"To die, to sleep;
To sleep: perchance to dream:
ay, there's the rub;
For in that sleep of death
what dreams may come
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause."
--William Shakespeare, "Hamlet."
He remembers it all differently depending on how long the run is.
On a drop that require cryo sleep, he feels the most cursed...and the most fortunate. He has the most time for invention, for fantasy. He is forced to close his eyes...forced to acknowledge night, it's power, it's predators...and the piercing shrieks that accompany their arrival.
And he is forced to remember *her*.
Not that he can forget.
He can't forget that he sensed her before he saw her.
That he wanted her long after.
The most common dream he has is the real one...she dies and he lives...he survives to dream another day.
But sometimes she doesn't die. He does. As he's being torn apart, he watches the ship take off, wondering if she's crying for him. If she's the least bit sorry.
Sometimes *everybody* dies, in blood and shit and sound so bright his ears hurt...and he rips the wings off one of the dive-bombing motherfuckers with his last vestige of strength.
And sometimes nobody dies at all--except that sonofabitch Johns--and they get the power cells to the ship and fly up into safety...to a place where a bunch of happily delusional humans can convince themselves the raptors were the stuff of bad science fiction from another century.
But, no matter what, in every dream, he fucks her.
In the rain and the mud and the middle of death, she takes him deep inside...so deep he'll never forget what it's like to drown in another human being.
"You would die for them?" he accuses, hoping she'll say "no", that she won't surprise him.
"Yes! Yes, I would," she shouts instead, the force of her voice pounding his skin harder than the driving rain.
"Interesting," he growls...
And instead of hefting himself off of her, and offering her a hand up so they can go back to the canyon for the Imam and Jack...instead of doing what he actually did...he kisses her.
He buries his fingers in her wet, dirt-streaked hair, pulls her face up to his, and kisses her. She resists at first, going by the good girl's rules. And then something skims over their heads at breakneck speed, screaming like the banshees of Earth legend. He feels the tremor run through her...one of her arms goes from the defensive snap position around his neck to a fierce embrace...and she cradles the shaved back of his skull in her palm and gasps his name.
And they fumble at the sodden clothes between them. Fastenings part just enough so that he can feel the hot ecstasy of her bare skin before he falls into hotter ecstasy, into frantic hell and heaven that makes him hate God all the more. In the rain and the mud and the middle of death, she takes him deep inside...so deep he'll never forget what it's like to drown in another human being.
When he's awake, sometimes, he says her name like a prayer--except that he doesn't pray. He longs for cross-galaxy freight. For the coldness of sleep he wouldn't get otherwise. Because he sees her clearest then, without the haze of silver that coats everything in his line of vision...and he imagines her blond and slender and full of attitude. Willing to kill everyone to save herself...willing to kill herself to save everyone but him.
He remembers the smell of her hair. He remembers the look in her eyes before she was jerked out of his arms by grasping tentacles. Something like surprise. Something like sorrow. Something that echoed the scream of the creature that ripped her away. Something that echoed his own scream as he stumbled and cried out..."Not me...not for *me*!"
He reached for her...but she was gone.
And all he could do was catch a few of her killers in the afterburn as he did what he'd never thought himself capable of...as he absorbed her fierce determination to save Imam and Jack at the cost of herself. They blasted off the surface of the forsaken, blood-spattered rocks...and he saved them...at the cost of himself.
The man he'd been *before* died somewhere below, in the firestorm and the shrieks. With the shredded remnants of Carolyn Fry's body.
The events of those two days, all blurred in silver-gray, were later augmented by Jack's full color details. She is sixteen now, and her voice, when she chooses to speak, is lower than it was when she was pretending to be a boy. She sounds older than her years...gravelly, tired, bitter.
She sounds like him.
As she should, he thinks.
They've been flying together for three years. She'd refused to leave him, to go on to New Mecca with Imam and find some kind of peace. She claims her peace is with him. That Jack and Riddick *both* died somewhere on that planet and their new lives consist of making these runs, together. Each year takes her farther from the eclipse, from the bodies, from the nightmare. And each year, he gets closer. Closer and closer still.
The past wraps around him tighter than the umbilical cord that almost ended him before he began. And he wants it to choke him. To finally finish him off. The killer *wants* his death sentence this time. And he knows he won't get it.
He knows he and Jack will end up fucking one day. That he'll tangle his fingers in her hair--it grew out a long time ago and she claims it's an ugly shade of brown--and pull her close. That he'll peel away her coveralls and discover her curves. He thinks he'll taste her young mouth and finally admit to himself that she is a woman. He knows he'll be her first, her only. Her partner in every sense of the word. It will make her happy. It will complete her transformation from the Jack that didn't die to the Jack that lived...and her once-hero will finally be her man.
He knows she would die for him.
And that's why she isn't enough.
Why she'll never be enough.
Because Carolyn wouldn't die for him.
*Not me. Not for me.*
But she did.
And all he can do is sleep.
And remember it differently.
February 18, 2001.
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