Chapter 17 Part A: In the Beginning.
Jack climbed to the bed and collapsed on the mattress. She felt exhausted and dizzy, and she realized that her hands were trembling slightly again as she grabbed for the pillow. She took a deep breath and forced herself to stay calm. She thought about Riddick’s strange behaviour. He was purposely avoiding her questions. What Jack didn’t know, was why he was acting like that, why those reactions, and why the silence regarding her questions. Jack wondered if he had always acted in a similar way as she felt an all encompassing, freezing cold, wrap around her body like an invisible, ethereal veil. She remembered Riddick’s words about the withdrawal symptoms. Her heart was beating fast in her chest and her forehead was covered with drops of perspiration in a matter of seconds. Relax, Audr… Jack, she corrected herself, as an idea crossed her mind. If she could distract her mind from the present moment, and the reality that was surrounding her, maybe she would feel a little better. Yeah, sounds great, Jack, this time she didn’t hesitate when she thought about the name he called her. Jack realized that she liked it. It was true! That name made her feel somehow stronger, and in a strange way it seemed that it really suited her. Yeah, Jack, that’s it kid, this time she chuckled. Kid, she repeated herself as she frowned. Jack hadn’t realized untill now that every time that their conversation turned to any subject Riddick thought he couldn’t control, he called her kid.
A new wave of pain crushed into her, breaking her line of thinking and brought her abruptly back to her reality. Jack dug her nails into her palms in a lame attempt to distract herself from the pain that was now spreading like liquid fire through her body. Focus, Jack, she gasped, It’ll pass. A few seconds later, which seemed like an eternity for her, the pain passed and Jack could relax her aching muscles. She breathed deeply and blinked several times. She felt really tired, so she closed her eyes and memories overwhelmed her.
“Show me, Riddick”, Jack said to him, while she watched him working out in the gym he had converted one of the rooms in the house to.
Riddick arched a brow. “Show you what exactly, kid?” Riddick said through clenched teeth without looking at her as he raised a set of heavy dumbbells.
Jack frowned. “Defend myself”, she said as she walked to his side trying to get his full attention. After taking a deep breath, she plunged in, “I’m tired of feeling afraid, and weak, Riddick. I’m tired of being abused by others”, she took another deep breath and made herself meet his gaze as Riddick put the weights aside. “I want to be like you, Riddick. I want you to show me how to be a Baddass like you” she said, giving him a small grin.
Riddick raised his brows and watched her. “I can’t show you that, kid. You either got it in you, or you don’t”, he teased. Jack looked puzzled. This was important to her and he was acting as if she had a whim. Riddick frowned as if he was organizing his thoughts. “Look, Jack. I don’t know how to teach you to be tough”, he said as he sat and stretched his back, cracking the vertebrae in the process. “When I train I’m not thinking about self defense. Actually, I mean business, real business”, he stood and took a mouthful of water, and poured the rest over his head. Jack’s breath caught when she saw the drops of water slide along his perfectly muscled chest and belly. Oh, shit, man, her eyes opened wide. You’re fucking hot! her mind screamed. Riddick cleared his throat to keep her attention focused on his face. Jack blinked and looked at his face. He was looking at her, deadly serious. Careful, Jackie girl, she warned herself. He’s Riddick, he could decide to beat the shit out of you if you look at him as if he was a piece of meat. Riddick tilted his head and arched a brow, staring at her and waiting to go on. Jack shook her head and refocused her attention. Riddick grinned and pretended to not notice her stare, and the fact that she was almost drooling. He cleared his throat and frowned. “You already know who I am, kid. I’ve got a big bounty on my head and fucking mercs on my”
Jack cut him off. “But they think you’re dead. That you died on that fucking planet”, she was suddenly worried. She had thought that everything was ok now, that he was safe here in New Mecca.
Riddick sighed. “I’ll always be hunted. And that’s not gonna change, Jack”, he explained as he sat on the floor, cracking his neck to both sides.
Jack’s face showed disappointment. She deserves a better life, he thought. A normal life. School, friends, a home, a family, maybe even kids, he frowned deep at his last thought; Jack and kids in the same sentence. He couldn’t help but let his imagination fly for a second. That was exactly what he would like for himself. A normal life. A beautiful woman, a house, kids. Things that were out of his reach at that very moment. Things that, he suspected, he never would be able to enjoy, as long as he had mercs after him. Riddick snapped back to reality and found Jack in front of him.
Jack eyes were wet, and the sadness that flickered in her them was too much for him. Oh, fuck, no! Don’t look at me like that, he growled as he stared back at her. Riddick didn’t want to teach her how to kill, but if she was going to be around him, she would need to be ready to face anything. And besides, who was he to decide her future? Lately Riddick had been thinking too much about their future. Better if she learns how to fight. In the end Riddick was a selfish bastard, to hell with the rest of the Galaxy, wasn’t that his normal line of reasoning? So … why not? You little, annoying brat, he growled frustrated. “You think you got it in you, Jack?” he asked her suddenly, seriously. Of course she had it in her, and Riddick knew it too, but he didn’t want to turn her into someone like him. They were already too similar for his taste. Jack stared at him and just nodded yes. “Ok, let’s find out”, he added as he stood back up.
Jack’s face lit up in seconds. “Thank you, Riddick”, a big smile on her face. “You won’t regret it, man. I’ll make you feel proud of me, I promise I’ll do whatever you ask me to do”, her voice singing as she spoke, meaning every word.
Riddick shook his head and chuckled. “Let’s see if you think the same way tomorrow, kid” he teased her, grinning.
Jack looked at him, frowning and puzzled. “Why?”, she asked innocently.
Riddick chuckled again. “You’ll find out”, he teased. Riddick showed her how to warm up her muscles. After fifteen minutes, “Ok, Jackie girl, first push ups and sit ups, later we’ll see”, he added as he pointed to the floor beside him.
Jack got down on the floor and began to do what she was told. “How many, big guy?”, she asked without stopping her movements, a big smile still plastered on her face.
Riddick laughed, laying on his stomach in front of her, he rested his elbows on the floor. “Until you can’t do it anymore, kid”, he teased, grinning as he watched her.
End flash back
Yeah, Jack. You were strong before and you’ll be strong again, she said to herself as she curled up into a fetal ball on the mattress. Jack gritted her teeth to suppress a scream. She realized that this time it was a different kind of pain. Her muscles shrank with each and every painful spasm that was now torturing her body. You’re strong, Jack. You’re strong, girl. She could feel pain in places she never realized existed in her body. Fucking withdrawal, she hissed in pain. She felt her hair raise all along her skin. Jack was soaked with her own sweat and tears. The bed was suddenly burning underneath her, but she still felt frozen. Her hands were shaking so badly that she couldn’t even grab the sheet into her fists. Jack buried her face into the pillow and screamed, trying with all her might not to alert him. You’re strong, Jack. You’re not Audrey. Audrey is weak. You’re strong. You’re strong, her thoughts echoed inside her brain. Her head seemed made of water, just to turn into something as heavy as steel. It felt like her head was expanding and contracting. Jack’s head was turning from one side to the other in fast moves, so fast that she wasn’t even registering the movements.
Riddick sighed and leaned back in the pilot’s seat. Putting his legs up in front of him on the panel, he then crossed his arms over his chest and stared at his hand; which was now bandaged. Riddick was aware that his behaviour was making her frustrated and that he owed Jack some explanations, but he also knew that first he needed to be able to face her again. He had to get a hold of himself, otherwise he was sure he would end up hurting her. Jack definitely wasn’t a kid anymore, she was a grown woman. He didn’t think that she would settle for any of the smartass responses, which he used to use to avoid a topic he didn’t want to discuss, that he used to be able to get away with when she was younger. What? Why not? he asked himself. His inner beast rumbled in denial. Riddick shook his head and sighed. Cause she grew up while you weren’t lookin, he thought. Yeah! She’s a beautiful, intelligent, sexy as hell, woman, Rick, he corrected himself. Riddick pictured a fifteen-year-old Jack. Back then it was easy, he grinned at the thought. A long moment passed and Riddick realized that he hadn’t heard her at all. His guts told him that something was wrong, but he was too busy thinking about recent events to pay enough attention to them.
Jack’s ears were ringing with an awful buzz and her heart was beating so fast that she thought it might explode from her chest at any moment. She whimpered and cried silently. She thought she was going to die when she felt something that was like a big snake made of fire bite her. It crept along her vertebral column and exploded into millions of little fire snakes through her veins; they went all through her arms and legs, burning a deliberate, painful, slow path. Jack’s body relaxed after a second as her limbs had a crawling sensation in them. She used the opportunity to take a deep breath. She felt her lungs fill with air and then a new spasm made her jump buck on the mattress. She couldn’t tell if she was still breathing or not. Her vision blurred as another wave of pain pierced her brain. Jack shut her eyes and clenched her teeth. You’re strong. You’re strong. You’re …, she chanted in her head. Her body curled in a ball and then flattened back out again. She went rigid and bowed her back with such force that she thought her spine would be broken in two. Jack bit her lower lip so hard that the skin was broken under the pressure. She hissed in pain when tasted her own blood on her lips. … strong. Suddenly the strongest physical pain she’d ever felt in all her life crushed inside of her body, and she could no longer suppress a scream. Jack cried out at the top of her lungs and fell unconscious.
Riddick ran so fast that it looked as if his feet didn’t touch the floor. When he reached his bedroom, he saw Jack’s body laying on the floor and covered in a pool of sweat. Her body shook uncontrollably with each spasm and her lower lip was bleeding slightly. Riddick laid on top of her, being careful of where he held his weight, he didn’t want to hurt her more; he just wanted to keep her from hurting herself. “Fucking withdrawal”, he said to no one and pressed his body a little more against hers when noticed that her spasms were getting more intense. After a few minutes, Jack’s body relaxed a bit under his weight. He lifted her as he stood and laid her limp body on the bed. He then went to get the med kit and pulled out a hypo syringe loaded with sedatives. He tapped Jack’s arm and injected the liquid directly into her vein. “This will help you, kid”, he explained to her even though he knew she couldn’t hear him. Riddick took a chair and sat next to her with her hand held in his. “I’ll be right here when you wake up Jack”, then he let out a heavy sigh as he gently stroked her hand.