Title: Animal Instincts
Author: tarotgal
Fandom: Pitch Black (movie)
Characters: Riddick, Jack
Rating: PG
Warnings: just some swearing
Disclaimer: These aren't my characters… I'm just using them for my own money-less amusement
Summary: Jack tags along with Riddick when they return to civilization… and causes a problem for him.



Animal Instincts


            If he were an animal, he would be a black jungle panther. At home in the darkness of a familiar but harsh environment. Black, from nose to feet, feet that made no sound when they stepped. And he was graceful, balanced and calculating with every move. He was ruthless, a savage who killed for survival, and killed well. He worked best alone, but did not deny others when they needed him… as long as a fair enough deal could be struck. He was not without morals, and not without reason, but could ignore them if he had to. But above all that could have made him a black panther were his eyes. Glowing bright, seeing better in the dark than any normal human during the day. Bright, piercing eyes that almost hurt to look into.


            There was no question about it, he was just like a jungle cat. So how could  Jack have known? He was always so tough, so protective. He had saved her, and through her own ways, she had saved him. She admired him, whether it be copying his look with the goggles, or reheating his dinner for him when he was hungry enough to want it, even if it were hours after she had eaten at a reasonable dinner hour. She admired him, and respected him, and needed him. So of course she wouldn't have done it on purpose. So how could she have known?



            “Fucking subway broke down,” she groaned, tossing the knapsack on the floor by the door. It slid a foot or two and thudded into the wall by the time she was across the kitchen. Riddick sat on a barstool, scotched up to the kitchen counter, their make-shift table. He was dressed for bed still, warm clothing hanging loosely from his form. He sat, perched in a feline manor, as if on a tall limb of a tree, overlooking his prey. But was hunched over, elbows bent and on the counter, head in his hands. He made no acknowledgement of her presence, so she tried again, first pulling out a barstool  and sitting down on it herself… a few safe feet from both him and the counter. “Did you hear what I said?” she cocked her close-cropped head to the side. “I'm fucking stuck here until—“


            He looked up at her, eyes glowing, piercing through the dim kitchen. He looked angry, but he never looked otherwise. If she were anyone else, he would have followed his instincts which told him to kick the barstool out from beneath her. But she was not like anyone else, not in a million ways. So he made no movement of hostility at all towards her. He simple stared at her until she uncomfortably shifted in her seat, and then he sniffed. It was a strong, wet sniff, requiring his nostrils to flair widely.


            She looked down, looked away. “Look, I fucking said—“


            He spoke, calm, cold, “Abologies ared't good edough.”


            “They have to be this time. There's nothing I can do.” She sounded close to tears, distressed, guilty. Of course, she was both. “And I am sorry.”


            He lifted his head, turning from her back to the insides of the kitchen. He raised a loose fist, and his back arched. Then he heaved forward, missing his fist in an uncontrollable spasm. “huh-HARSHHHUH! Heh-HHHEESHHHH!” He blinked, gulped, and rubbed the bottom of his nose with the back of his wrist in two rough passes. “Shit, they're startig to fuckig hurt.”


            He hadn't been sneezing like that all morning, in fact, sneezes like those had been a welcome change after the sneezes earlier that morning. Those had been more frequent, more numerous, and more rapid.


            Riddick sniffed. And sniffed again. And again. And again. He stared straight ahead, as if his whole concentration was going into the act of not sniffing. It almost looked like it hurt each and every time he did it. But he did it again. And again. And again. And again. He rubbed his nose again, this time scrubbing his nostrils with the back of his hand. He still sniffed. Again. And again. And again. And suddenly his face went slack, jaw dropping open again. He raised his fist, this time catching it with the spray. “HARUSHHHH! HEKUSHHHH!


            She bit her lip. “Bless you.”


            And he shot her a look, turning from her further. He whipped out a square of cloth Jack had given him that morning, quickly scanning for a dry spot on it, and, hiding his nose there, hunched over for one more sneeze, “HUUHHHSHHOOO!” and a rather full blow.


            Meowing sounded from the bedroom, and scratching on the inside of the door. The kitten had been disturbed, awoken, called to attention, by the loud noises on this side of the door. But no matter how pitiful, Jack was not about to let it out now. She would certainly not make that mistake twice. Riddick was so much like a cat… how was she to have known he was terribly allergic to them?


She had certainly found out, though. It was a little kitten who'd been scratched nearly to death by some wild animal in the alleyways. It was wet and cold, skinny and shivering. And when she offered it a hand, it still rubbed against her, purring as well as it could. How could she refuse such a sweet, starving little thing? She had been a scrawny little thing just struggling to survive not so long ago. Two of a kind they were… just like she and Riddick were. Mismatched but too similar to deny. Not when it came to allergies, apparently. She had taken the kitten in, given it water and a few crumbs of the leftovers. Then she left it curl up with her under the blankets in the pallet she slept in, just off the floor of the bedroom, a few feet down from the bed Riddick slept in. She had woken that morning to the thunderous sounds of constant sneezes, filling the room. The kitten was huddled in the corner of the room, looking traumatized. Riddick looked somewhat traumatized, himself.


            His face had worn a constant expression of needing to sneeze, even as he was in the middle of sneezing. He sneezed freely, forcefully, constantly. He had barely time to gain a breath when he let it go again in the form of a sneeze. Jack had not an idea of what was wrong, nor what to do. Finally, the sneezing had subsided enough for him to manage words. “Why was there… EHHHUSHHHH! …a cahhh… cat… HURSHHHUHH! … od be whed I… sniff, sniff, HURSHOOO!… whed I woke ub?” He had glared bright eyes accusingly at her.


            Biting her lip, “I took in a stray who needed a warm place to sleep last night.” It was times like these she knew her being a girl really stood out to him.


            And his look certainly reflected that. “This… HEHHH… HEHHH…” it was stuck, and he tried his best to draw it out, making a frustrated display of it, including a banged fist on his bed. Finally, “HHURRESHHHEHH!” He rubbed his hand against his nose while he spoke. “This is by abartbedt. I took… sniff, snuffle… I took you id. Dot your blace to bake decidiods. Ode stray is bore thad… thad edough… HEHH… HERRUHHPHH!


            She hadn't been too sure of his words then, deciphering as many as possible and guessing at the others, but she certainly gleamed the intense frustration and anger in his voice. He'd certainly been angry with her before, but would never touch her. He, the ruthless killer. He, the stone-hearted convict. He would never harm a single hair on her close-cropped head. And while he had never made her a single promise, nor she one to him, they both seemed to understand the way it was between them. Mutual somethingness. Something unique. Something special. Not love, not affection. There was caring, but caring so far as if one was safe, one was taken care of. There was sacrifice without request. There was unjustified admiration… that went both ways.


            She had apologized, of course. Quite a few times in fact. She had offered over her handkerchief. She had even escorted him out of the bedroom, pulling him by the arm as if leading someone through the darkness… or a blind man through the light. The sneezing, though slowed, had not stopped. His nose had begun to hurt, and the man who could pop his arms in and out of place so easily without a hint of complaint, complained frequently. It clearly to make Jack feel guilty, no other reason. But it had worked beautifully. As he was still sneezing nearly an hour later, she had volunteered to hop a subway to the store and get him some sort of medication to make the symptoms subside. But that, too, had failed.



            “Get be sub fuckig water, Kid?” It was phrased like an order. And the gruffness of his voice made it sound even more like one. But his inflection was calm, kind. It was clearly an inquiry that anyone aside from him might have put the word please after.


            Jack certainly wasted no time in doing so. The tap water was slightly brown, but drinkable none the less. And in a glass stained with water spots and internal cracks, the faint tint was hardly noticeable. She plopped it down on the counter in front of him, like a waitress in a diner with a customer she knew would not tip well. “I'll try the subway a little later. I'll get you anything you need from the store.” She felt like she should say something comforting. But it wasn't her style, and it certainly wasn't his.


            His style was certainly not constant sniffling and sneezing, however. He looked like a man who would be out of his element at such… but that was certainly the reverse. The constant grumbling, swearing, and angry, accusing looks at Jack were completely true to nature.


            “Fuckig dose,” he scrubbed at his nose roughly with one hand, his other hand raked down his black jeans-covered thigh in frustration. Behind the tough façade, he looked miserable. And sounded worse. “HEHUHSHHHH! HERSHESHHH! Huh…HEH…HEHCHESHHHOO!” He sniffled into the handkerchief, massaging his nose through the cloth, wincing slightly at it all.


            When he was done, Jack cleared her throat and tugged at his arm. “Come on, you're gonna listen to me now.”


            He pulled away from her. “Dod't tell be what to do little girl.” He growled, his voice deep, menacing. “You wod't like how that story edds.”


            She rolled her eyes. “Oh, how scary you sound with a stuffy nose. I'm not fucking codling you, I just want you to lie down, and you're fucking going to do it or I'll let that kitten out to have her fun with you.”


            Reluctantly, he obeyed, letting her lead him across the room to the couch. She threw a blanket over him and handed him a fresh handkerchief, which he accepted thankfully, blowing his nose.


            “There now. Was that really so bad?”


            He shook his head. Of course he wouldn't go so far as to thank her. This was all her fault, after all. But he had to admit, he was starting to feel better. Not that it had anything at all to do with lying down. “What the fuck?” he turned around to find her standing at the arm of the couch, massaging his shoulders.


            “Shut up and relax.”


            What made her do such things sometimes? It certainly wasn't guilt. She simply wanted to so something for him. And it wasn't payback, it wasn't a thank you. It seemed to be just the way she was. Not so different from Riddick, but an enigma in and of herself. Maybe that's why he hadn't protested when she stayed with him. He'd never offered her the place… but she hadn't refused, either. He closed his eyes, enjoying the treatment. Most people wouldn't go near him, wouldn't talk, wouldn't stay, wouldn't last a split second. But Jack wanted to. She was scared of him… but not in the same way. She was never frightened of his harming her. She was never scared of going to sleep at the foot of his bed and not waking up the next morning. She was scared of what she might see, what he might do in her presence… to others.


            He was asleep in minutes, with very little effort all around. Riddick never fell asleep first, and he never woke last. In fact, not once could Jack recall seeing him sleep. He looked oddly peaceful like this. Not like the murderous convict he was. She leaned over him, moving his goggles off his face and setting them on the arm of the couch. Expecting him to fight back, he instead rolled over in his sleep, curling his body a bit, hugging the blanket to his chest. Not just peaceful, but almost precious. Jack had a very difficult time not laughing.


            She smiled, reaching down and patting him on his bald head. Rough stubble was starting to grow back in. She would get him something from the drug store as soon as the subways were running again. But for now, he had certainly stopped sneezing. That was good at least.


            SNARXXXXXT!” Startled by the noise, Jack nearly hit the floor. An animal? A gun? It sounded again just moments later, and she realized it was merely the convict's snores. Loud, firm snores. He'd never snored before. He was quiet and calculating, silent and severe. Wild jungle panthers didn't make noise when they stalked pray. Then again, she didn't know of many panthers with allergies.