you just think. Once our sessions are done, I should be fine. If not, you can leave me."

The mechanic frowned, although he couldn't see it. "Don't be ridiculous, Jak. I can't just leave you in an ultimatum like that. I love you too much."

He swivelled his head towards her robotically. "Do you?" His eyes were emotionally hard.

This both worried and confused Keira. "Do I what?"

"Love me? Or do you prefer a different me?"

She crossed her arms in annoyance. "And what other you is there?"

"You weren't the kind, sweet boy from Sandover," he mocked. "Do you prefer him? He's locked away and never coming out." Like in that dream.

She stared at him, looking only disappointed. "I don't think that's true. All I know, is that Praxis turned you into something you're not. It's damaged you. That's why you need fixing." She gave him a wry smile. "Healing. What did Yerran call it? The wound we can't see? It must be a big one."

Jak turned away. "I'm nearly done here." 

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Written by Ruth Hüneke 2013

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