(AN) I'm still figuring out where this is going, but I figured I'd post the first part, see if I could get some thoughts or suggestions from you guys.
"Do you want her back?"
He turned his gaze on the wispy Elemental, waited to see if it would make her uncomfortable. It didn't.
"What you talkin' about?"
"It's a simple question, Riddick. Do you want her back?"
"Doesn't matter," he replied, acting bored. "Girl's dead."
"She doesn't have to stay that way."
He glanced at her again. She looked serious.
"The Underverse is real, Riddick. Since she converted, that's where she is. If I show you how to get there, how to get her out, will you help me repair the damage the Necromongers have done?"
He thought about it. She made it sound like Kyra was locked up someplace, like he just had to find her and retrieve her, as he had from Crematoria. It sounded like bullshit. Sounded like she was trying to play him.
But he did want her back.
"Bring her to life again, I'll play your politics. But if you try, and she don't live, I'll make what the Necros did before look freakin' merciful." He glanced at her again. This time she did look uneasy. "Still want a deal?"
She hesitated. He thought maybe he'd called her bluff. But finally she nodded. "Deal, Riddick."
The Necros were happy he was making a 'pilgrimage' to the Underverse. They were less pleased that he was dragging the whole fleet along with him. On Aereon's advice, he didn't mention that religion had nothing to do with this little trip.
This was about a girl. A girl who hated him, at least a little, but who loved him more. A girl who had thrown away a chance at happiness, security, for him. A girl who had molded herself into an animal, for him.
He spent a lot of time thinking about Crematoria. About risking his own ass to pull her from the sun. About the feel of her wrists as he spun her around, like an extension of his own body. He had never felt so connected to anyone as he had in that moment, with her as his shiv.
And then her death.
A few deaths had pissed him off before—Fry, Imam. But her death brought something new.
Fury. Maybe the fury his race was named for. It burned—an actual, physical sensation. Usually, it stayed deep in his core. Sometimes, it flared up, consumed bones, tendons, muscles, blood, until it danced across his skin and he had to let it go. Luckily, there were several challenges to his rule. He destroyed them, burned them, took them apart piece by piece. Each time, he imagined she was there—that she was sitting on that damned throne, and he was laying the kill at her feet.
Dangerous thoughts. They reminded him too much of religion—a bloody offering to a broken goddess.
But they cooled the flames, at least temporarily. And 'dangerous' wasn't anything new to him, was it?
The Underverse was cold, and it didn't want him. It wanted its people dead and cold, just like it.
He stood, just on the wrong side of the Threshold, and felt the twisted 'verse around him do its best to tear him apart. It stole the heat of his body and crushed the air from his chest. This was the heaven Kyra had told him about?
He remembered the rapturous look that had been on her face when she had talked of the Underverse. Of conversion. Of looking into another man's eyes. That fury swelled, and suddenly he was plenty warm enough.
The Elemental had told him that to find her he'd need blood, and an object of hers. Something she'd had for a while. As for the blood, he didn't need much, and it didn't matter who it came from, as long as it was fresh. She hadn't said his blood would get more of a response than anyone else's, but knowing Kyra, he figured it would. So he pulled out her shiv, one she'd kept on her even after conversion, and made a long, shallow slice on the back of his wrist, well away from the artery and the larger veins.
Blood welled onto his skin. A few drops fell—they froze before they hit the ground.
"Kyra," he called, voice ringing in the silence. "Kyra. Come to me, Kyra."
Three times, just like Aereon told him.
They appeared out of nowhere, too many of them to count, using a purer form of the old Lord Marshall's astral projection. They stared at his blood as if it was the elixir of life. Maybe it was.
They moved closer, stiff and silent. One dead-eyed woman reached out to touch him. He stabbed her in the chest. She collapsed, body rotting as it fell. None of the others seemed to notice her. He pointed the shiv at them in warning—they didn't notice that, either.
There was a disturbance at the back of the crowd. As it came closer, he saw a dark haired woman pushing her way to the front. He smiled.
"Kyra," he greeted when she was close, but she was fixated on the blood, like all the others. She broke away from them and fell to her knees in front of him. He held out his hand. She took it in both of hers—freezing cold—and bent her head to lap gently at his wound. He let her drink, maybe for longer than he should have.
"Living blood," she whispered against his skin. "Living blood, to loosen our tongues and waken our memory." She looked up at him. "You did your homework, Riddick."
His blood dripped from her lips, down her chin. He wanted to kiss it off.
"Nah," he replied. "Just copied someone else's."
She smiled, and he pulled her to her feet. Riddick almost gave into temptation, but ended up wiping her face with his hand instead, and wiping his hand on his cargos rather than offering to let her lick it clean. He figured here wasn't the place.
The others were wandering off, seemingly aimless now. Kyra saw him look over her shoulder, guessed what he was wondering about.
"I've tasted you," she told him. "We don't share blood, so there's nothing for them here."
He turned back to her, smoothed down a flyaway strand of hair. "Why do I always get stuck haulin' your ass out of the fire?"
"Is that what you're doing here?"
"Maybe fire ain't the right word. It's fuckin freezing."
She surprised him by laughing. He paused just a second, thinking how many years it had been since he'd heard her give a real laugh.
"C'mon," he commanded.
"The real world," he told her. "Where'd you think?"
The words he had memorized reopened the Threshold. He took her wrist and pulled her through.
For a moment, they stood together on the bridge of his ship.
Then she gasped and stumbled. He grabbed her, and she turned wispy in his arms. She threw her arms around him, pulled so close he thought they'd meld together. Then she was gone.
"Kyra?" he whispered.
"Here," came her voice. He felt her in his skull, examining his desires, his fears, his rage. All the intimate corners of his mind laid bare to her. "This is… different."
"What happened?" he demanded.
"Shouldn't have copied. In the real world, Riddick, people need bodies. Yours was closest. Do you still have mine, or do I get to stay here?"
"I got it," he muttered.
Aereon was standing next to him, eyes narrowed. "Where is she?"
"Here," he said, and fisted a hand over his chest. Then he started walking, with the Elemental floating beside him and a few guards following at a respectful distance.
He'd kept her body in cryo, in his chambers. Maybe it sounded sick, but who gave a fuck? Wasn't like he'd kept her in his bedroom.
"Considered it though, didn't you?" she whispered.
"Fuck off," he growled, and she laughed again.
He wondered why she could read his mind and he couldn't read hers. Just a stray thought, and suddenly she was an open book. As he walked, he tried to sort through the visions he pulled from her. He saw himself, felt the small shock she got every time she saw his eyes. He saw Gov, who she liked, as much as she liked anyone. He tasted the tea she'd drunk her first night in Crematoria, spiced with blood from a split lip. He felt her hymen torn apart as she was raped…
"Stop!" she shrieked. "Leave it alone, Riddick. Leave it the hell alone."
He left it alone. Put his palm to the lock on his door. Aereon followed him inside; the guards knew better. He went to her. In his head, Kyra was momentarily thrown by the sight of the corpse.
He hesitated then, not sure how to go about transferring her.
"I believe you'll need to touch her," Aereon murmured.
Riddick considered, then leaned over and kissed the girl's open mouth. Her lips were cold, though not as cold as her hands had been in the Underverse.
"I ain't sleeping beauty."
He ignored her and reached for her shiv. "Livin' blood, Kyra? That what you want?"
He flicked his tongue against the blade, tasted the copper that filled his mouth. Then he kissed her again.
Her presence was gone from his head. He frowned.
Then, she swallowed. A second later, she took a deep breath.
She slept. He didn't like it, but she was alive, so it was okay. He held her, just held her, for hours, breathing in the scent of her hair, her skin. Listening to her lungs working. He kept two fingers at her neck, feeling her pulse. They had her hooked up to all sorts of monitors, just in case. But it was steady.
Weeks passed, as they returned to Helion. She didn't wake. They fed her through a tube, told him that it was 'not entirely unexpected', whatever the fuck that meant. Told him all they could do was wait. Told him 'more knowledgeable' doctors would be waiting when they landed.
He didn't really trust them, didn't know what to do. He checked on her often, though it didn't seem to make a difference. It was more for his benefit than hers, honestly.
Every time he was there, he ignored the machines, checked her pulse himself. It stayed steady.
Death sucked. But then, what didn't?
She knew she'd died.
Sometimes she knew.
But if she'd died, why was she lying in the sand, in the sun? She knew that if there was an afterlife, she'd spend it in Hell. So why was she back on Helion Prime?
"What's out there, that you wanna leave so bad?" asked the boy beside her. Fouad. Her friend, her companion for the short time she would remain here. Maybe her boyfriend, if she had been able to get her head out of the stars. Maybe her lover, husband someday, if she had stuck around.
He had let her know he was interested. Accepted her rebuke with dignity. Let her know that he would wait, in his quiet, dedicated way, and that when she was ready he would be there. In the meantime, they could be friends.
Except Jack would die under a merc long before she was ready for him.
"Do you even know what you're looking for, Jack?" he asked, and she realized she'd been silent for a long time.
She rolled onto her side, gaze on his face. Studied him.
"This isn't real," she whispered.
He grinned, anticipating one of her schemes, her crazy, brilliant ideas.
"So what is real?"
She hesitated, glanced at the sky. Wondered if it might reach down to consume her.
Wondered if she was losing it.
She didn't care—she'd enjoy this while she could.
"Let's find out."
She was staring straight at him, but she didn't see him. It pissed him off--he'd gone to Hell and back for her, the least she could do was meet his eyes.
"What's wrong with her?" Riddick asked, staring at the girl strapped to the hospital bed.
"Hallucinations," the doctor replied. "That's why she's restrained. She's shown a tendency toward violence."
Riddick snorted. Kyra, violent? No shit. "But why's she hallucinatin'?"
"The human brain is a delicate thing. It, more than any other part of us, is not meant to die and be brought back. Hallucinations are her mind's way of trying to puzzle out the impossible."
"So why ain't I like this?"
The man shrugged. "Most likely because you didn't actually… die."
Riddick glanced at him. The doctor, an Elemental Aereon had sent for, was supposed to be one of the best in the galaxy. He sounded out of his depth.
"Why couldn't this have waited?" he asked, thinking of the ambassadors he'd been meeting with. They were probably using the extra time to figure out how to put a knife in his back.
Doc looked apologetic. "She was lucid when she first woke. Asked for you. But you didn't get here in time."
"Fuck," Riddick muttered. Story of his life, right there. He was too late, always too fuckin' late.
Or maybe it was the story of her life.
That last thought didn't sit quite right. So he pushed it to the back of his head, and left.
There was screaming, all around her. It echoed in her ears, her throat. She could feel the vibrations in her hands and her feet.
There was blood, raining from the sky. It ran over her skin, got in her eyes. It was warm. Not scalding hot, not icy cold—just pleasantly warm.
She was curled in a ball on the ground. Deafened by screams. Soaked in blood.
It was daytime. The blood-clouds made it overcast, but there was light. She was on a grass covered hill. The grass was alive and very, very green.
But that made sense, didn't it? Blood made the grass grow. Blood made the sun shine and the planet turn and the grass grow, grow, grow, grow…
She couldn't tell where the screams were coming from, but they seemed to have a rhythm to them. Unpredictable, elusive, but she swore it was there. She got to her feet, focusing on the sounds. They filled her, and she let them. They moved her, and she let them. And suddenly she realized she was dancing to the sound of agony.
But she didn't want to stop.
She wouldn't stop…