It’s been a while since I just laughed out loud like that. If I was anyone but who I was, I’d say the stress of flying through the rockfield would account for it. I know that’s not the case. I wasn’t a fighter pilot because I got the jams over a hairy bit of flying. I thrive on that kind of stress. It’s the smaller stuff, the simpler stuff, that rattles me. Picturing Riddick wearing nothing but a bedsheet and boots, to make just one example. Fuck, I have to stop thinking about it, or I’ll crack up again.
The laughing doesn’t stop all at once, ending in fits and starts, the starts usually falling on when I look over at him, watching him try to stop laughing. With him, it might very well be nerves. He covers it well. Take a deep breath, before turning back to the monitor.
The trip through the rockfield took us a little farther afield than I would like. Mentally run through what kind of time I’ve got. Taking care of Riddick’s leg, the dogfight in the rockfield. Meant I had a little over an hour to go. I need to get back on the route I had set up with Dufresne, so that I won’t miss the intercept with the medic. Just thinking about that leg is enough to ensure I stop laughing.
He’s watching me, as I turn serious again. His eyebrows raised in a silent question.
“We’ve got, at the very most, an hour before we link up with Franks. And I’m off course. Fuck…..How you holding up.” I don’t look at him when I ask, looking at the monitors, setting a course. I know he’s going to say he’s fine. And I know he’ll be lying. I can’t do much about it, but I still hate to hear the lie in it.
She’s not buying it for a second. Won’t look at me, ’cause she knows I’m lying to her about the leg. “Guess you’re not going to get to see me in that sheet after all, Jane.” She finally looks at me at that, her head dropping, breaking into that beautiful grin.
“A girl can dream, Riddick.” He flashes me an arrogant, cocky grin, a look so male, I can’t help but smile at it.
Wouldn’t have helped any to tell her how much this hurt, so I don’t bother. I like seeing her smile anyways. She has a real laugh too. Spent close to a year on Outpost 17. I didn’t exactly lack for female company. I never have, unless I was in some slam somewhere. Living on the run isn’t something most women are happy with, though. So it’s easier to deal with women that don’t care about it. I pay for my company. It’s easier that way, less explaining, less complications.
But I miss other things. The small stuff, like just hearing a woman’s laugh. Whores will do what they’re paid to do, what you tell them to do. A woman you pick up in a bar will do what she wants to do. Laughing doesn’t really enter into it. Even the smiles aren’t real, just a means to an end. Jane may not be pretty to look at, then again, I doubt she cares much about that. But when she smiles, it’s real. Her laugh is real.
Until now, I hadn’t realized how much I liked that sound. How much I missed it. I lived with Jack, as my daughter, for almost two years. Jack loved to laugh. Until something in her died inside, with the rest of her following soon after. Self destruction.
She’s covering her mouth with the crook of her elbow. A huge yawn. I had slept for close to nine hours, I get the feeling she wouldn’t exactly trust me to go to sleep herself in that time. I don’t like the thought that she doesn’t trust me, but I can hardly blame her for that.
“How long since you’ve slept, Jane?” She’s about to answer, has to stifle another yawn.
“I’ve had…” She’s looking at the time on the monitor in front of her. “Maybe a couple of hours or so of sleep in the past thirty …eight or so.” Just thinking of how little sleep I’ve had makes me even more tired.
“You don’t trust me enough to fall asleep when I’m here?”
His voice is light enough, but there is bitterness under it too. “I slept while you slept, Riddick. I don’t sleep much.”
She did trust me enough to fall asleep with me. Not even a few feet from her. “You get nightmares.” She looks right at me, at that. Doesn’t need to answer, it wasn’t really a question, anyways, that look is enough.
“Yea, I get nightmares, Riddick. Ever been in the military?”
Her voice is quiet. If I wasn’t this close to her, I never would have heard her. “I was inducted, out of Slam. Did time in the Rangers.” Yea, I know all about nightmares.
“Ever kill anybody that didn’t need killing?”
We share a look. I guess we both have the same nightmares. She killed those mercs with ease. No remorse. Those aren’t the killings that keep you from sleeping. “Yea, too many.”
She doesn’t sleep well. But slept while I was here. That pleases me for some reason.
The proximity alert breaks the silence, it’s quiet chirping sounding huge. Not quite enough to make me jump, it would take a hell of a lot more for that, but close.
“Permission to board, Jane?” Franks, his voice almost inaudible over the comm system. Franks was never a loud man. Spoke quietly. Never raised his voice. Knew that what he had to say was important, and that people were damn well going to listen to him. If they wanted to live that is.
“Granted, Franks.” I look over at Riddick, who’s about to say something, putting my finger over my lip, to quiet him. Feeling mischievous. Remembering all of Franks’ drunken Riddick tales.
Riddick stories, she called them. I finally get why she shushed me, and why she’s grinning. I grin back at her, turning my back, so I won’t be seen, when the medic comes through the airlock. She’s crouched back there, on her heels, operating the airlock, while the smaller fighter hovers, upside down, beneath us. A slight bump, as the two birds connect, briefly. The transfer is quick. The medic, his equipment and a gurney brought aboard. The fighter beneath us falling away again, a wave of wings, and he’s gone.
“Why’s it so dark in here, Jane?”
The lights are still at about twenty percent or so, as Franks makes his way to the front. To what appears to be a sleeping passenger. Riddick turns at the last moment, startling Franks slightly.
“Riddick……I…I figured you would have been dead by now.”
“So I’ve heard. Seems you’re always running into me when I should be dead.”
The two men, shaking hands, are breaking into grins, as Franks moves up to him, spotting the bandaged leg. So they do know each other. I kind of figured they might, with Franks being a prison doctor. WAS a prison doctor.
A damned good doctor, at that. Picked up a drug habit, when he was still dealing with paying customers, one of which he ended up killing. Too much shit in his system. The only place he was allowed to practice after that was prison. Didn’t help his habit any, but those that ran the prison didn’t exactly care about whether or not he injured a prisoner. The tracks on his arm are old. No new ones. Not for a hell of a long time, and I’m not ashamed to admit I was watching.
The two men are sharing small talk, about Riddick’s old injuries, seems there were quite a few of them. It’s strange to see Franks talk so much, he’s usually so quiet. I set up the gurney, on the floor in the back. Go looking for cloths. Try to make myself useful, until those two old hens stop their gossiping over the back fence.
Franks is helping Riddick up again. It’s hard to watch him wince as he gets up. Knowing how much he hides the pain he’s in. The fact that he shows any at all says he’s in a hell of a lot. I only hope it’s not too late. I help him lower Riddick to the gurney, Franks helping him swing his leg up.
He’s breathing in short pants, teeth bared, a light sheen of sweat, by the time he’s on the gurney. The sheets covering the thin mattress are balled up in his fists, as he tries to get his breathing back under control. I look over at Franks, worried. We’re both thinking the same thing. Fearing the same thing. A guy like Riddick doesn’t show hurt. Wouldn’t. That he does…..
Franks hissed intake of breath, when he finally gets a look at the leg, worries me more. I put my head down, finally, not wanting to look at either Franks or Riddick. Fidget with the sheet at the side of the gurney, feeling useless. Franks clips a strong light to the side of the gurney, making me look up again, directly at the wound. I can feel myself going pale. I’ve seen a lot. I’m not some lightweight, but it’s a terrible wound, one that’s been brewing for about three days now.
“It would have been worse if you hadn’t have helped me, Jane.”
His voice is quiet, and hoarse. Broken with pain. Franks looks up quickly at him, preparing a syringe. It’s a comfort to watch Riddick relax. The pain isn’t gone completely, Franks would never put him out, not until we were back on the Decatur, but it’s eased somewhat.
“I need sheets, Jane. Better bring that pillow too.”
Franks voice, barely a whisper now, carries an authority no drill sarge ever did. I move past Riddick, stripping the sheets and my pillow off the bunk. Handing them to Franks, who’s cutting down the sides of Riddick’s pants with a pair of scissors. Franks hands the pillow back to me. I must have looked puzzled. He looks at me, points to the other side of Riddick, and motions me to sit, before continuing with what he was doing, cleaning the wound.
I sit cross legged, on the pillow, on the floor next to Riddick, who reaches over, making my hand all but disappear in his fist. Looks like I’m staying right here. Great, Riddick’s got a pet.
Franks pulls the scraps of Riddicks pants free, and covers him with the sheet. Riddick and I, at the same time, look down to Riddick’s boots, still on, sticking out from the bottom of the sheet, and start to laugh again. Franks looks up from one face to the other, before slowly shaking his head, smiling, and going back to work.
“I guess I got to see you in that sheet afterall.”
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