Rating: R, for language and sexual violence
Disclaimer: I own nothing related to Pitch Black.
Character Focus: Jack, Riddick (not Riddick/Jack)
Author's Note/Summary: Jack gets some lessons in survival from Riddick
"Teach me what you can before you go."
"C'mon. You owe me that much."
"No. I don't."
Jack paused. Suddenly her entire body tensed, and she spoke very quickly. "How many up on me do you think you are?"
Riddick's pivoted to keep her within sight. He stopped walking when she did, but he was starting to lose his temper.
"What the fuck are you talking about, Jack?"
"If -- if I saved your life, uh, twice, would we be even?"
The blank stare of his goggles would have unnerved anyone else. "Sure," he agreed finally, not really knowing or caring what she was talking about, but just wishing she'd get to the point.
"So," she persisted, "if I saved your life three times, you'd owe me one? And you'd trade in the debt for a favour instead? Maybe by teaching me what you can before we reach the next base and you leave me?"
He didn't answer right away, but he was finding it hard to stay angry at her. It sounded like she wasn't going to try and guilt him into not leaving her behind after all. He could let a lot slide for that.
"Sure, kid. Whatever."
He figured he'd give her a few minutes to have her little temper tantrum and then he'd avoid her the rest of the trip. It was only two months. She'd get over her little obsession with him, he'd stop feeling like he had to take to care of it. Win-win situation all around.
But suddenly her hand was up and pointing something at him, a shooter, old but apparently serviceable.
He wondered where she'd stolen it from. It sure as hell wasn't one of his.
Riddick didn't flinch when it fired three times in quick succession, but he did grimace when several soggy, bad-smelling messes fell on him from above. Finally he looked up and saw the spacechit's nest, right over his head. Three of these things, back poisonous arthropods roughly two feet in length each, had evidently been hanging over him, and from the looks of things, uncurling for launch.
Even one of their bites would have been fatal, the acidic poison entering his system and destroying brain function within seconds, keeping his body warm enough to incubate the ova that oozed out of their steaming and still pregnant corpses.
Riddick raised one boot and began crushing the sticky eggs, making a mental note to tell the captain it was time to fumigate. A little hard vacuum would clean the place out, and no one else would end up a human nest or - he fought the urge to growl or punch something - a fucking schoolteacher to some clever little shit.
Jack just watched.
When he was done, he looked at her. Searchingly. He was kind of curious to find out where she'd learned to handle a shooter. He couldn't remember if anyone had handed her a gun on T2.
"Be ready in one hour."
She didn't say anything as he turned and walked away.
Jack was already in the ship's gym when he tracked her down, carrying the padding he'd known she would need. He watched as she ran with an easy, steady lope, and he found himself studying her body, figuring out what would be the most useful things he could show her. It was hard to tell at this age - hell, there was a reason she was able to pull off passing as a boy for so long - but he thought she was going to be fairly tall for a woman. Good reach, hands and feet that might take some growing into, but not clumsy. Lithe.
Yeah, she could learn to handle herself.
But why did she think she needed to? She was just a kid. Iman'd take care of her.
Ah. So that was it; she wasn't planning on staying with Imam. She was going to head out on her own.
The universe was going to eat her up and spit her out. And she wasn't going to be able to pretend to be a boy for much longer, not in these clothes. These one fit. Clothes like the shorts and tank top she was wearing now didn't hide what she was developing underneath for shit.
He wasn't the only one noticing, either. Kid or not, she was getting some attention. He almost laughed when she adjusted something at her ankle and some perv fell over to get a better look at her ass.
Only he didn't laugh.
Instead he fought the sudden urge to go throw a blanket over the little brat and rip out the perv's intestines. Slowly. With a dull shiv. He could dull one just for the occasion.
But the perv took off and Riddick left him alone. He even laughed, a barking noise that sounded more menacing than joyous.
He guessed he had an idea just what kind of dangers she was going to be protecting herself from.
That first night, he showed her how real people fight, down and dirty.
He didn't just beat the crap out of her. He spoke while they worked out, explaining the parts of the body and where and why some were better targets than others. He ignored her blushes as he spoke of men and women and how their vulnerabilities differed somewhat. He let her try some hits of her own. And when he did make contact hits, he held back enough not to do any serious damage.
Still, within a couple hours she was limping, shaking, and wiping blood out of one eye. There wasn't a part of her that didn't look sore..
He never broke a sweat. But damned if he wasn't a little proud.
Once it had sunk in that he really wasn't going to go easy on her, she'd caught on quickly that any sign of weakness - tears, pleas, that sort of thing - were useless, and she'd started paying attention. He didn't miss the way her gaze had flattened every time he made contact, whether it was his hand upside the back of her head or his foot sweeping hers out from underneath her, or the way her eyes brightened whenever anything she did have an effect.
He realized, too, that she had been serious about this. He'd assumed it was some kind of kiddie attempt to get his attention, like shaving her head and wearing goggles. But when she started improvising, using anything and everything she could put her hands on as a weapon of some sort, he had to bite his tongue to keep from laughing. Not because she was pathetic, but because he couldn't deny the dark joy of seeing her in action.
It was all he could do not to grin when she made it past his guard at one point, slicing him with a knife she'd had hidden somewhere on her. And then she didn't apologise.
He half-hoped the scratch on his arm would leave a scar. He was kinda proud of it, too.
The first week was the hardest.
He knew it would be, but instead of taking it easy on her he took her back to his quarters to clean her up and check her over. He made her walk there on her own two feet, but once inside he'd pick her up and sit her on the compact galley counter. Utterly exhausted, she'd try not to pass out while he grabbed a medikit.
He'd frowned the first time she flinched at his touch.
He forced his hands to move delicately over her bruised skin because he didn't have the words to explain why it was okay to hurt her in training but not here.
He knew when she figured it out, or at least, decided to trust him, because she stopped pulling away.
That night he had her stay in the room he shared with Imam, giving her his blanket to sleep on. He woke her up every few hours to stretch her muscles, knowing she'd be too sore to move the next day otherwise.
She didn't complain. In the morning, she went back to the quarters she shared with another female passenger, to change. And then she grabbed a bedroll and brought it back to the guys' room. Riddick was already gone, but Imam showed her where she could stow it.
Lessons resumed the next evening.
"Hey, baby, ain't you looking fine?"
Jack looked up to see some smarmy-looking lech leaning over her where she was stretching out the beginnings of a muscle cramp. "Back off."
Standing up, she headed over to another machine to continue her weight lifting. Riddick had started her off on some embarrassingly low levels the night before, and she had to work to make them count.
She was already sweating and breathing a little fast when she saw the same guy step up again.
Her jaw tightened until it ached.
She'd known guys like this before. Guys like this were part of the reason she'd run away from home in the first place, because her parents had friends who looked at her in the same calculating, speculative way, and she was the only one who seemed to think it was a problem.
Jack had seen him around the ship before, sometimes with a friend but more often alone. She wasn't sure, but she thought he'd been watching her. And now he was breaking her concentration, damn it.
She opened her mouth to tell him exactly what she thought of that, but just then he turned around and walked away. Fast.
Lifting her head, she saw Riddick enter the gym and head over in her direction. Lowering her head, she focussed on how she pulled the weights, determined to show him that she was doing it just the way he showed her.
When he stretched out on the bench machine next to her, she smiled to herself. If she was doing it wrong, she knew, he'd have told her right away. He had no patience for stupidity.
They worked out in silence. And in the weeks following, more than one patron who used the gym facilities marvelled at the sight of the giant and the child working side by side.
"I'm sure I could do it," she insisted hotly.
Riddick didn't bother responding. She'd been on his case about learning how to use a shiv for the past week, and she knew his answer.
"Come on, just think of it as another lesson," she said coaxingly.
He struggled to remain emotionless. Truth was, he was going to miss the kid and he knew it. She was annoying, sure, but something about how fiercely she went after things she wanted got to him, made him want to laugh. Which felt odd and wrong, but it was idiotic to pretend otherwise. And wasn't it something how she looked up to him? He couldn't figure it out. Hell, he found himself doing things just because he knew she'd like them, and that just floored him sometimes.
But he drew the line at giving her prison-style weapons. He wasn't going to teach her to be a killer, not before she'd had a chance to live a good life, one that wasn't patterned after a fugitive ex-con. Just because he didn't have the first clue about how to give her something like that, or even what that meant exactly, didn't mean he didn't want her to have it.
Fuck, Carolyn'd probably haunt him forever.
"Go to bed, kid. If you shut up, I'll take you to the flight deck tomorrow." His tone made it sound more like a punishment than a treat.
Jack forcibly swallowed whatever she was about to say next. The flight deck! Someday she wanted to be a pilot, just like Riddick was and Carolyn had been, and she wanted to learn everything she could about flying.
Glowing now, she grinned elatedly at Riddick, ignoring his impassive expression and practically dancing her way back to the room she shared with Ursa, the sister of one of the command crew.
As a minor, Jack couldn't room without a chaperone, and by ship regulations she wasn't allowed to room with Riddick and Imam. She still stayed with them if a training session wore her out too much and Riddick wanted to keep an eye on her, but she'd learned how to stretch before bed and in the morning, so she could stay in her room more and more often now. She saw it as a point of pride that he trusted her to do so.
Again Riddick fought the unfamiliar urge to laugh as he watched her skip away. Day after day, he put her through what must've been a gruelling workout and yet with enough sleep and food in her she seemed to take everything in stride. Hell, she bounced back almost as well as he did. According to Ursa, who felt honour bound to report to him and Imam, she was sleeping better too, with fewer nightmares.
For some reason that still eluded him, it mattered.
He was about to close the door behind him when he heard a shooter blast. It came from the same corridor he'd just watched Jack head down.
Jack went to unlock the door when it swung open. She jumped back, expecting someone to come out. No one did. Even weirder, it was very dim inside, and suddenly she found herself wishing that Riddick had walked her back.
"Ursa?" Then, "Lights full!"
Jack stumbled back at the sight of Ursa on the bed, face and arms bloody and evidently in the process of being brutally raped. The red-faced man pushing into her froze and looked up at Jack. Instinctively, Jack pulled out her shooter and without really thinking about it, shot him.
She'd had a clear line of sight and the shot was good. He collapsed on top of Ursa, who gurgled incoherently.
Jack took an uncertain step toward her but someone grabbed her arm, roughly swinging her into the room and shutting it behind her. She fell to the ground, hitting her arm hard and dropping the shooter. Helplessly she watched as it spun away from her and clanked its way down a forcibly opened ventilation shaft.
So that's how they got in, her mind supplied crazily. They. Fuck, why didn't she check behind the door like anyone with half a brain would?
"You killed Linus, you little bitch," someone snarled. "You're gonna pay for that."
Someone else was pounding on the other side of the door, and she knew - just knew - that it was Riddick. She also heard the sound of a keycard beying denied access and realised he wasn't alone.
She, on the other hand, felt very, very alone.
Crawling away from the man who'd thrown her to the ground, she yelped when he grabbed her legs and turned her over onto her back. "Y-you better get out of here before he gets in," she bluffed desperately, slapping at him, trying to push him off. "He'll rip your fucking head off."
"He'll never get in," he promised, letting her get a good look at him. She whimpered, shocked by his glare of immense hatred and - something else. Recognition?
She remembered him now. The lech from the gym. Oh gods, it was the perv!
"That door's built to withstand hard vacuum, honey," he reminded her with a show of teeth. She wasn't really listening; she had just become aware of the bulge growing below his waistline and was trying not to freak. "We have plenty of time, 'specially since I recoded the lock. Not even the captain can get in without a dozen or so blowtorches."
He grinned as she paled, laughed as she squirmed away from him. In seconds his fumbling fingers had his pants open, the worn fasteners giving way easily.
"Ursa?" she tried, voice cracking, not really expecting anything. She already knew the woman was too far gone to help. "RIDDICK!"
The door thudded as something slammed violently against it.
Kicking out, Jack managed to back away, but she just found herself jammed against the wall and unable to move any farther. He came closer, crowding her, finally holding her captive with his hands as he sniffed crazily at her, smelling her hair and neck.
She couldn't help but scream as he ripped her shirt and bent down to suck and bite at her, his erection pressing shockingly against her. He pulled back so he could shift his grip on her, one hand letting go to fondle himself. He showed no fear of being interrupted, not by anyone in the room and not by anyone outside of it.
"That's it, just take it," he panted, rubbing against her, smirking when she shuddered weakly in disgust.
A hand going down her pants broke her paralysis. In a flash she had her right arm up and her hand fisted around her thumb, which she drove into his left eye with all her strength.
Now he screamed and jerked back but she just pushed harder, until his eyeball collapsed with a sickening squish and he fell away from her, his scream reaching impossibly high registers.
She wiped her hand frantically on her leg, trying to wipe off his blood and eye fluids.
She could hear people on the other side of the door, shouting. Something was still thudding against the door, and she knew they'd have the door open soon.
But not, she figured, before the fucker could waste her and get clean away.
She huddled against the wall as he focussed on her again, suddenly aware of a familiar pressure against the small of her back. She slid the forgotten knife out of her waistband and held it in front of her warningly.
He didn't see it. Enraged and half-blind, he ran right into it and into her.
The hilt of the knife butted her painfully when he slammed her backwards, knocking the air out of her. But she pressed harder, and finally he collapsed on the ground beside her and the only sound she could hear was the pounding in her head.
Numb with shock, Jack sat with her knees pulled up, hugging herself, unable to take her eyes off of the man in front of her - off his ruined face or off the knife jutting out of his chest, which was still rising and falling in slow, hitching movements.
Somewhere distant she could hear yelling, and she knew she should get up and try to unlock the door from the inside, but she just couldn't move.
It was too hard to do anything but breathe.
When they finally broke down the door, the first thing the ship personnel saw was Ursula, bloody and delirious on her bed. Then they saw two attackers, apparently dead. And finally they saw Jack, clothes ripped, almost catatonic, eyes fixed on the man on the floor before her.
Instantly Riddick was in front of her, blocking the sight. Everyone who followed him in looked amazed at the sight of the man - who had just about single-handedly brought down a steel security space-certified door - using one finger to pull her chin so the girl was looking at him, not the body.
"Good job, kid, real good job."
The sound of his voice seemed to snap her out of her daze. She looked at him, eyes focussing with some difficulty on his goggles. "I g-g-ghosted their asses, huh?"
He didn't like how faint her voice was but he nodded. "You sure did." Without turning around, he spoke to the others. "Help the other one."
Immediately someone ran for some medics and the rest came in to see how badly Ursa was doing. Almost unnoticed, Riddick grabbed a blanket for Jack, whose teeth had started chattering. As gently as he could, he wrapped it around her shivering figure, making sure she was covered from head to toe. He felt obscurely grateful that she didn't fight him when he picked her up.
On his way out, he took a moment to study the man on the floor. He might live, Riddick decided, if he got prompt medical attention. Carefully and deliberately, savouring the moment and not caring if he had an audience or not, Riddick kicked him in the head, listening happily for the crunch of a broken neck.
Back in his room it took him and Imam half an hour to bring her out of shock, and when they did he felt a twinge of something deep in his gut. She seemed older, somehow.
After that night, he decided, he'd go a little easier on her for a while but then their lessons would take on a new intensity. And fuck anyone who objected when she set up a permanent bedroll in his room. Just fuck 'em.
He watched her sleep. A lot. And while he watched over her, he thought.
Surviving T2 had been something of an epiphany. It was a chance to start over again, to make a new life for himself. For a while, he'd thought that maybe Carolyn could help him with that. She was a contradiction in terms, weak but strong, cowardly but brave. He hadn't been kidding when he said he admired her instincts. She was a bit naïve, sure, but that was a prerogative of the young and sheltered.
He'd felt something when Carolyn looked at him. Something she herself didn't understand but seemed willing to explore.
They would be good for each other, he'd thought then. It seemed like a fair trade, her helping him survive as a free man, and him helping her survive, period. He'd been away too long, he didn't know how the universe worked outside of slam. Her social awareness could be the best disguise he could hope for; no one would suspect anyone with her of a damn thing, not if she were with him voluntarily. For his part, he could protect her from the dangers that were part of every society, especially for a pretty young woman with big eyes.
And she was pretty. He knew it from Johns's reaction to her, and his own sex-starved senses told him the same, although his shine job prohibited him from enjoying the view properly. In terms of sheer male instinct, it was definitely a perk.
When she died, he felt a small part of him die along with her. But it was too late to regress completely back into his shell; he had Jack back at the skiff, and he never doubted that she was Carolyn's legacy to him.
He was determined to do right by the kid. But what the fuck did that mean, anyway?
"We hit New Cygnus in two weeks," Jack said.
"Uh huh." He answered lazily, paying more attention to the bindings around the punching bag, making sure they were secure.
They'd had similar conversations before.
"I need to know how to work a shiv."
"No. I ain't giving you a shiv."
"I already have one."
He tensed. "Where'd you get it?"
She didn't answer right away, her teeth preoccupied with winding tape around her hands. And then she started in on the bag, trusting Riddick to hold it steady while she developed a rhythm.
She didn't generate much power yet. But she'd focused on her training to the exclusion of just about everything else in the weeks since the attack, and her efforts were definitely paying off.
Ursa's brother had made a point of rewarding Jack, grateful beyond measure that she'd saved his much younger sister's life. They'd found a grenade in one of the attacker's pockets, a small one that wouldn't have done much structurally to a space-certified residential cell but would have destroyed everything inside, including all evidence of the break-in and the victims. If the man wasn't beating himself up for not protecting his only family, he was thanking Jack because she had. So when he'd found out that she was orphaned and penniless, he insisted on creating a cash reward. It wasn't much, but it would help. And when Imam casually mentioned Jack's interest in flying, the pilots and navigators he called friends just about tripped over each other to teach her the fundamentals of space flight. Overnight Jack B. Badd became the darling of the Universal Bounty.
It was just too bad, Riddick thought, that she didn't really know how to enjoy it. As he pulled her shoulder back for better foot placement, he reflected on how dull things had been lately. Jack just hadn't been herself, and it was grating on his nerves.
More than once he actually found himself wishing she'd relax and just start chattering or whatever it was she did before that he found so annoying. Hell, she barely talked any more - at all. Even her nightmares were quieter. She didn't wake up screaming anymore, she just laid there in her bedroll, pulling the blanket tighter around her sweating and shaking body, waiting for morning.
He knew this because he watched her do it. And he wondered just what kind of monsters chased her now.
"Why do you need a shiv, kid?"
Jack stopped pounding at the bag and looked at him, one eyebrow raised.
She had a point.
"Mind telling me where you got it then?" It had better not be one of his, his tone warned, although it was beyond him how she could have managed the theft of one.
Wiping some sweat out of her eyes, she cocked her head to one side. "Made it."
She only hesitated a minute before reaching behind her back and pulling out a jagged but carefully honed metal shard, clearly a remnant of some shipping scrap.
He made no secret of his interest in the makeshift weapon, testing its balance, running his thumb along the edge, studying the handle that was sized to a much smaller hand.
He looked around them to see if anyone was watching, but they had the gym to themselves. Hunkering down, he gestured for Jack to come a little closer.
"Not bad for a starter. How long've you been working on this?"
"A few days. When you're too busy to train."
He nodded thoughtfully. He'd been putting together some supplies in preparation for taking off, accessing a hidden account that he'd set aside for himself years ago. It had been more for purposes of tax evasion than anything else, but once he found himself in slam, he figured on it being his ticket to freedom when he escaped. It paid for the new identity he was putting together, anyway. He was tired of being called Johns. All of this took time, especially when he had to work around public ship coms, never the most secure mode of communication or transfer.
But he didn't apologise and she never asked him to.
Now he looked at her. "You want to know how to survive a fight?"
She nodded solemnly.
"Decide you want to win more, want to live more, than the asshole you're up against. Be smart about it. Think."
He handed her shiv back to her. She took it back silently, if more eagerly, no doubt, than she wanted to admit. He watched her hold it, fist tight, blade turned upward.
She turned to him with a look of pure determination.
"Poking can be effective," he said. "But limited."
He stood and, in one fluid movement, pulled a shiv out of some hidden place on his body and spun around, letting her see the way it became an extension of his hand, of his body. When he straightened, she looked down and noted the thin slice through her shirt. If he'd misjudged - if he'd used more force - he could have eviscerated her where she stood.
She nodded and reversed her hold, holding her shiv blade down, along her forearm. Mirroring his stance, she crouched and waited.
"The child laughed today," Imam commented quietly. Casually.
Riddick looked up. She did? And he missed it? He blinked, immediately recognising the thought as an alien one. Knowing his goggles hid his reaction, he contented himself with studying the holy man.
"I don't know. She stopped when I asked. But it was a blessed event. One I would like to hear more often. Still, it is a matter for concern."
"Because I do not think accompanying me on my journey will afford many more opportunities for such levity."
Riddick thought about that. He thought about that a lot.
"New Cygnus tomorrow." His tone revealed nothing.
"Uh huh." No comment about him leaving the ship. But her jabs became sharper, almost as if she was trying to hurt him, should she somehow get past his defences.
He didn't let her, of course. Letting her win would be like lying to her, and he generally tried to avoid that. The sick feeling in his gut when he did was too fucking aggravating. But his forearms stung, and he was pleased at her progress. Boxing was an art, and like any artist, he found her dedication to it immensely satisfying.
She shifted slightly, telegraphing a feint.
He turned, instinctively, but instead of the expected follow-up jab he watched in disgust as she pivoted on one foot, providing a tantalizing target of unprotected jawline. Automatically he followed through, taking advantage of the opening, concentrating on not hitting her too hard.
Too late he felt the metal-reinforced boot tip against his groin.
They fell to the mat at the same time, Jack fighting tears but smiling, Riddick clenching his thighs together and biting his lip so hard it bled.
He growled when he saw her smile. Sure she was hurt, her expression said, but in the end, she'd won. He'd be feeling that one for a while.
"People have died for less, you know," he told her, menacing and quiet.
She sighed and shrugged. "Your point?"
He studied her, trying to tell if she was as unafraid as she seemed. "So the way I see it, I'm one up on you. Saved your life just now," he said, without a hint of humour in his voice.
She just looked at him.
"I didn't kill you," he explained. "Now you owe me. But I'm a fair guy -"
" - So I'll take it out of you in trade."
Her eyes narrowed, suggesting that he would do well to clarify just exactly what he meant by that. Almost negligently, she toyed with the inch of hilt that suddenly protruded from her waistband.
A neat trick. He wondered how long she'd been working on that one.
"I need a co-pilot. Learning on the job is fine but I ain't gonna take on someone I don't trust."
She looked away and tilted her head, as if considering his offer. Neither made mention of his admission of trust, knowing it wouldn't be welcome.
But he was losing patience. "You coming with me or what?"
She started to nod but her smile faltered for a moment as reality caught up with her. "How?" she challenged him, still panting a little, as much with emotion now as with exertion. "If I don't go with Imam where they can keep track of me, I'll end up getting shipped off to some orphanage or something because I'm sure as hell not telling them where home is. Last I heard, there weren't any other options."
He took a deep breath and stood up stiffly. He grunted, levelling a sardonic grimace in her direction, inexplicably thrilled by the sound of her reflexive giggle. He hadn't realized how much he'd missed the sound of it.
He did allow himself one sincere smirk when he saw her reaction to her new ID, identifying her as Jackie Fry, a cousin by marriage and legal ward of one Richard Fry.
"Fry," she'd breathed, rubbing her thumb along the name.
He found himself glowering, hoping like hell she wasn't about to start crying or some such shit. Anyone else might have been chilled by the malevolence emanating from him at that moment. Jack, however, knew better.
She grinned. A real grin, one that made it all the way to her eyes. "Thanks," she said, then snickered. "Rickie."
His glower deepened.
"The name," he said pointedly, "is Fry. Or Boss."
She shrugged cockily. "Whatever."
Jack waved goodbye at Imam and then watched as the station disappeared from sight. She'd promised to keep in touch. She didn't know how, or even how often, but somehow she'd find a way to let him know she was all right without compromising her and Riddick's safety.
Finally she turned to Riddick where he sat in the pilot's seat.
"You know," she said, conversationally, "you're never going to get rid of me now. The debt's too big."
She didn't bother to explain that cryptic remark before leaving the flight deck, presumably to go exploring.
He waited until he heard the sound of the hatch close behind her. "No shit, kid."
But he didn't sound too upset about it.