Disclaimer: Rest assured, I have no Pitch Black ownership issues.
Character Focus: Jack
Author's Summary: Jack, Riddick and Imam start a new life together. And Jack learns how to dance.
Jack liked to dance.
She didn’t tell anyone, but when Riddick was out doing whatever it was he did at night and Imam had fallen asleep in his study as he so often did after evening meal, she quietly closed as many doors as possible and put on some music.
And then she soared.
Maybe it was just because they were men, but neither of her guardians ever questioned why she kept her room so empty or why she'd wanted the largest bedroom in the house. Then again, it wasn't a big deal. Imam was making pretty good money educating some rich guy's sons and there was plenty of space for the three of them in the cottage he'd rented, especially since Riddick got hired to teach the master's sons boxing too.
Imam had been pretty clear that she was a child and was not to get a job herself. Riddick just shook his head when she turned to him, and she’d sulked and grudgingly agreed to go to school instead. She did, too. Even made a few friends. It wasn't as bad as she made it sound when she was bitching to the guys. But she didn't bring them home and she didn't hang out with them much outside of school and she didn't stay over at any of the girls' houses even though Imam said she could if she wanted.
She preferred to stay home. Outside seemed too dangerous sometimes. Inside was safer. Inside, in her own space, Jack kept the floor clear, pushing the bed as far into one corner as possible and shoving her small desk into another. The walls stayed bare and her schoolbooks went into the closet along with her clothes and bedding.
When it was time, she rolled up the carpet to reveal smooth hardwood, perfect for sliding and leaping and twirling and spinning until she couldn’t catch her breath, and cool enough to collapse upon afterwards.
She chose her music carefully, taking the time to read the brittle, faded descriptions on the 'disc jacket.
Stripping down to tank top and drawstring pants, she made her way to the centre of the room, where she froze as the haunting strains of an ancient melody filled the night air, making her close her eyes in delicious anticipation. She'd gasped in sheer delight the day she'd found the old but still functioning 'reader and dozens of audiodiscs in the attic, but here she was always calm, calms and quiet and alert and waiting for her cue.
And it started – the prelude, according to the jacket. Slowly, she rolled her head from shoulder to shoulder, almost languidly, and allowed herself to wilt, imagining a flower on the bank of a small brook, bending towards the clean, clear water.
She saw that once in a shipboard vid.
Then she swayed with the melody. Lilting and liquid. Eyes still closed, she crouched smoothly, swinging her arms low and then flinging them high to stretch her full length ...and again, reaching for the sun she imagined falling over her. A warm sun, a gentle sun, one the colour of rich butter. A sun that gave life, not a pale blue sun that promised death on a barren planet.
Counter melody. She used the momentum of her arms to push her entire body up and into the air, feeling the ecstasy of lift before falling nimbly onto her toes, smoothly, so smoothly she barely felt the hardness of the floor against the balls of her feet and then her heels as she leaned so far back, she almost fell as she came back down. But she didn’t. She was the dragonfly that perched precariously over the shining water.
Harmony. Tiny notes that split and chattered and chased each other and merged. She circled about her space, predator-like, arms tucked and shoulders hunched. She was the wolf that hunted and the snake that hypnotized, encircling her imaginary prey at the watering hole and then pouncing, her body twisting and springing about the room. She leapt on to the bed and leapt off, arms out and legs slicing through the air and stretching apart as far as they could go, daring gravity to pull her to the ground before she could get her feet beneath her.
Deep within the illusion she cried out, softly, breathily, confident that no mortal would intrude upon her faerie realm, that none would interrupt her as she cavorted with the elf kings of half-forgotten childhood tales and ducked between swaying moss-laden trees and sweet-smelling vines.
As the music reached a crescendo she found herself perched high on one set of toes while sweeping the air about her with the other, spinning, spinning, spinning so tightly and so quickly that the shadows around her blurred and she lost herself to the moment.
Coda. Spinning again, punctuated this time by small gestures reminiscent of her earlier moves, growing crispier and more pronounced, so that she pulled to a stop every heavy downbeat. She was beginning to feel light-headed, but she didn't stop. Not yet.
Denouement. She came to a slow, lazy stop, body limp and all but shaking with exertion.
Silence. She stood for a few seconds on her feet and then swayed, collapsing almost-but-not-quite gracefully to the floor. There she laid, chest rising in time with her gasping breaths, arms over her head and legs sprawled in half-hazard abandon.
Tired, now, she turned slightly to her side, using her arm as a pillow. She liked the smell of the wax and the floor was clean and cool.
She’d slept in worse places.
She smiled as she drifted off to sleep. And while she slept, she dreamed of soaring for real, and warm sunlight, and she smiled gently.
Jack yawned on her way into the kitchen. Waving absently at the two men at the table, she made a beeline over to the counter for a cup of coffee. And as she poured with one hand, she used the other to scratch at the welt on her belly from the drawstring on her pajamas.
“Good morning, Jack.”
She picked up her mug and joined them at the table. “Mornin’, Imam. Riddick.”
Imam smiled. “What are your plans for today?”
“Dunno. Thought I’d head into town, see what’s goin’ on.”
“Perhaps you shouldn’t go by yourself. It’s not safe for young girls.”
At that Riddick seemed to pay attention for the first time, to look up from his breakfast. “I’ll go.”
Jack’s face screwed up in annoyance. “I’m not some little kid. I can do shit by myself,” she protested.
Riddick just looked at her. “We leave in twenty minutes.”
She thought better of arguing and downed her coffee in one gulp. “Whatever. Just don’t get in my way.”
Both men watched her stalk out of the room and then turned to each other.
Imam spoke first. “Thank you, Mr. Riddick.”
“Jack ain’t exactly fragile, holy man.” There a certain amount of pride in Riddick’s voice, if one knew how to recognise it. “Not like anyone’s gonna look at her and see a girl, either.”
Imam didn’t respond immediately. “No, that is true. But a flower may grow even in the harsh desert.”
Riddick laughed, standing up to put his dishes in the sink. It was a harsh sound, but it was a side of the man not many people knew about and Imam welcomed it. “Jack? Jack ain't no delicate flower. More like a cactus," he smirked. "Prickly as hell.”
Imam smiled knowingly, thinking about the beautiful blossoms of the cacti of his home deserts.
“As you say, Mr. Riddick.”