Author's Note: When I fist saw Pitch Black, the idea for this popped into my head, but I kinda put it on a back burner. Now that Chronicles is out, I decided to dust it off and take it for a spin. This is probably gonna be a longer piece, but it's gonna be a one shot for now. Please, read and review J

The Waiting Game

--Prologue

He remembered the first time he held her.

They'd finally reached New Mecca, and it was the first night of natural sleep that any of them had since the planet. This wasn't the drug-induced, dream world of cryo; this was deep and hard and restful, the sleep of the righteous--or at least in his case, the sleep of a survivor. It was the kind of sleep that could happen anywhere, the kind that would overcome you on a soft bed or a pile of rocks, so long as it was a place to lay your battered body down. It was the kind of sleep that, once it had you in its grip, you were gone, out like a light until your body and mind had repaired themselves enough to cope with whatever trauma awaited in your conscious mind. O yes, this was the sleep of the traumatized, the tortured; this was the human body's last defense mechanism in the face of insanity and a physical breakdown. This was the kind of sleep that nightmares can never breach.

But hers did.

He'd heard her screams through the thin walls of the motel, and his eyes snapped open. Thinking back, he should have realized then and there that he was changed. Should have realized in that groggy, waking moment that his life would never again be the same, mostly because something other than his own self-preservation had snapped him awake. He knew healing sleep well, perhaps better than anyone, and knew that nothing short of a fatal attack on his person could wake him from it. He was that attuned to his surroundings, and he was also that selfish. Imagine his surprise, then, sitting wrapped in a cheap synthetic sheet with a shiv in hand, that nothing but the pitiful cries of a prepubescent girl had woken him. He'd dropped the shiv back on the nightstand and slammed his head into the pillow, disgusted. Fuck that damn kid, gonna be awake all night now.

He'd watched the ceiling for a while, trying to pretend that he didn't hear the damn girl's crying getting louder. These days, he wished he could say that attempting to block her out was a struggle with his new found conscience, but that would be a blatant lie. Truth was, he'd wanted to go back to sleep, and knew he probably would so long as he let her cries blend into the background. And for someone who'd been in slam as long as him, it wasn't exactly the hardest thing to do. That is, until the screaming stopped and he heard her whisper his name with such reverence and hope that it sounded like a fuckin' prayer.

"Riddick."

Silence, and then again, even softer this time, but much more frightened and much less hopeful.

"Riddick."

By the time she'd called for him the third time, barely breathing his name, he was out of bed and maneuvering himself around the holy man's sleeping form. Imam had insisted upon a separate room for the girl--a separate room that their meager money supply couldn't possibly pay for. They'd had to scrape to get a single room, but Imam had been adamant, spending a full thirty minutes pleading with the hotel manager. He'd watched the exchange with annoyance, thinking that the holy man was drawing way too much attention to them, but also internally applauding his reasoning. Imam didn't want a separate room for the girl's privacy; he wanted her as far away as possible from Riddick. The holy man didn't trust him, and that was the way it ought to be. After all, there was a reason for the bitch of a bounty on his head. Imam had wisely kept himself at arm's length, and had tried to encourage the girl to do the same. Too bad that she wasn't one to listen.

Back then, he'd never admit that she'd gotten under his skin. He'd say she was just like Imam, simply a liability that he'd chosen to get rid of in a humane manner. He'd say she was a stupid kid with a bad case of hero-worship. He'd say she was a royal pain in his ass. But he was just bullshiting himself, and he'd known it the second he looked through her opened door and saw her laying still on the bed, teeth chattering like crazy and whimpering. She looked like a fuckin' dog that had gotten beat.

Emotion had coursed through him then, so strong that at first he didn't recognize what he was feeling. But he'd caught on soon enough. He wanted to help her, protect her, kill whatever was haunting her, and by god, he hated himself for it. What the hell was the matter with him? He wasn't some pussy, brooding hero in a damn romance novel, but fuck if he wasn't acting like one. And truthfully, all he really wanted to do was to go over to the bed, draw her up into him, and never let her go. Shit.

He'd expected it to be awkward. It wasn't. The second he touched her, the girl flew up from the bed and into his arms. She'd sobbed into his chest, tears and mucus drenching his tank top and making his skin feel clammy. He couldn't bring himself to care. He just held her tightly, smoothing his hand down the back of her head and murmuring to her. They sat like that for a while, tangled in the sweaty sheets, and as he held her, he knew that his plan to leave the next day was shot to hell. All the planning he'd done on their trip here was erased. Weeks of deciding his next move, while she had been blissfully unaware in cryo, were now a large waste of time. He wasn't leaving her now, he couldn't. He would never leave her. And if she'd doubted that, then all she'd needed to do was listen to what he was whispering in her ear.

"My girl. My Jackie girl. My Jack."

It was ironic, really, how this memory was the first one that came to his mind. Because he was leaving her, and it had only been about a year since that night. A full year of sharing his bed with her to keep the nightmares at bay, and a year of learning to care about another person more than himself.

He'd been stupid that night, to think that he would never leave. Stupid to think that staying with her was going to be the best way to show that he cared. Of course, it was a good thing at first. She had him to depend on, had him to help her, and had him to hold her when she was scared. But she also had him to learn from, and that's what the problem was. Every day, she became more and more like him. And it wasn't what he wanted for her. She was still so young, so full of love for her fellow man, and he'd be damned if he let her turn out like him.

She wouldn't see it that way, at least not for a while. She'd be angry, furious that he left her just when she was starting to grow up. She'd think he was a coward, and selfish bastard. And he knew that there'd be nights, when he was alone, that he'd wish he were. He'd wish he'd stayed, wish he'd told his conscience to fuck off and let things be. Let her become like him, then at least he'd have her and wouldn't be alone. But it would be too late, and ultimately, he would be grateful for it.

Because he was coming back. He'd let her grow up, away from him, and then he'd barge back into her life. He was a man, not a saint, and he couldn't stay away from her forever. Not when she was the only person in the fucking universe who'd be sad to hear he died. Oh, he'd see her again, that was certain. Whether she'd want him in her life, well, as Imam would say, that's what praying is for. But for now, he'd have just to wait.

And he was good at waiting.