She’s still sleeping. Her head resting against my side. Still holding her hand. Her breath warm against my shirt. I hate that I’m still wearing the damned thing, partly because I know I stink, and partly because I’d love to feel her breath, her skin, right against my skin. It’s been a few hours, I wouldn’t let Franks wake her. Said she hadn’t slept, and to let her be.
“I wouldn’t want her to move either, Riddick.”
He’s not just talking about waking her up. Her face is softer when she’s asleep. She’ll never be pretty, not after what’s been done to her, but pretty’s just skin deep. The hard line of her mouth eases, her eyes closed, dark lashes fanned over her cheek. Nuzzled into my side like a little animal. Reach across, to thread my fingers through her mop of short dark hair, the stroking easing a nightmare, before it had a chance to take hold.
Makes me wonder if she has someone to do this for her, on the Decatur. She says she doesn’t sleep well. She’s sleeping well now, it’s been over four hours. I don’t know if she was about to have a little nightmare, or whether it would be one of the ones that had you waking up screaming or not. But I do know that she stilled, at just a touch. I’d say Jane sleeps alone, which is why she sleeps badly, when she sleeps at all. No one to touch her, in her sleep, keep the nightmares away. So no, I’m not about to let Franks wake her up. Let her sleep.
Franks says my leg will heal, that I would have lost it, and probably my life along with it, if I had waited any longer. She saved more than just my leg. She saved my life. I’m not used to thanking anyone else for that, not used to saying it. Don’t even know how to begin. It would have been a shitty, meaningless way to die.
Try and keep my breathing even, when Franks comes to clean my leg again. Taking my hand out of her hair, in case I tense up, and pull it. A soft whimper, her nose pressed hard against my side for a moment, before she realizes where she is, and pulls herself back. Blinking, letting go of my hand, like she hasn’t quite realized how she got there. Definitely not used to sleeping that much at once. Not used to sleeping with someone else, either.
“Sorry. That’s all you need, a bunch of drool all over you.”
“There are worse things. I wouldn’t have minded.”
She just grins at that, getting up to make her way back to the bathroom. My side feels cold without her there. I wouldn’t go so far as to say I miss her, or at least I’d never say it out loud, but I did like having her sleep there.
“You two aren’t….”
“No.” No. We aren’t. But I can’t help but like her. And I did like the feel of her curled up with me. It’s been a long time since I’ve just had a woman sleep near me.
“A man could do a lot worse.”
“Is she seeing anyone?”
“Not that I know of. Jane’s always been pretty quiet, that way.”
Changing the subject, as Jane comes back out, carrying cups.
“You can walk on this, but take it easy. You’re going to have to see me at least twice a day for a while. No guarantees. You might have a limp, but you’re not going to lose the leg.”
His voice is quiet, efficient. Doesn’t seem to matter where he is. He’s patched me up in a filthy clearing in Slam, his voice is the same. And you better listen. Commands an authority you have to admire. Jane, standing behind him, with coffee, listening. Her face is hard again. Serious. Handing Franks one of the cups, before coming around the gurney, with mine.
“I didn’t know how you like it.”
“The coffee?” Her face, innocent for a moment, before breaking into a grin, as she hands me a cup of coffee. Cream and sugar. Nice. I get her to hold the cup so I can sit up, pulling the sheet around me. She’s grinning again, at my boots sticking out of the bottom of the sheet.
“Yea, sweetheart, the coffee.” That cocky, arrogant grin is back, he definitely must be feeling better. “How long before we dock, Franks?” Franks turns, in the pilot’s seat, having taken over the flight, once I fell asleep.
“A little under half an hour. I comm’ed ahead. They’ll hold dinner for us.”
Her stomach lets out a loud rumble. She’s looking down at the protein bars she’s brought.
“I don’t know about you, but I can wait that long to eat something decent.” The protein bars get ignored. I doubt that’s a problem for anyone. There’s everything in a protein bar that your body needs, and nothing in them that your body wants.
“If you want to be known by another name, you ought to say so now, Riddick, before we dock. I made a point of not mentioning your name. I don’t know if Dufresne knew whether I was transporting you, or if you were just arranged as….”
“Cargo…” Her face hardens at the description. The thought of transporting somebody like that really did piss her off. “My name’s a pain in the ass, some days, but I always have more hassle using an alias, than my own name.” My name comes with a reputation attached. Got out of more shit by dropping the name than anything else. It gets me left alone, most days. “It’s only a problem where mercs are concerned.”
“Then it’s not going to be a problem. Obviously”
She smiles at that. Not a sweet, girly smile. It’s the smile of a woman that cut down three mercs, and balanced a med kit on the back of a dead body.
“Obviously.” Not used to other people being concerned about what happens to me. Not since Jack, years ago, asking what to do, if we ran into anyone, coming off T2. It’s not her I have to worry about. She’s killed for me, and saved my life already. Not Franks either. The only other person that may know I’m here is Dufresne. A man who I didn’t like the minute I heard his voice.
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