Tell Me a Story

Fandom: Pitch Black

Category/Rated: Het, T

Year/Length: 2004/ ~6100 words

Pairing: Pre-Riddick/Jack

Disclaimer: Not mine, no profit, only having fun.

Warning: Language, mentions of violence.

Summary: They didn't know whether they were going to live or die, but a human voice helps.

Author's Notes: PB fic, ignores COR. R/J if you look for it, if not just attribute the touchy-feely-ness to them thinking they're about to die. One-shot.

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"Tell me a story, Jack,"

She's repeated those words in her own head so many times that at first she doesn't realize that it's Riddick speaking. Doesn't realize till he repositions his head on her stomach, and begins drumming expectantly on her thigh with one index finger. Even then she doesn't really believe that he said them, not until he asks her if she's awake, and then repeats the request.

"Tell me a story, Jack,"

Iman has raised his head from across the skiff, his eyes dark and full of tears and she almost snaps at him to stop crying, it's a waste of water. But at the last moment she reminds herself that people he cared about died on that planet, that he's human, that he's weak, that her telling him not to cry would only make it worse. So instead she finds Riddick's hand with her own, tugs on his fingers to occupy her mind.

"There aren't any books here,"

There aren't. She's looked. No one knows how long they're going to be out here, hours, days, weeks, but space gets repetitive and boring pretty damn quick. Books might have taken her mind off that. Books might have taken her mind off the fact that there really isn't very much water, and next to no food, and so she figures they have maybe a month to live. But there are no books, no food for her brain like there is no food for her body.

"Make something up,"

His voice was muffled, when he rearranged himself his face has ended up, for the most part, buried against her stomach. The rumble of his voice hides the rumbling of her stomach, and the warmth of his breath is strangely soothing against her bare skin. They've stripped most of their clothes off to wring the water out of them, hers are so torn and ragged that she doesn't know if she can get them on again.

"Jack?"

Making sure she hasn't fallen asleep. It's hard to think of what to say, hard to think of the books that she had loved so much to read, when the memory of the planet is there in the forefront of her mind. Hard to think of how she can talk about anything else but the blood and the death and the screams. Of people that she didn't know dying. Something inside her is burning, and she tries to jerk her hand away from Riddick, but his fingers are around her wrist. She can't think of what else to say, so she opens her mouth and lets the words that will come, come.

"Once upon a time there was a man, lost in perpetual darkness, and a boy who could change shapes..."

Once upon a time there was a stowaway, a changeling, aboard a ship of dreams. The stowaway had ridden these dream ships many times before, and so it hid, bracing itself in a corner as best it could, because after all the dreamers were tucked safely into their beds the ship would rise with terrible force, and the stowaway would be flung around. And after a sort time the dream ship settled into its course, and the changeling crawled out from where it had hid, bruised and battered.

For a while the changeling looked at the dreamers, read their tickets and acquainted itself with its silent companions. Most of the dreamers were average, and did not hold the changelings interest, but there were a few that it stood in front of longer than others, feeling the thrum of engine beneath its feet. Swaying with the motion of the dream ship.

There were some hunters of land, several men and a woman, with hair black as coal. There was a holy man, and his three acolytes, wrapped in expensive robes and smelling of expensive oils. There was a man, who claimed to be a knight, a hunter of criminals, a protector of the weak and innocent. All these, and more, were the dreamers.

But none of these fascinated the stowaway as much as the dreamer with 'Danger' written all over his bed. He was a large man, a vagabond, a murderer, maybe. He was as still as everyone else, as trapped in his bed as all the others, but something about him told the stowaway that he wasn't dreaming, and so the changeling was fascinated. After a while the changeling moved away from the bed with Danger on it, pulling out the bedding that dream ships were required to carry in the event that someone was allergic to the dreams, or their bed malfunctioned.

The decision of where to sleep had been made unconsciously, the changeling placed the mat in front of the bed with 'Danger' on it, and then began learning its way around the ship.

The stowaway had a routine, one learned from other trips on dream ships, and it settles into it. It reads the books that the dream ships carry, and it runs laps through the ship because if not its muscles with atrophy away. It takes a day before the dreamer in the 'Danger' bed seems awake enough that the stowaway decides to read out loud.

There are all sorts of stories, and the stowaway has read most of them on other dream ships, knows them well, and so when it reads its voice flows. It takes to leaning against the bed with 'Danger' on it as it reads, and by the time it has finished the first book it is talking to the dreamer in the 'Danger' bed because that seems to make more sense than talking to itself.

It always talks about pointless things, and is used to getting no response since it usually talks to itself on these trips. After several books are finished it begins playfully complaining that the dreamer never asks it to tell him these stories. "Would a simple 'Tell me a story, Jack,' be so hard?" and for a minute the stowaway always expects the dreamer to respond, before remembering that he's asleep.

She only knows that she must have fallen asleep because her head is now resting on Riddick's stomach as he plays thoughtfully with the hair on her arms. His breathing makes no sound, but her head is lifted slightly with each breath he takes. She can see only the gleam of Iman's eyes in the darkness of the skiff, and only hears the steady clanking of his prayer beads.

The pain radiating from her abdomen is terrible, the urge to curl into a ball and rock herself back and forth to strong to ignore. After a moment Riddick pulls her back against his chest, folds his large body around hers, and rocks with her. The warmth and the movement soothe some part of the pain away, and she can breath again. His warmth makes her realize how cold she was, and she sinks deeper into the embrace. She can no longer hear the prayer beads.

There is silence for a moment, silence save for the soft rustling of her and Riddick rocking back and forth. It is a good sound, and she revels in it.

She is thirsty, but it's not painful yet, so she says nothing of it. Better to wait till her tongue is large and heavy, till her lips begin to crack, than waste precious water now. The hunger is worse, and she bites her tongue so she doesn't think about it. Riddick goes very still behind her and she realizes, belatedly, that he must be able to smell the blood.

Before she can say anything, before she can call him back, he is rising, and moving towards the food and water. She wants to tell him to wait, that they shouldn't be using it this soon, but the words die in her dry throat, and she can only watch as he gathers what he wants and returns to her. He hands her something that might have once been intended to be bread, and a glass of water half the size of her fist. She tastes blood in the water, and so she knows that it is some that was wrung out of their clothing.

There is silence while they eat, as they watch Iman venture to the back and return with his own piece of rock bread and tiny glass of water. There is silence when Riddick pulls her close to him again, buries his face in the crook between her neck and shoulder and murmurs, so softly that she almost doesn't hear him, "Tell me a story, Jack,"

She tries to remember where she had fallen asleep last time, and after a moment it comes to her, and she relaxes against him.

"Every four weeks the boy who could change shapes, the stowaway, would suffer from terrible, crippling pains. These were the cost of being able to be two things in one body."

For four days every four weeks the stowaway would not read, or run. It would simply lay curled in a tight little ball, beside the bed with 'Danger' on the outside. The pain was not a new pain, but that didn't make it any better. Four times the stowaway curled into a little ball, and that was how it knew that they were almost halfway to their destination. Forty- two weeks, the schedule had said, and they had been dreaming more than twenty.

The stowaway was just preparing for the time when it would curl into its ball for the fifth time when a rumble passed through the dream ship. It started as a fast shaking that ascended from the soles of the changeling's feet, up through its legs. And then the sound started, screeching, grinding, horrible, and the stowaway knew that the dream ship was dying.

But the death throes of the dream ship were only just beginning, and as the stowaway froze, unsure, the dream ship began to kill its dreamers. There was a horrible sound, and then the cracking of the beds, and worst, worst, the wet smacking sounds where the projectiles hit the dreamers.

The stowaway stood in the middle of it all, feeling bitter bile rise in its throat, feeling fear and pain make it want to sink to his knees. The knowledge that it was going to die came sudden, and with the knowledge came a coldness that seeped up the changeling's spine and through its skin. Death loomed huge and ugly, an infinite blackness, with a million cold black eyes. The changeling could smell death, taste death.

And then a thick warm arm had snagged the stowaway around its waist, and it was pulled into a corner, pressed against a solid chest, the arm around it so tight it could barely breath. "Hang on, kid," and the stowaway discovered what no one else ever had, that angels spoke with a voice like gravel. And as the stowaway wrapped its arms around the warm body that was holding it tight, it dared hope that maybe death wouldn't get a hold on it.

The stowaway clung to the dreamer that had come from the bed marked 'Danger', and it prayed, though it was a prayer with no words, only disjointed thoughts. Don't want to die. Don't want him to die. Can't die. Can't let him die. And pleas that where pure, jumbled, fear. And the dreamer, now awake, held the stowaway, and...

Riddick has fallen asleep; his head heavy on her shoulder, his breathing warm down her back. She slept too, and dreamt dreams of rainbow ships carrying passengers, half of whom where human and half of whom were monsters, and all of them trying to kill her. She wakes with a strangled scream, covered in cold sweat. Riddick is whispering something into her ear, but at first she can't make out what it is. And then she realizes that he is not actually speaking words, merely stringing together sounds as his breath tickles warmly down her neck.

For a long time that is the only sound.

Eventually he falls silent, and she can hear Iman rummaging around with the food, hear the dry wheezing of the old mans breath, and smell the stink of sadness. It was overpowering, and she flounders in it, whimpering till Riddick's arms close like a vice around her and she no longer has the breath to make a sound.

"Why didn't you let me die?"

Her voice sounds foreign to her own ears, dry, cracking, weak. And it has only been two days since they've gotten off that godforsaken planet. She doesn't think he's going to answer her, because she doesn't think he knows. She thinks it was instinct, unthinking reflex. The same thing that made her read to him. The same thing that made Shazza get up and run when she should have just stayed down. He shrugs, and her body moves with his.

"Thought you were dieing. When you bled."

At first she doesn't know what he's talking about, and then it clicks, and her brain finally realizes that he was awake. And she should have realized earlier, realized a thousand different times on that planet, realized when he asked her to tell him a story... She wants to look at him, but the darkness hides everything, and so she shakes her head, unable to form words.

"Decided I wanted to keep you around."

And she knows, somehow, that is all the explanation she is ever going to get. It is more and less than she's expecting. And she thinks, briefly, about asking him how long he planned on keeping her around, but she thinks she might not like the answer. She thinks that it would be nice to be able to swallow twice in succession. He loosens his hold on her slightly.

"Tell me a story, Jack,"

And she wonders what will happen when she runs out of story, wonders what will happen if they run out of water before she finishes. Mainly, she wonders why Iman is still over by the food, but she is to drained to say anything. Too much has happened. She can't bring herself to believe that one of the survivors would steal food now.

"The changeling fell into a dream as the ship plunged towards its death..."

The changeling woke jammed in a bed. All around it would hear the dreamers moving, could hear them talking in loud, anxious tones. It was surprised to be alive, grateful, but also terrified of being in the bed, and of how it had gotten there. The largest worry it had was for the vagabond that had saved it. All these fears wound themselves together, and the changeling found itself banging desperately on the side of the bed till it was freed.

It recognized most of the dreamers. There were two of the hunters of land, a woman and a man. The holy man and his acolytes, who smelled more like fear than riches now. The prince, with his strange exotic riches all pulled around him like a defensive shield. The knight was absent, and so was the vagabond, and the changeling stood very still, as though still peering in the face of death.

There were debates, none of which the changeling was part of, and the knight returned, all blond hair, blue eyes, and confident swagger. He flashed his shiny badge around, but the changeling knew that he was a false knight, because real knights always traveled in pairs, and they never slept in the beds on the dream ships.

At first the changeling thought that these were all the survivors, but they found a princess amongst the rubble. She, like the knight, was of blond hair and blue eyes, of beauty and confidence. She moved among the commoners and the changeling and they all bowed before her. None of them paid any attention to the changeling when it wandered off in the direction the knight had come from.

There the changeling found the vagabond, chained, undoubtedly, by the knight. The changeling was silent for a long time, as it considered, even though it had made its decision when it went looking for the vagabond. Eventually, as it turned to rejoin the commoners and the princess, it whispered, "There's a gap in the bar above your head," and it fled.

The changeling watched and listened to the knight and the princess panic when they discovered the vagabond was loose. Search parties were sent out, even as the female hunter of land attempted some doomed repairs on the dream ship, and the male dug graves for the dreamers that were never to wake. The changeling wandered where it would, and death snagged on its heels.

The first to die was a dreamer who had woken in time to fall into the final sleep, his blood bright and wet across the face of the female hunter of land. And as the dreamer died the changeling could see Death, with its cold black eyes, watching, always watching. They captured the vagabond again, then, the commoners and the knight and the princess, and the changeling watched it all with its companion Death.

There were more debates, mostly between the bright knight and the white princess, and the changeling paid no attention to any of them. It paid very little attention to anything at all, till the commoners and the princess and the knight led the vagabond towards a deserted castle, and then it followed them. There it changed its shape closer to that of the vagabond. There they discovered that they were being hunted by dragons. There the second person was killed, taken in a swirl of wings and claws, with hard black eyes-

Iman is screaming.

She jerks out of the trance telling the story has put her in, fear like white hot pain setting her entire body on fire. She tries to scramble away from Riddick, nameless instinct telling her to become small and invisible and gone. The screaming is raw and harsh and it pushes itself into all corners of her mind and she can't get away from Riddick because one of his huge arms is holding her pressed tight against his chest.

It is so dark, she can't see, but she has the insane thought that the screams are moving closer to her. And then Riddick is moving, letting her slide to the ground as he stands and she hears rather than sees him put his hand around Iman's throat. And she curls into a ball on the cold floor of the shuttle and wonders if Death has followed her within their cold steel confines and if Iman is about to die.

The screaming stops with an abruptness that leaves her ears ringing.

"Give me the blade, holy man,"

Riddick's voice is disembodied, floating out of the darkness where she assumes he must be standing. She tries to imagine Iman holding a blade, and she's seen enough terrible things that the picture comes easily to her mind. She wonders if he hadn't screamed, if he had given no warning, if she would be dead right now. She wonders if that would have been better.

"She is saying horrible things! Terrible things! I cannot-"

She doesn't know if Iman's voice breaks from emotion or from Riddick's hand tightening on his throat. She doesn't want to know. Knowledge is pain. Knowledge is fire. Knowledge is what you get when you live and everyone else dies. And she wonders if Iman is dead right now, and how much worse his dead body will smell than his living one does.

"I didn't bring you off that planet to kill you up here, holy man, now give me the goddamn blade."

Iman is still alive, then. For a split second she is disappointed, because splitting the food two ways would be a lot easier than splitting it three. And she hates herself the moment the thoughts cross her mind. She wants to throw up now, but food and water are to precious, so she swallows the bitter bile down, and tells herself that no one else is going to die.

"You should have left me...should have left me with my boys...my poor boys..."

And she can hear the tears sliding down the holy man's face, and she wants to tell him to stop being wasteful, but instead she pulls herself towards the sound. She pulls the holy man away from Riddick's grasp, and hugs him, holds his shaking body till the tears coat her shoulder and throat and drip in warm trails down her arm and chest. The knife clatters loudly when it hits the floor, and she barely hears Riddick grab it up.

She whispers words to Iman that have no meaning, about God and forgiveness and life. And she wonders where she finds all these words about things she doesn't believe in. Riddick is watching from the shadows, and she realizes that this is the first time since they boarded the skiff that they haven't really been touching. And she realizes she doesn't like it, so she extends a hand into the darkness and is not disappointed when after a moment warm fingers wrap around hers.

Iman has fallen asleep in her arms, and she doesn't know how long she's sat with him but she legs are numb. Riddick sinks down behind her, and she leans her head back between his shoulder blades, and breaths long slow breaths. Without thinking about it she drags a finger across her shoulder, collecting the moisture from Iman's tears, and then sucks it all down her throat.

It is pure salt, bitter, harsh, tears for the dead, but she drinks it anyway. After a moment Riddick twists his body around, seals his lips on the skin of her upper arm and sucks the moisture off. There is silence as they harvest every last drop of liquid off of her body. And then she leans back against him again, and doesn't think about the fact that she's fourteen, and has had a man's lips on her, even if there was almost nothing sexual about it.

She thinks she sleeps, but in complete darkness it's hard to keep track of the line between wakefulness and sleep. After a long time Iman wakes up, and for a moment she thinks that he will move away from her, back to the corner he was laying in. Instead he pulls her arms around him, pillows his head against her chest. And she pats his back and whispers nonsense words to him, and doesn't think about how strange it is that a fourteen-year-old girl is comforting a forty year old man.

No one speaks for a long time, and she wonders how long they've been up here, how long they have left. And for one insane moment she misses Shazza, even though she never knew the woman. The moment passes, though Shazza's face swims before her eyes, and she wonders what's worse, remembering the faces of those who died, or forgetting them, for she can't remember Paris, or Iman's boys.

Riddick goes and gets food and water four times, four days?, before Iman begins to fidget uncomfortably and finally murmurs, in a voice so soft she almost doesn't hear it,

"Tell me a story, Jack."

The events are getting muddied in her head, and for a moment she thinks that she won't be able to tell anymore, and she opens her mouth to say that she can't, but the words that bubble out are not the ones she choose. The story decides to tell itself without her permission.

"The princess and the knight made the decision that everyone should return to the dream ship, to recover power for a smaller dream ship they had found..."

They ride on a smaller relative of the dream ship, through bone yards, under three suns. The changeling watches everything through black goggles, and the world looks full of shadow. It is a ride none of them will forget, a race against the impossible tide of night, a race they lost before they ever started. It is only when the small machine dies that they realize they've lost, and race, on foot, for the relative safety of the dead dream ship.

The changeling runs fast, it is used to running around dream ships, but the same principles apply on the planet. The changeling reaches the dream ship first, and watches as one after another the dreamers file in. Till there is only the female hunter of land and the vagabond still outside, and then the changeling watches, not daring to breath.

The female hunter of land, she does not have a quick death, and the changeling looks into Death's cold hard face and wonders how many more will be lost. Four have died, eight are left, and as they enter the dream ship Death's gaze feels heavy on the changelings back. There are more arguments, but they are pointless, futile. They've all known what their course would be since they entered the dead dream ship.

That course does not change when one of the sweet smelling acolytes are snatched into death. Five had died now. The princess and the knight argue as others gather magic beacons, the only things that seem capable of harming the dragons. The changeling helps because it does not want to die. Does not want the vagabond to die.

The skiff is groaning.

After everything else, it is too much, and she feels a scream of frustration squeeze itself out of her throat. No one else makes a sound as they sit and listen to the groan fade into silence. One ship has failed them, and now a second it promising them a similar fate. She turns in Riddick's arms, buries her face against his chest and digs her nails into her hands so she doesn't cry.

"It's an old ship, twenty-two years on that planet, structural integrity isn't going to be perfect,"

He says it with a shrug. The movement is conveyed to Iman, whose head is resting on her legs. She wouldn't have cared if the piece of shit had fallen completely apart as soon as they landed, but in the cold blackness of space it seems like an unspeakable betrayal. She wonders how much time they have before the structural integrity fails completely, and they all die very quick deaths. She wonders if that would be better than thirsting to death.

They sleep with the occasional groans of the ship to keep them company. She dreams about Riddick's lips on her, and then of fangs that cut into her, and tear her limb from limb and she won't die so she feels... She wakes to Riddick shaking her shoulders, and still mostly in the dream and she hits him as hard as she can. She feels his chin jerk just slightly to the right, and then he isn't shaking her anymore, just squeezing her shoulders so tightly that she feels the bones shift and then groan.

"Riddick!"

The pain is exquisite, she's positive that he's going to snap her collarbone, and then the pressure is gone, and she can hear his loud, jerky breathing. For a long moment, nothing, and then she is pulled tight against him, and his breath is dancing over the short stubble that covers her skull, his hands dancing up her arms and across her back but never near her shoulders.

He is whispering her name over and over again like a mantra, and she doesn't want the knowledge that he could snap her in half but she has it anyway. Her shoulders are the only part of her that is warm, as her blood pools and forms bruises. Iman has scrambled away from them, and the only thing that lets her know he's still alive is the steady clicking of prayer beads. She wonders what he's praying for.

Riddick is holding her, and the throb in her shoulders is worsening. She is grateful that he didn't break her collarbone because, though she is ready to die, she doesn't want a slow death. If her count is right they've been in the skiff a dozen days, and she wonders if that counts as a slow death. Most of the food is gone. A little less than half the water is left.

After what must have been hours Iman crawls back over to her, wraps a hand around her ankle, the only part of her he can access due to Riddick's embrace. She wonders how she is going to survive without constantly touching someone if they get off the skiff.

Something in the rhythm of Riddick's speech changes, and it takes her a moment to realize that now he is not only saying her name, but also including a request for a story along with it. She doesn't want to tell anymore. What comes next is to fresh and new and raw in her mind, but when she opens her mouth to refuse the story bubbles out.

"So the eccentric group set off, in a mad, desperate dash to reach the safety of the dream ship..."

And so they ran, holding their magic beacons to ward off the dragons, fear eating into them more and more with each passing step. Time passed in the eternal night, and none could track its passing in the unending blackness. It was only when one of the magic beacons was grabbed away, and the changeling darted after it, leading to the Death of the prince, that time regained some semblance of its former shape.

It was then that the knight discovered the vagabond had been leading the group in a circle, maybe hoping to cull the herd of the weak. It was then that the changeling morphed again, into something new and entirely different than its former shape. It was then that they all truly realized, for the first time, that they were all going to die.

There was nothing else for them to do, but to run, swinging their magic beacons, hoping vainly that they would survive.

Not long after the changeling took a female shape, the knight challenged the vagabond for supremacy within the group. None of the group saw the fight, for the princess had urged them to flee as the two males fought, and they were left to wonder who would emerge alive. They did not have to wait long before the vagabond dropped back into their group, and then there were five.

There is no more food. Not for at least five days.

Riddick does not say anything, but he returns to her side with only water, and the glass barely has two swallows in it. She tells herself to drink it slowly, but it touches her tongue and she swallows it compulsively. After a moment she slides her tongue inside the glass, searching for any moisture that she may have missed. Iman does not move from where he has curled in a ball against her side, and so she pulls herself to the back of the skiff, deciding to bring him water unconsciously.

She dips the cup into the last bucket, and it clanks against the bottom before she feels moisture against her fingers. There is a half-inch of water in the bucket, and so she slides a little into the cup, presses it into Iman's hand, and says nothing about it to Riddick. She knows now, with almost certainty that they will all die.

"Not you, Jack," Riddick's voice out of the darkness, accompanied by his head being lowered into her lap. "You don't get to die. Not from dragons, not from goddamn knights, and not from dehydration," his voice is a rasp, and he takes her cold hand in his and presses it against his thigh and she can feel the heat of infection in his cut. She doesn't tell him that he doesn't get to choose who lives or dies, because maybe he does.

Iman has not spoken in days, and he is not drinking his water. She pushes him onto his back and manages to hold his head up long enough to force him to swallow the precious liquid. She does not say that there is only enough water for one more day. She does not say that they should already be dead. She does not say that her lips are no longer bleeding where they split.

There is silence until Riddick crawls away from her a day later, and returns with a full glass. The three of them share it, and no one says that the water is gone, now. Riddick holds her tightly, and rests his chin on the top of her head, and her hair is falling in her eyes, now. Time passes and now she can't track it at all because there is no more water and no more food.

"Finish the story, Jack."

She wants to cry, but instead she talks.

"They decided to make a last desperate dash towards the dream ship."

They ran as though the world was ending behind them, and maybe it was. All around them the dragons screamed, and from above huge drops of the dragons blood fell on them, and still they ran. The last of the holy man's acolytes tripped, and was almost taken, and still they ran. The changeling was cornered, and would have died, had not the vagabond slew the dragon, and still they ran. Rain fell, putting out many of their magic beacons, and they stopped.

The last acolyte was taken, dragged away by a monster as the holy man tried desperately to hold him. There were four left.

The vagabond shoved the princess, the holy man, and the changeling into a cave, and raced for the dream ship on his own. In the cave the three found creatures of living magic, and harvested them, and the princess decided to go after the vagabond. There were two left in the cave.

The vagabond and the princess returned just as the holy man and the changeling were losing all hope, and together the four ran, terrified, awaiting death, to the dream ship. And then the vagabond was gone, and the three stumbled their way into the dream ship, unsure whether they were still alive, how they could still be alive, when everyone else had fallen. And the three left stared at one another.

The princess went after the vagabond, out into the shadow, out with the dragons, and she did not return. The vagabond stumbled alone out of the darkness, into the dream ship, and together the three left the dragons and the darkness and the terror behind. And they lived happily ever after.

She can no longer move, and with each passing moment it gets harder and harder to keep her eyes open. She doesn't know how long it's been since the water ran out, but her body tells her 'to long'. Iman is making a low keening noise, and Riddick has been sitting very still, holding her against his chest, as she watches his throat move in the pulse of the orange Alert light.

Orange means a ship is coming for them. Orange means hold on.

But she can't, because its been to long since she had water, and she can feel the blackness creeping in from her fingertips, and she can see Death's cold hard eyes smiling down on her. She wonders if death will be half so bad as it's cracked up to be. Breathing is so very, very hard.

And then Riddick is making a horrible sound in the back of his throat, and bending his face towards hers, and then his mouth is over hers. For a minute she doesn't know what's happening, and then his fingers are forcing her mouth open, and he's forcing saliva into her mouth and down her throat and she wonders how many hours he had to work to get that much.

Then his mouth is off hers, but his face is still close to hers, and his beard is rough where it's pressed against her forehead and nose. And the orange light is steady now, steady, and that means that the ship is here. And she feels the skiff jerk when the other ship docks with it and she can see the outlines of the men that step into the skiff, and she can hear Iman's exclamations of praise to his god.

She doesn't tell him that the men are slavers, because she figures he'll find out soon enough on his own.

END

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