Shazza felt numb; it had even felt strange to breathe, like she had to think before she inhaled. Shazza had squeezed his hand so hard it had to hurt, how could it not? Limbs moved unwillingly with a jerky marionette quality that only barely looked like human movement and she was cold, so cold. Riddick wouldn’t let her go, even if she knew what to do with herself; his hand was warm, and strong, and she felt neither.
Riddick watched her carefully while he listened to Theo explain where they had ended up. They were on the farthest outskirts of the massive Trieste system, untold light years from where they had started. It was strange to look out and see completely different stars in the sky than those he had grown accustomed to, but he wasn’t about to let go of Shazza’s hand to investigate no matter how curious he was. She wasn’t about to break yet, but she was close; her face was as hard as ever but her eyes looked lost, as though she wasn’t quite sure where she was.
“Do a sweep of the area, Theo. We need to rest somewhere for a bit.” Theo watched Riddick’s deep glare as he said it, and knew that like so many other things the man said, that this was not a question either. Riddick didn’t need to rest, he wondered if Riddick ever needed to rest or if he was some sort of perpetual motion machine that once set on its course would continue until they were all dust. Shazza did though; her skin was ashen except for two uneven splotches high on her cheeks. She didn’t cry or shake, but that wouldn’t be long, he guessed. Jack held her other hand.
“I can pull into the orbit of that small moon, there’s no life on it so it should be quiet for a while. About the …the loading bay.” Theo stopped himself before he mentioned the dead mercs in the loading bay; they would have to be dealt with and the blood would have to be cleaned up at some point. The two men communicated more by looks than anything else, as they both tried to avoid mention of what would need to be done in front of Jack or Shazza. Riddick may have started out driven to protect the two women, but now Theo felt that same need. They’d seen enough.
“It can wait.” Riddick knew that dried blood would be a lot harder to clean but a little hard work was worth it. Shazza needed him now, not later. He needed to get her off this bridge. Jack had moved over to Shazza’s other side and held her arm, but he seriously doubted she felt it. He turned to ask Theo how long it would take for the ship to be secure. A few minutes, maybe half an hour at the very most; he said not to wait. Riddick hesitated for the span of a heartbeat, and wondered if he could really trust the man alone on the bridge. The thought flickered and was gone again; trust came hard to him, he had been given far too many reasons not to trust, but this wasn’t one of those occasions. If Theo had wished any of them harm, he had been given the opportunity time and again and had proven unwilling. So far. He wasn’t so foolish that he would trust Theo completely, but his first thought wasn’t to kill him either and that said a lot.
Shazza tottered on legs that didn’t feel like her own, they were leaden and cold, like the rest of her. It felt worse than cryo, worse than anything she had ever experienced before. It was all so clear in her head but didn’t translate. Riddick caught her before she fell and picked her up easily; he almost expected her to struggle, and he knew that if he had done it at any other time she would have. Her arms went around his neck and clung to him, she buried her face in his neck and he felt her quick shallow breath all the way back to their rooms.
Jack followed closely behind as the two people she felt closer to than anyone else walked down the corridor. She had felt herself flush and her belly fill with butterflies when she watched Riddick sweep Shazza up in his arms. It was silly; she knew it was silly, a childish little girls dream of these two people. Even at twelve she knew that neither Riddick nor Shazza were the marrying type but that thought didn’t stop the flutter she felt as she watched them. Jack darted under his arm as they neared the door to their quarters and opened it before he got there, so he wouldn’t have to put Shazza down, and was rewarded not by a smile but by a look so full of gentleness that it struck her silent. It was gone again just as quickly, but it couldn’t be taken once it was given. He had smiled at her once, when they were still on that terrible planet, and she thought that she saw him, the real person underneath. When he looked at her like that she realized that this was the real him as well, a side he never shared, with anyone, and he had just shared it with her. Someone could hand her a million credit chip and it wouldn’t come close to how valuable that one look was to her.
Riddick set her down on the bed and covered her with the blankets; there was one thing he had to deal with before he took care of her. “Stay with her Jack.” He didn’t look up at her when he said it and his voice was so quiet that it was hard to hear. The tips of his fingers traced over Shazza’s ashen face as he got up. He didn’t want to leave, but he had to, just for a very short while. “I’ll only be a few minutes…” Jack watched his troubled face for a moment; anything that could unsettle someone like Riddick had to be serious and it wouldn’t do if she fell apart now. She took a deep breath so her voice wouldn’t shake. “She’ll be okay Riddick; I’ll come get you if anything happens.” He couldn’t smile; he didn’t have it in him right now. His hand stroked over the stubble of Jack’s head before he turned and silently left the way he had come.
The bridge was quiet, with no sign of Theo. The Odyssey was safely in orbit around the small moon that Theo had settled on earlier; everything else on the bridge was untouched. He looked for reasons to distrust Theo, to make his world make some sort of sense but he was pressed time and again to accept the other man. It wasn’t easy.
The door to Theo’s new quarters wasn’t locked; Riddick assumed he had just missed him as he left Shazza to check on their orbit. Theo could stay in this room forever and he would never look comfortable in it; it was worse than a shabby hotel room, cold and impersonal. There was nothing of him there. “You don’t have to stay here.”
Theo hadn’t heard Riddick approach but tried not to jump at the voice, so close now. Riddick stood quietly in the doorway and didn’t elaborate. Theo didn’t question him either, not because he thought he wouldn’t get an answer out of Riddick, he knew he wouldn’t, but because Riddick looked almost uncomfortable as he said it. As though he wasn’t sure himself if he was about to do the right thing. His arms were crossed over his chest and he stood coldly in the doorway, neither in nor out; his face expressionless. A silent dare to Theo to cross him, and justify all of his doubts. To cross Riddick was a death wish, this was something no one had to tell Theo. His mother raised only one fool after all, and Theo wasn’t it. But something else had started to happen. This was no longer just a matter of escape from his life of servitude as a merc; he had started to genuinely like the other man. He was honorable and courageous, in a life where Theo had seen those traits seldom. Theo saw himself as a pirate of old, with a code that few would understand. He knew without the need to ask that Riddick would understand where a lot of others would not.
Theo gathered up the small pile of books he had brought with him and followed Riddick in silence down the length of the corridor to his own quarters. “There’s a handgun strapped to the underside of the bed and one beside that chair over there.” Riddick was discreet, very discreet, as he swept the room for weapons. If Theo hadn’t done the very same thing on several occasions he would never have realized that’s what Riddick was up to.
Riddick tucked the two weapons into his own cargo pockets. He could have tossed the whole room, and he knew that he probably should, but he didn’t think he had to. To be honest, Theo’s simple declaration about the weapons had made him almost feel ashamed, a feeling he crammed back down quickly. He knew that it didn’t escape the other man, who made a point not to watch him until he had moved over to the bookshelf to look over Theo’s collection. He had never seen so many books in the same place before. He had never actually touched one, not a real book anyway. They smelled of dust, and age, and for some reason of solidity; they were real in a way a scanner could never be. His hand traced over the curved backs of them, and ran along titles. Ships were a main theme of Theo’s reading.
His hand froze on the cover of a very old book, its binding tattered with age. His heart clenched painfully in his chest at the sound of that voice. Imam’s voice was a whisper in his head, in his very heart. There was still enough gold leaf to make out the title, the Koran. “It’s yours.” Riddick pulled himself out of a strange world with three suns light years away; he wanted to protest, to object, but he couldn’t think of a single thing to say. “It’s yours, Riddick, it chose you.” It was an odd way to describe what had just happened, but Riddick had to admit that that was exactly the way it had happened. The book had simply chosen him.
Theo barely heard the quiet but nonetheless sincere thank you from Riddick. He didn’t say anything in return, Riddick looked unsettled enough and he didn’t want a repeat of this morning. He didn’t really think it would be a repeat however; where Riddick had looked angry this morning he appeared shaken now and it couldn’t be simply the aged copy of the Koran that did it, this was something deeper. After all, Theo didn’t think Riddick was a particularly religious person. He watched silently as Riddick raised his hand to the keypad outside Theo’s door, and then dropped it. The two men shared a quick hard look and Theo realized that this was a test in a way. Riddick wouldn’t lock him in his quarters, but if Theo crossed him, it would be worse than the simple expected act of a merc. This had just went to a whole new level; if Theo crossed him it would smell more like betrayal, and he knew Riddick would make him beg for death before it was over.
Shazza sat on the very edge of the bed; everything about her seemed electric. Jack still held her hand and she couldn’t miss the tension either; the other woman almost vibrated, it was like a charge in the air. Jack didn’t know whether to be relieved or worried when Riddick slid the door to their quarters open and then closed behind him.
Riddick whispered to Jack that she should go, that Shazza would be all right. He didn’t know how to explain to Jack, there was nothing he could say, not to a twelve year old girl, that could begin to explain that Shazza would be all right. He could talk to Shazza, he could hold her, he could let her cry, and nothing would ever come close. Shazza could talk to Jack, she could cry on anyone; right now, she needed Riddick.
He knew how that was, and he knew that he could never explain it to Jack, so he sent her to her room and told her Shazza would be fine. Shazza had survived, and that’s what drove her now; the need to fuck, just to prove she was still alive.
She was on him the moment Jack’s door was closed; she didn’t walk, or suggest, she pounced and he did nothing to stop her. Her hands ripped at his clothes and at hers as she kissed him hard enough to bruise. Shazza radiated lust and need with every pull of her hands as she ripped his shirt over his head and pulled hers free, every sweep of her tongue brought out a deep moan that spurred her on further. She pushed Riddick towards the bed, although he went willingly enough; if he denied her, she would be hurt, in a lot of ways, and he would never hurt her.
He fell back across the bed and moved back, and let her come to him. Shazza panted in shallow breaths, her every exhale a small barely controlled growl. He kicked his own boots off and helped with his own pants as much as he could with her astride him. She didn’t notice and it didn’t offend him, she was driven by a deeper need. Her hard kisses turned to bites as her need grew and he knew he would be marked the next morning; maybe he would have to explain to Jack after all.
He moved to flip her over but it wasn’t what she wanted, and she bit him hard enough to draw blood, which only drove her further over the edge. She was near to screaming when, finally free of the rest of her clothes; she pushed back violently and impaled herself on him. He had made love to her, and that’s what this was, but it was also dark and driven by a deeper need; it was fucking but with a purpose. Nothing could come close to this intensity, and nothing else could ever come close to this moment. It wasn’t gentle, not in any way, it was brutal and violent and almost painful. She pressed against his chest and flung herself back to take as much of him as she could and screamed in frustration when she couldn’t fuck him hard enough, she just wasn’t as strong as him, she would never be. He held her hips steady and drove up hard into her, to answer her frenzied bucking; his free hand slid between their bellies to press on her clitoris and had her scream out loud, louder than he had ever heard her before. A triumphant sound that drove him as much as her.
Feeling his own release he begged her to come for him and she splintered above him as she came; her tears had already started to fall as the hard lines of her face crumpled in sorrow and horror. Her arms shook as the shock of everything that had happened, everything that she had done, washed over her. Her hands trembled violently as they ran over where she had bitten him, ‘I’m sorry’ a constant stream from her.
He pulled her close and pressed her to his chest, his heart in a knot at the gush of tears and the broken sound of her sobs. Words couldn’t comfort her now, she was in a place where words couldn’t be understood, where they were meaningless and impotent against the terrible pain that had taken hold of her. He stroked her hair and her back and shushed her until she dissolved into silent tears, without even the strength to cry aloud anymore.
Riddick eased from her and laid on his side to pull her close into the curve of his body and covered them both with the blanket. He kissed and nuzzled against her ear and stroked over her side until she had cried herself to exhaustion.
“I killed all those people Riddick. The mercs here, on those ships…I…” Her voice broke again before she could finish. How could she finish, what could she possibly say? She had cut a man’s throat and blew another man’s head off. She had killed all of those people on the other ships. How could she reconcile that with what she was?
Riddick stroked her side until she had settled again. “There isn’t always a choice, Shazza; it’s them or you. You don’t want to do it, but what other choice do you have? What other choice did they give you? You have to survive. It’s important to me that you survive.” Riddick’s voice was a whisper in her ear as he tried to soothe her, and let her know that she had every right to fight for her life. It also told her something about Riddick that he probably would never say in any other circumstance. He wasn’t a killer because he liked it or because he chose it. He was a killer because, like her, he had no other choice to make. Maybe to some that would be a small realization, but to her, he had just told her the secret to something deep that made him Riddick.
Copyright © September 2006 xxxevilgrinxxx