Title: Dare
Author: Drucilla
Email: dru_dollhouse AT yahoo.com
Rating: TEENS
Summary: Dare to dream, dare to reach out, dare to love.
Disclaimers: Pitch Black, The Chronicles of Riddick and their characters belong to Universal Studios. No infringement is intended, no profit is made.
Author's Notes: Yes, I put in a self-reference. I have no shame. Carolyn Fry, Jack, Imam, and Richard B. Riddick = Not Mine. Fantine St. Germain = Mine. Archive permission generally granted, just e-mail me and tell me where it's going.

 

Carolyn Fry heaved another crate onto the loading platform and brushed some sweat off her forehead with the back of her arm. After the past few months, she still had no idea why she'd accepted this damn job. Sure, the placement of the complex on one of the more northern continents meant that it stayed daylight around here for half the year, which kept away her nightmares. And the company she worked for had holdings in the opposite end of the planet too, which meant she could relocate twice a year if she decided to stay. And the pay was good, and kept her in a reasonable lifestyle, if not the one she had become accustomed to before... Most importantly, it kept her from having to keep moving from place to place all the time without actually compromising her new identity.

But the work wasn't exactly gratifying. She had very few friends (which she freely admitted was her own damn fault for being so reclusive), didn't get out much, and spent most of her days in the dockyard and most of her nights falling into an exhausted heap on her bed. It wasn't much of a life, and she was far too aware of that for comfort.

She shaded her eyes with her arm again, looking up at the sky as the sun was briefly blotted out by the ship that was landing. Her heart fluttered a little, then quickly died as she stomped down all hope with a metaphorical steel-toed boot. The last thing she needed was to be standing here in breathless anticipation, day after day, waiting for the day that some tall, shaved-head, musclebound escaped convict would walk out of the landing spaceship and sweep her up into his arms and... Dammit, Fry! Grow up!

She thought that to herself a lot these days.

"Hey, Sargento..." a voice called across the dockyard. "You got sun-stroke or something?"

Fry muttered something derogatory back at the man and flipped him a rude gesture before resuming the lifting and tugging of crates. No matter how advanced technology got, she thought with a smile, they always still needed someone to load and unload it, because human labor was almost always cheaper. At least now.

"Ignore him, Liz," one of the other women on the docks grinned, blatently ignoring the man. "He just can't stand that the foreman gives the chicks a bigger break than he does the guys."

A part of her wanted to admit that it wasn't fair. Right now, though, she was too tired to really object to the break, no matter how it was gotten. "Yeah," she said tiredly. Today had been a worse day than usual for thinking about ...

She stared across the landing strip as someone disembarked from the freighter and walked over to the dock manager. Watched the sun glint off of a shaved head, watched the play of muscles under skin that was so obvious, even from this distance. She absently noted the easy, arrogant swagger and the all-black ensemble.

"Yeah, that's a good one," the woman next to her leered, taking a long drink of water. "I wouldn't kick him out of bed for eating crackers."

Fry opened her mouth to object. Or to call out to Riddick, she wasn't sure which. The man reached some sort of agreement with the dock manager, signed a stylus, and turned to call the rest of his crew down...

...her heart skipped a beat...

... and slowed again. It wasn't him, no matter how much the man looked like him, it wasn't him. It wasn't Riddick. A motley crew of perhaps fifteen descended the to the loading dock again and started to disperse. Fry turned back to her unloading, ignoring the curious glances of the woman next to her, feeling strangely hurt and disappointed.

"Hey, Liz..."

She nearly dropped the crate as she whirled, staring.

"... what's up?"

----

Carolyn clocked out early. She just wasn't up to answering anyone's questions as rumors of her strange behavior that day circulated around the dock at speeds faster than light. Besides, she was still assimilating the fact that Jack... Jackie... whatever... was back. That she was sitting in Carolyn's kitchen across from her, patiently awaiting dinner. Carolyn poked at the skillet to avoid having to look at the kid who had become suddenly all grown up, who had been last seen in the company of an escaped convict. And who now had shown up apparently in search of her on behalf of the self-same escaped convict... whether or not he knew it. Carolyn suspected that Riddick didn't actually know where Jack had gone, and just hoped the kid had enough sense to leave a note. If Riddick really had done the impossible and formed an attachment to another human being, he'd tear the galaxy apart looking for her.

The timer on the oven beeped, nearly scaring her out of her wits. Carolyn jumped slightly, and then settled a little as she heard the legs of the chair behind her scrape back. "I'll get it."

Carolyn took a deep breath. She had to settle down. Really. She had to settle down and stop thinking of Rich... Riddick. Stop thinking about him. "So what brings you all the way over here?" she asked in what she hoped was a nonchalant fashion.

"Richard told me you were still alive... I figured I'd look you up."

Carolyn's back was turned. The kid couldn't see her flinch. "Does he know you're gone? I mean, if he thinks you've been kidnapped..."

"It's okay," the kid interjected. "Imam told him where I went. I didn't stick around to argue it out with him, but I think he understands."

The sentence seemed to carry with it more meaning than just understanding of why Jack had to go running off after someone. Her hand clenched slightly, then she forced herself to relax and turn off the stove heat. "How are you doing?"

"Pretty good. Running around with Richard was more fun than I thought it would be..." Carolyn swallowed, trying to ignore the face that sprang up whenever Jack said that name. She reached up for the plates. "We've been taking courier jobs, bounty hunter kind of jobs... still sort of running under the radar, but it's a really cool way to live... really sexy."

CRASH!

"Hey, you okay?"

Carolyn looked over her shoulder and glared at the kid. "You did that on purpose..." She started to pick up the pieces of the broken plate, trying to ignore the combination of the words 'Richard' and 'sexy.'

"Did what?" Jack stared at her with a completely disinenguous expression. Carolyn watched her, unsure of herself again.

"Never mind..." she sighed and went back to dishing out the food. If Jack didn't know about Carolyn's attraction... lust... connection... fascination with... to... she didn't know what to call it anymore. Whatever; if Jack didn't know, Carolyn wasn't about to tell her. "So you've been enjoying yourself?"

"Mostly, yeah," Jack tucked into the food with all the enthusiasm of someone who didn't get enough to eat. "It's tough sometimes, going from place to place... sometimes running from place to place if Richard thinks they found out about him... I don't think they have yet, but, you know, you can never be too sure. And having to deal with all kinds of assholes. You wouldn't believe some of the people we've had to work with..." and she launched full into a story about a bar and a doctor and a teacher and some guy who, as far as she could tell, both repulsed and fascinated Jack at the same time. "You wouldn't believe... he's so ... well, scared all the time. And his voice squeaks."

She blinked. "Squeaks?"

"Yeah, no kidding, right? But Richard seemed to trust him... and besides, he got us into..." and she was off again. Carolyn sat back and listened to the Adventures of Jack and Richard, smiling a little. She'd missed this kind of easy companionship. "So what have you been up to?"

"Oh..." Carolyn took a sip of her drink and tried to think of something interesting to tell the kid. "Nothing much. Moving heavy boxes."

"I noticed," Jack directed a look at Carolyn's arms that was appreciative enough to wonder if the girl had turned bisexual. "You're ripped, you know that?"

She blushed. "Thanks," she said dryly, "I think. Whatever happened to Imam?"

"Oh, we still keep in touch. He's back at his monastery or religious school or something, teaching. He keeps saying I should go back to school... but, I figure, I enough time for that later. I want to travel... I want to see things!"

The enthusiasm of the young, she thought wryly. Where does it go? "So what brings you here? It's not like there's anything interesting to see."

Jack opened her mouth to disagree, and for one hideous second Carolyn thought she was going to say the girl had come to see her. My god, she thought. She really has turned into a lesbian. And then the moment passed. "I came over to see how you were doing," she said easily, with no trace of connotation. "We were kind of worried about you."

She blinked. "You w... wait, we? Riddick?"

"Richard."

She ignored the flashback. "Riddick was worried?" The thought was as bizarre as it was ludicrous. "Why? I'm fine."

Jack took a deep breath. "He said you looked tired... worn out, or something. Like you were just about on the edge, or out of energy or something. And you really must have looked bad, because he never says things like that."

Riddick had... "No way," Carolyn shook her head. "Uh-uh. Outside all the realms of probability. You must have dreamed it."

"Nuh-uh!" Jack protested, grinning but still serious. "I mean it, he said that. And he really looked worried, too. I mean, not all frowning and really looking worried, 'cause he never looks like much of anything except for that smirk, but... I could just tell, you know?"

Carolyn remembered. "Yeah, well, you told wrong."

"Whatever..." the girl shrugged, willing to end the argument but evidently not willing to concede the point. Carolyn fiddled with her tableware, nervous. It just couldn't be true. It wasn't.

"So, you want some dessert or something?" she said abruptly, changing the subject and standing back from the table.

"Sure..."

----

Imam stared at his messages, heart in his throat and worry in his mind. The message from Jack was entirely good news, but that didn't mean he had to like it. She had found Carolyn Fry, had established that the woman was well and safe and gainfully (and most important, legally) employed on a planet he hadn't quite heard of but seemed far away. And she was planning on contacting Riddick soon. And therein lay the problem.

He played it back. "... I know you don't approve of this whole thing, but you should see how stuck on each other they are. Richard won't talk about her at all, and if I bring her up he growls at me. You know how he gets. But sometimes he reads stuff about the planet, or other stuff that I know's about her, and he gets this faraway look in his eyes... and you should have seen him after he came back from sleeping with her..."

Imam winced at the unfortunate turn of phrase. As much as he liked all three of them, their cavalier attitude towards certain things appalled him on a level he would never talk about.

"... Carolyn won't talk about him either... at least, she says she doesn't want to. But she can't keep herself from asking about him, like she wants to know everything... is he doing okay, is he safe from the Company, everything. And she gets this look on her face, too... like she wants to be with him really really badly but doesn't want to at the same time. Like she's keeping herself from liking him."

That he was more familiar with, and could even understand. In Carolyn Fry's world, Riddick was a convict and a criminal, a dangerous man to be feared rather than loved. Imam understood the danger, but he also was in the business of redemption, and believed wholeheartedly that Riddick was fully capable of love and redemption. Although he hadn't seen the man for more than a minute or two at a time in several years, he remembered the expression on the man's face as they had flown away from the planet. He remembered very vividly the grief and hurt and anger that the convict had felt when he had thought that Carolyn Fry was dead.

Imam smiled. How elated they had all been when she had turned out to be alive, after all.

He understood Jack's intention. He could even sympathize with her, she who cared so much about both parties. She would want to see them happy, and with both of them being so stubborn in refusing to care for each other, it was tearing them apart. Jack would hate to see that... but Imam had been around long enough to know that sometimes there was just no helping people. And sometimes people didn't want to be helped, sometimes they actively fought against it. He loved all three of them like family, but this... he saw no easy way out of this one.

And he wouldn't, not if he stayed out there on the sidelines. Imam sighed. Jack was right, and he knew it. He just had to admit it to himself. Imam started to pack, thinking with a resigned twinge of amusement that this was going to be possibly one of the most explosive counseling sessions of his career. Nobody involved except perhaps for Jack was going to enjoy this. She, of course, would take an unnatural glee in matchmaking the two against their better judgment. He would have to safeguard her as much as the other two. Imam shouldered his bag and turned out the lights in his apartment, having secured someone to watch it for the time being.

It was time to collect a convict.

----

"No."

Funny, Imam had never been so terrified of this convict when he had been on the planet with him. "Richard, Jack ..."

"I don't care what Jack thinks, the answer is still, no."

"Why?"

Riddick opened his mouth to refuse again and stopped, struck by the question. It had been the one good thing Imam could think of to say, because he didn't think Riddick actually knew why he was objecting. Imam knew why; he knew that Riddick would quash any hint of love he might feel for another person until it rose up and overwhelmed him. Imam also knew that between Riddick and Carolyn, if they both waited until that point it would tear them both apart.

"Look, preacher, no offense, but the less you people know about me, the less you people hang around me, the better it is for both of us. The three of you already know who I am, and that's three of you too many."

Riddick was trying to sound threatening, but his heart wasn't in it. Maybe Carolyn was good for him after all. "This will not compromise you any further than you already are, Richard. And it may in fact do you some good... after all, who would expect Richard Riddick, convict and murderer, to be in the company of two women, one almost young enough to be his daughter?"

The priest watched Riddick considering the point. He held out hope until Riddick shook his head slowly. "I can't. I'm sorry."

Imam sighed. "Richard, she needs you..." he left out exactly which 'she' he was talking about. "Will you not go to her?"

It was the faintest sign, but he saw the man's jaw clench.

"You rescued Jack from the planet. By all accounts from Jack, you are the only living creature around whom Carolyn feels safe. Despite what you may have been, and what you think of yourself now, you are an integral part of their lives. You cannot turn your back on them."

Riddick was silent for a few minutes, and then he slammed his clenched fists onto the table with such force that Imam jumped back. "Dammit, preacher, you're not listening," he said. He didn't quite shout it, but he said it with a good amount of force. "We're all better off away from each other."

"You are not," Imam said forcefully, "And you all know it. Jack is merely the only one who has the temerity to force the two of you to face it."

Riddick took a deep breath. The preacher could almost see the muscles in his back tighten, his jaw clench. He took another deep breath. And finally he stood up a little straighter. "Jack's not the only one," Imam thought he heard the escaped convict mutter. Then, more loudly. "All right. When do we leave?"

Imam nearly sank to the floor in relief. "As soon as you can be ready. I purchased a ship and a man to fly it here, but I have no one to fly me home. I remembered that you had the skills to pilot a ship, and counted on that. If I could not convince you, I would sell the ship to pay for my passage home."

Riddick looked at the preacher in amazed respect. "You really had all the bases covered, huh?" he said, smiling slightly. "You're more dangerous than I thought you were, preacher."

Imam opened his mouth to refute his statement, then realized the futility of it. Dangerous was the world in which Riddick lived, and everything was evaluated as such. He would not get anywhere protesting it or trying to change it... and besides, that was more for Carolyn to do. He sighed, and started to help Riddick pack. There wasn't much. It was all over and done with in two hours, and then Iman was looking at the stars again, trying to read their tangled destinies in the glittering spheres of the universe.

----

Carolyn stared across the landing strip as someone disembarked from the freighter and walked over to the dock manager. Watched the sun glint off of a shaved head, watched the play of muscles under skin that was so obvious, even from this distance. She absently noted the easy, arrogant swagger and the all-black ensemble.

How many times, she wondered, had she watched people disembark from the ships that stopped through the station? How many times had it been in the hopes that He would some day walk back into her life? How many times had she tried to push it all out of her mind? She couldn't count them anymore. This time, though, it was for real. She watched Riddick descent the gangplank with his goggles firmly planted over his eyes and wondered how the hell she could have mistaken anyone else for him. The preacher, Imam, followed close behind. Carolyn almost smiled at how obviously the man was hovering over Riddick in a vain attempt to mitigate the tension. It wasn't working.

"Riddick."

"Carolyn."

Shivers went down her spine at the way he said her name. "You're here early. Jack said she didn't expect you for another week at least."

"Jack should be surprised I'm here at all." His deep bass rumble was so familiar, so comforting, as was his easy yet faint smile and his relaxed manner. Dammit, Carolyn, he's a serial killer. A murderer.

It didn't help.

"Imam convinced you to come, I'm assuming."

Imam started to reply to that and then thought better of it. From the moment that they had seen each other, everyone else on the platform had ceased to exist. They were fixated on each other, no matter how much they tried to deny it. He just hoped it would turn into a more healthy fixation than it was at the moment.

"He was very persuasive." Again the half-smile. Carolyn tried to fight the urge to smile back.

"I just bet he was."

Silence fell. They stood there watching each other, unable to think of anything else to say and unwilling to give ground enough to start walking towards Carolyn's apartment. In the end it was the preacher who had to clear his throat and suggest that they move, emphasizing the surreptitous looks they were getting (for Riddick's sake) and the gossip that would surely ensue (for Carolyn's sake). They all shouldered the two men's bags, with Riddick throwing an appreciative glance at the way Carolyn casually threw one huge duffel over her shoulder. She felt his eyes on her back and smiled despite herself. Hauling all those boxes had been good for something, anyway.

"So what have you been doing with yourself?" Riddick asked, as though it was perfectly natural for an escaped convict from the Slam, a preacher, a runaway girl who masqueraded as a boy more often than not, and a failed pilot all to have a reunion of sorts.

"Dock-work," Carolyn replied shortly, before sighing and relenting enough to give a bit more detail and civility. "Mostly slinging boxes. It's not the most glamourous of jobs, but it's a living and the planet's nice enough. The company pays for the apartment, and I get to move down south in a few months."

"Where it's daytime for another six months," Riddick said.

Carolyn paused. She hadn't expected him to remember her fear of the dark. "Yeah."

She didn' t see him nod, and he didn't make any other sound. They walked along in silence until they got to the apartment complex where she lived, up to the elevator. "It's not much of a place," she shrugged apologetically, "but it's home, at least for now. And did I mention the company pays for it?"

Riddick chuckled. "You did. It's a sweet deal."

For some reason the admission made her relax, which caused a sort of domino effect of tension easement. Everyone seemed to slump slightly as they left the elevator and walked down the hallway.

"The rooms aren't terribly big, and someone will probably have to sleep on the couch," Carolyn started, the tone of her voice suggesting that that someone be Riddick. She didn't get far enough to specify, though, before a flying, screaming Jack tackled Riddick. He promptly fell over, laughing easily.

"Richard!!!!" Jack yelped loud enough to echo down the hall. "I didn't think you'd show!"

"Can we do this someplace other than my hallway?" Carolyn said dryly, but she was feeling much better with Jack's reception and Imam's presence. She was even starting to forget that Riddick was a psychotic killer. Almost.

"Sure!" Jack dragged Riddick in bodily. She was, Carolyn noted with surprise, stronger than the girl looked. And then she started babbling. "I started putting dinner on for everyone, figured I might as well get that started while Carolyn went out to meet you guys because I think of all the people here I'm the only one who knows what everyone likes and I figured you two would be hungry after flying all that way and I really hope you are because I made a lot of food oh my god the bread's burning!"

Riddick actually outright laughed as Jack disappeared back into the kitchen, with Carolyn and Imam staring after her in bemusement.

"Does she always do that?" Carolyn asked finally, hearing ominous clattering noises from inside her kitchen.

"Most of the time. You wouldn't believe what she's like when she's had any sort of caffeine."

Imam twitched. "I shudder to think."

For some reason that struck both Carolyn and Riddick as extremely funny. They started laughing and, between the two of them, couldn't stop till Jack came out of the kitchen with a heavily loaded tray.

"What?"

----

Showtime.

Jack and Imam had taken a long walk. The look on Jack's face had told everyone in the room that it would last as long as it needed to. Privately, Carolyn thought that they could be walking for a very long time. She felt a little like some girl from an obscure planet, being transported long distances for an arranged marriage that she both wanted and feared. Then again, maybe Riddick was the arranged bride, since he was the one who had had to be transported across a long distance. The thought of Riddick as a young, barely post-pubescent mail-order bride was enough to make her collapse into a fit of hysterical giggles. Everyone had given her a wide berth when she'd come up with that thought. It had been at that point that Jack and Imam had gone off for a walk.

Moment of truth time. Carolyn and Riddick sat, one in the couch and one in the loveseat, not quite avoiding each other's gaze. It was definitely uncomfortable in the room.

Carolyn's mind was a blur. Oh my god he's here he's actually here sitting in my living room on my couch with his legs and his arms and his shoulders and his gorgeous silver eyes... carolyn, dammit, what are you thinking, the man's insane, a lunatic, a killer ... but do you remember that one night on the station? and do you remember what he was like on the planet, how he saved your life? and do you remember what he was like in the dark? you were made for each other, he and you, and you know it, you can feel it, you know you want him, just go to him, go to him now, he smells so good, and he felt so good too, there in the dark...

Riddick's mind wasn't much better off. You can't do this again, you can't, you can't, you remember what happened the last time you let someone in and besides, you're supposed to be dead, you escaped and now they're hunting for you gunning for you do you remember the size of the bounty on your head, you stupid little shit? do you? and what the hell are you doing dragging her into it? she doesn't deserve it she'll give you away trust her kill her you can't let her live she knows you who you are where you live. you can trust her, it's just like the last time, only it better not be just like the last time... Fantine, Fantine, why did you do it you stupid bitch, and carolyn will do the same. you know she will... but she was so sweet, so soft, so fragile in the dark...

They looked at each other at the same time, and at the same time they looked away.

Riddick's chuckle made Carolyn jump. "This is absolutely ridiculous, you know," he said then. "We're acting like two teenagers at a high school dance, for Chrissakes."

She winced. "Oh, please. Take it back. Any metaphor but that."

He shrugged. "It's what Jack said..." and Carolyn interrupted him with a startled gasp.

"You're kidding... she said that?"

He grinned. He seemed to find the whole thing amusing. "I'm not kidding... and that's the least of what she said. I can't tell these days whether she's mad at us or just likes the challenge of matchmaking."

"Teenagers," Carolyn snorted. "I'm so glad I grew out of that."

"She's not a teenager anymore, Carolyn. And she may have a point."

Carolyn's hands froze where they had been methodically picking apart the arm of the loveseat. "You take that back."

"Oh come on," he stood up. He was very tall. And broad. "You can't deny that there's an attraction of some kind between us. You can't say you didn't feel something back there on the station..." he seemed to think of something, and then to think better of saying it. "Hey, I've been there before, at least, and I know I felt something."

She didn't know what startled her more, the admission or the thought of Riddick having a previous romance. "I don't know what you're thinking of, but there's a difference between having a sex with a prostitute and..."

Riddick took two steps forward, hands clenched into fists, face gone blank behind the goggles. Carolyn actually took a step back, climbing up onto the back of the loveseat. Then the moment passed as Riddick took a deep breath and forced himself to calm down. Slowly, deliberately, his hands unclenched, cracking slightly with the release of the tension in the muscles. "She wasn't a prostitute," he said quietly, more calm than she would have expected given his actions a few seconds ago. "She was a prisoner, too. In the Slam."

Carolyn frowned slightly. She suddenly wanted desperately to know more about this mysterious woman... but at the same time, she didn't want to know anything that would make her feel for Riddick. More than she already did, anyway. "I'm sorry."

Riddick smiled slightly. It was different from his usual half-smirks and knowing grins. It was actually a little sad, and a little bit... tender? "It was a long time ago," he said finally. He sat back down, and they were silent again.

"Was she beautiful?" Carolyn asked before she could stop herself.

Riddick chuckled. "Not in any conventional sense. She was more cute than beautiful. Looked far too young to be in the Slam. But she was tough. Good to have in a fight, too."

"I can't imagine you with any other kind of woman." I can't imagine you with a woman at all, was what she wanted to say, but that was close enough. And it actually provoked a laugh from Riddick.

"Oh, you should have seen me back in the Slam," he said, chuckling. "It seems like a long time ago. A different world, almost. I was really different back then..."

She listened as he trailed off and seemed to lose the thread of the conversation. Yeah, different, she could buy that. But... "How different?"

He looked at her, then deliberately took off his goggles and stared at her with silvered eyes. The light of the apartment wasn't that harsh. He wasn't squinting or anything. For one panicked moment Carolyn thought about turning on the lights at full blast. "Different enough."

She shivered.

Riddick sighed and sat back. "The Slam changes people, Carolyn. It changes everyone. It would even change you. But it's been a long time since I've been in that world. So maybe I've changed for the better since then." He shrugged. "Or maybe for the worse. Whatever you think. Maybe you'd think differently of me if you'd known me back then, or maybe you wouldn't have. It's moot now anyway."

He had that right at least. Carolyn sighed and closed her eyes, covering them with her hands and leaning back on the loveseat. This was all too much for her to think about.

"I'm scared of you, Riddick," she said from behind her hands. "I don't that would have changed even if I'd seen you in the Slam, or even if I'd seen you before that. I can't imagine you being involved with any woman, and I certainly can't imagine what she'd be like. The only Richard Riddick I know is the one I met on the planet... and even then I only knew you for a short time."

Something changed in the air of the room. It was her only clue to what happened next. When she took down her hands, Riddick was kneeling in front of her, staring almost eye to silvered eye. She caught her breath, trapped. "I'd like to change that," he said, and his voice was low and husky.

Before she even knew that she'd dared to do it, she'd kissed him. His mouth was just as warm under hers as she'd remembered, his lips just as soft. And suddenly an ache suffused her body, a longing and a coldness that would only be rectified with the warmth of his body on hers. It was sudden, fierce, and strange. She pulled back.

He watched her with ... was that concern? In those strange eyes. "Carolyn..." and suddenly her name out of his mouth didn't sound so strange. Something in him had relaxed and gone back to an earlier time of maybe just a little happiness and peace; something in her had accepted the change.

She put her fingertips to his mouth. "Shh. I think... I understand."

He kissed her again, carefully this time but no less passionate for that, and this time she dared to slide into his lap and put her arms around his waist, even enjoying the feel of him cradling her gently as he reciprocated the motion. He kissed her, and she kissed him back, slowly relaxing as the moments slid past and it didn't become frenetic, wild, abandon. It was comfortable. It was caring, tender. It was a side of Riddick she hadn't anticipated till a few moments ago, but it was definitely one she could live with. And maybe it was even one she could dare to love.

----

Imam and Jack returned home to an apartment completely dark, even at eight in the morning. Jack had had the foresight to call Carolyn in sick to her dock job, figuring that no matter which way the night turned out she wouldn't want to go to work the next day. But the dark and silent apartment gave them no clues from which to deduce what had happened in the course of the evening.

"Richard?" Jack called, quieting her voice to a whisper as she felt the preacher lay a restraining hand on her arm. "Carolyn? You guys in there?"

Imam looked above and beyond the top of her head, and slowly smiled. He leaned Jack a little to the left, till they could both see through the crack in the door. "They are here, Jack," he said very softly. "But I think we had best let them sleep."

Jack looked. Jack grinned. Jack practically beamed, with more than a little smugness in her expression. "Right. Well, I'm about ready to head to sleep myself..." she yawned, stretching out on the couch and proceeding to do just that. "'night," she murmured to Imam.

"Good night," Imam smiled, and made his quiet way into the guest room.

 

 
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