Disclaimer: Rest assured, I have no Pitch Black ownership issues.
Author's Summary: Companion to Jack's Dance. Riddick watches Jack dance, and has an interesting talk.
Riddick watched her as she lay on the floor.
He’d come home early that night, and he’d wondered where the music was coming from. He didn’t mind music, it was just that he liked the kind he heard in smoky clubs. Heavy chords over pounding bass and a strong rhythm. This was different from anything he’d ever heard, and for some reason it disturbed him.
In his study, however, the holy man had held his finger to his lips and asked that Riddick not disturb the child.
“She has so little she considers her own. Let her have this,” the old man advised, before taking out the book he was reading during his ‘nap’.
Riddick just turned and followed the sounds of some orchestral piece back to Jack’s room, growing more and more perplexed the closer he got.
Jack liked this? Tough as nails Jack, who badgered him constantly to teach her how to make a good shiv? Jack, who still wore her hair short? Jack, who insisted that they treat her as they would a boy, never realising the impossibility of such a venture, ignorant of their tolerance and unspoken agreement to protect her?
Jack, who swore and hated frills and girly stuff, liked this kind of music?
Something about this, about how well she’d been able to hide this from him, bothered Riddick more than he liked. He just didn’t like surprises, he decided. That was it; he needed to know the people he was with, if he was going to trust them even a little.
When he got to her door he didn’t know what to expect so he just opened it, ready to deliver a scathing, sarcastic remark that would send the child scurrying to turn the crap off and turn back into the old tough-talking kid Riddick was used to. But she didn’t heard him when she opened the door, so he leaned against the doorframe and waited for her to notice him.
She never did. He watched as she leapt about the room, off in her own world. He watched without blinking at a side of the girl he’d had no idea even existed. He studied the expression on her face, the serene and honest joy she derived from whatever it was she was doing, and his gaze followed the barely controlled flinging of limbs in frank fascination.
This was neither frilly nor girly. But he couldn’t miss how feminine her silhouette looked either, and found himself straining to remember if she had ever told him her actual age.
And what was that? She had changed her movements with the music, and he recognised his own fighting techniques into her dance. It spooked him to know she’d been watching so closely.
Towards the end, as the chaotic music peaked in intensity, she began spinning, so fast and so tightly her figure seemed to blur slightly, the lamp creating a nimbus that shone around the edges of his vision. Her hair swung out as she did, and he found himself wishing she’d grown it out so it would fan around her to better effect.
Then there was silence, and he watched her fall to the floor, utterly exhausted and radiating sheer contentment. She lay there, panting and sweaty, and his mind compared her state to that of another, and found himself wondering which sensuality was the purer expression of the physical, that of the women he bedded or that of the child/not child in front of him.
After a moment she rolled slightly away from him, sprawling on the floor as her body relaxed.
What was she doing now? What she okay?
His voice was quiet; he didn’t want to startle her. But she didn’t respond. He listened a little more, backing off when he realised that she was asleep. Riddick wondered if he should leave her there, but figured that she’d done this before and was okay with it. He studied her some more before backing out of the room and closing her door behind him.
As he made his way back to the kitchen, where Imam would have left something for him to eat, he found himself wondering if he’d ever known Jack at all.
Imam waited patiently for Riddick to return, grateful not to hear shouting or recriminations. He watched as the large man sat at the table with his plate and a beer.
“You did not disturb her?”
Riddick put down his fork and looked at Imam, silver eyes curiously – and, the holy man believed, deceptively – emotionless.
“No. But she disturbed the hell out of me.”
Imam nodded understandingly. “We do not know that much about her.”
“How long has she been doing this?”
Imam shrugged affably. “I don’t know. She waits until she believes I am asleep. Many times, she is correct.”
“It’s been almost a year,” Riddick said, not bothering to refer more specifically to their escape from Taurus 2. “The kid never stops talking. How can she keep secrets?”
“We all have our secrets,” Imam reminded Riddick none-too-subtly of his own hidden identity. “I believe that she learned at a young age not to reveal too much to strangers, for her own safety.”
Riddick eyed Imam with some confusion. Strangers? This past year had provided him with the closest thing to a family he’d ever known. While he was in no danger of becoming domesticated, he had adjusted to having two people who knew him so well around. Strangers? They knew him better than anyone had in his entire life.
Imam closed his book and placed it on the table before him, meeting Riddick's gaze openly and solemnly. He’d been waiting to have this conversation with Riddick for some time now but he’d known better than to push it. “We have important decisions to make regarding the child.”
“About this – dancing thing?” Riddick sounded dubious, and Imam restrained a smile with great effort.
“No. About her future.”
“What about it?”
“School. Job. Marriage. Name.”
Riddick didn’t say anything. Something about the way his body tensed, however, suggested that this topic of discussion was unwelcome.
“She will need or want many if not all of those things,” Imam persisted calmly.
“She studies with you. I teach her piloting, mechanics and how to take care of herself. She’s too young for the rest of it.”
Imam was impressed. He hadn’t realised that Riddick had thought about spending time with the child in such terms. Wisely, however, he didn’t speak of it. “Perhaps not as young as you think,” he suggested.
Riddick frowned. “How old is she anyway?”
Imam shrugged. “I do not know. I would estimate anywhere between fourteen and sixteen, but only she knows for sure. I do not know how many times she has undergone cryogenic sleep, or for how long, and at this age appearances can be deceiving.”
Riddick nodded, and Imam knew he was planning to find out soon.
“What of a name?”
“She has a name. Jack.”
“Jack B. Badd?” Imam raised his eyebrows eloquently. “That is not a name. It does not reflect family, culture, or a sense of identity. It is an alias. And it will not suffice legally.”
Riddick’s frown deepened. “What do you suggest? Jack al-Walid or Jack Richards maybe?” He’d taken the name of Richards himself, out of practicality.
Imam inclined his head. “Perhaps. Or perhaps she would like to choose one of her own.” He paused, wanting the weight of his words to sink in. “If she does not have a legal identity, her options are limited. You know this.”
Riddick leaned back in his chair, face turned to the door that led to the hall ending at her door.
Imam watched Riddick and mused on the mysterious ways of God and the universe, that such an unlikely guardian and ward would find each other. And that he, himself, would find sanctuary and comfort in their company.
“Thank you,” he said, knowing that Riddick wouldn’t – couldn’t – understand his true meaning.
Riddick nodded sharply and concentrated on savouring the rich, tart aftertaste of the local brew. “She’s an okay kid,” he commented, abruptly.
Imam smiled and nodded.