(AN) So it seems trying to make a schedule for finishing this is just about the best way to guarantee my life will go crazy and I won't have time to work on it. So I'll just say sorry for any past and future delays, and I'll do my best to get it done in a reasonable amount of time. Thanks for your patience.

"You've forgotten me."

"No."

"Abandoned me."

"No."

"Betrayed me."

"Never," he whispered.

Her eyes were translucent and shimmering as the heart of a flame. She ran a single finger down the side of his face, and he shuddered.

"You pledged yourself to me," she said. "Body and soul, mind and blood. You pledged yourself to me. Son, you are forsworn."

"No." His voice cracked. "Please, no."

"Traitor. Forgotten. Damned." She crooned the words without malice, without mercy. "You are nameless and nothing."

"No!"

Her laugh was light and sharp, shards of ice in his skin. "No? What, then? What is your name?"

X

Riddick went looking for her. He didn't feel like searching the whole place, so he grabbed a guy by the throat, threw him against a wall, and asked where to find the girl with the chain. Seemed he'd picked an 'inmate', because the whiney bastard didn't hesitate to spill the location of her cell, her usual haunts, and was babbling about some group of assholes she'd apparently ghosted when Riddick dropped him.

He stepped into her cell and paused to look around. It was mostly bare. Dirty stone floor, unadorned bars. A single unprotected light bulb. The only sign she'd ever been there was a couple of shirts folded neatly in a corner. No food, no water, no weapons. This place might be hers, but she didn't spend much time here. Definitely didn't sleep here.

Some kind of blade, two pointed, pressed into his back. He recognized the spot it was marking and knew who was behind him.

"Should I go for the sweet spot?" she asked. "Left of the spine, forth lumbar down, the abdominal aorta? What a gusher."

He wasn't sure if he wanted to smile or scowl. He settled for pushing his goggles up onto his forehead and turning to look at her.

"How do I get eyes like that?" she asked.

The smile was winning. "You gotta kill a few people."

She scoffed. "Did that. Did a lot of that." She dug the blade harder into his back.

Enough. He spun, caught her elbow, and dragged her around to slam against the bars of the cell, arms safely restrained above her head.

"…and then you gotta get sent to a slam," he continued.

"One where they tell you you'll never see daylight again?" she asked. Her eyes—green eyes—locked on his, held his, fiery. "Only there wasn't any doctor here who could shine my eyes, not even for 20 menthol Kools. Was there anything you said that was true?"

I said I'd come back for you.

Something in him felt scorched and raw—something else was hot and sparking. He shoved his free hand between her legs, grabbed the bar behind her, and lifted. He could feel the heat of her body through her pants and the beat of her heart where his arm pressed into her throat.

"What're you gonna do, huh?" she asked. "Go for the sweet spot?"

Bitch.

"Remember who you're talkin' to, Jack," he said. His voice went rough on her name. He wondered if she'd noticed.

"Jack's dead," she told him, and his arm bore down harder on her neck. "She was weak." She shifted her hips, rubbing against his other arm. He glanced down. "She couldn't cut it."

He looked back up just as her leg flew out. The light shattered with a flash that blinded him. He jerked back instinctively, felt something soft and stinging brush his cheek.

When his vision cleared she was gone. He turned to the door. There she was, leaning on the railings, waiting for him to see her.

"The name's Kyra now," she told him. "And I'm a new animal." She flipped over the rail and was gone.

Riddick raised a hand to his cheek, looked at the blood on his fingers. Some kind of blade in her mouth—the softness had been her lips. She could have taken his eye. She'd kissed him instead.

Kyra, he thought. Kyra.

It burned.

X

Everything seemed shadowed. The dream world had been so bright. Here, he could barely see.

The Purifier stepped onto the bridge, walking slowly and deliberately. He thought he was awake, but he wasn't entirely sure. He could still hear her, whispering to him.

What is your name?

Vaako was at his side, solid, unflinching Vaako.

Vaako. A strong name, for a strong man. Why did Vaako still have a name?

"They can be quite a test, these deep runs," the Purifier murmured. "A test of our inner selves…"

X

Riddick started awake, leapt to his feet, strange images swirling through his brain. Flames and pillars, a dark silhouette…

They faded fast, leaving him with a dull ache in his head and the sticky feel of dried sweat on his skin. He remembered seeing some broken pipes used as showers, headed for them. He took off his goggles and hung them on a nearby pipe, then stepped under the water, clothes, boots and all. It smelled like sulfur, but it was hot. Maybe the only perk this place had.

He rinsed quickly, then grabbed his goggles, slipped them back on. His fingers rose to his face and lightly brushed the cut. It stung a bit, from the water.

He turned, and there she was, leaning against a rail maybe thirty feet behind him. Close enough to get a good look at him, far enough she'd have plenty of time to run if he came at her. She was holding a small knife, toying with it, idly turning it over in her hands.

Animal, she'd said. The look in her eyes reminded him of one. Wary, skittish, but curious. Hungry.

So he treated her like an animal. Kept his gaze on her, kept quiet and still. Waited.

Here, kitty… he thought. He'd always been good at getting them to come to him. Getting them to like him, do things for him.

"Still here I see?"

X

"I been here eighteen years," Guv continued. "See this?"

He held his hands up a bit, twisting the ring on his finger. Kyra cocked her head at him, smiled a little, then used the distraction he had caused to disappear unnoticed. Again.

Guv wasn't sure why he was doing this, except that this fucker had Kyra killing for him within minutes of his arrival, when it had taken Guv weeks to coax her into having a real conversation. Except that Guv had spent nearly two decades dreaming of getting out, getting anywhere, and this bastard talked like he could just stroll out of here whenever the hell he chose.

"I remember how gorgeous she was. Well, gorgeous in a certain light. And now, for the goddamn death of me, I cannot remember her name."

"Feeding time!" came the call. Guv's gaze didn't waver.

"We're here for the rest of our unnatural lives."

X

Kyra shoved people out of her way, fighting to run against the terrified flood. Finally, an opening. And there he was—beautiful, breathtaking monster.

He stalked towards her, snarling. She held her ground, met his gaze. Felt every breath, every heartbeat, every drop of adrenaline-laced blood surging in her veins. She lived for these moments, these flawless, shining moments, with those eyes on hers.

They charged each other. Kyra leapt up—a foot on the rail, the other braced against the wall. She held. He lunged. Last second, she darted over the rail, grabbed a rope. His jaws snapped behind her, and for just a moment his hot breath caressed her skin. Then she was spinning downwards, the friction heating the leather that guarded her palms.

I am alive, she thought. In these moments, it was enough.

X

Guv heard a strange sound—almost like one of the hellhounds growling, but off, somehow. He turned the corner, peering through the bars. One of the hounds was on the other side. And damned if that wasn't Kyra's new meat, lounging all casual on a rock, petting the monster.

Purring. Holy fuck, that sound was a purr.

X

The horny bastard did a shoddy job patting her down. Didn't find the razor in her mouth, the blade in her hair.

He squeezed her ass, and she thought of Eric.

Control. Control it, dammit.

He continued down her legs, overly hasty. Sloppy. Didn't even touch her boots, though he probably wouldn't have found those anyway.

Finished, his hands went back up to her hips, then slipped around the front, under the waistband of her pants. Kyra thought of Demarco, of his stubble scratching her breast, his dark hand stroking her thigh.

I know how it's supposed to be. This isn't it.

X

He'd waited to see what she would do, and she hadn't disappointed. It had been fun to watch her fight at first. Not so fun anymore once she was on the ground.

"I don't think she likes being touched," Riddick said. "I'd take my wounded and go. While you still can."

The guards thought he was crazy. That was alright—they'd learn fast enough. Riddick sipped his tea.

"Is there a name for this private little world of yours, huh?" asked the black guy. The three still standing closed in on him, leaving Kyra free to get to her feet. "What happens there when we don't just run away? You'll kill us? With a soup cup?"

The guards laughed.

"Tea, actually," Riddick replied.

"What's that?"

Riddick drained the last of his tea, held up the cup. "I'll kill you with my teacup." He set it on a rock at about waist height. The guards looked at each other. Kyra looked down, but Riddick saw the way her pretty lips curved, the little I-know-something-you-don't-know smirk. It was adorable.

"You know the rule," muttered one of the guards to the one facing off with him. "They aren't dead if they're still on the books."

X

"Death by teacup," Kyra said. She wrenched the mangled mug from the corpse. Guv would be annoyed—they only had a limited supply of the things. No telling when or if they'd get more. "Damn. Why didn't I think of that?"

"I didn't come here to play 'Who's the better killer?'," Riddick replied, turning his back on her.

It was glaringly obvious, what he expected her to ask in response to that. Eric would have done a better job anticipating her.

"But it's my favorite game. Haven't you heard?"

Eric knew her better than Riddick did. For some reason, the thought stung.

Riddick paused, but still didn't look at her. "I heard you came looking for me."

She blinked—where the hell had he heard that?—and then she remembered the note she'd left on Abu's kitchen table, lifetimes ago. She wondered if Abu had ever learned more than what she'd told him in that hastily scrawled message.

"Is that all?" she asked. "Then you missed the good part. Hooked up with some mercs outta Lupus five." His head jerked around. He still wasn't facing her directly, but he sure as hell was looking at her now. "Said they'd take me on, teach me the trade, give me a good cut." She very deliberately set the cup back on the ledge. "They slaved me out, Riddick. Do you know what that could do to you when you're that age? When you're twelve years old—"

"I told you to stay in New Mecca." Finally, Riddick turned back to her. "Did you not listen?"

He tore the light out. Kyra flinched back, but glass didn't fly. He ripped off his goggles, that was all. She felt the thrill of those eyes on her, and hated it.

"I had mercs on my neck," he snarled, and she hated him. "I'll always have mercs on my neck. I spent five years on a frozen heap just to keep 'em away from you." She saw rage and pain and disgust in that molten gaze. A tiny bit of the hatred turned inward. "And you go and sign up with the same fake badges that wanted to cut you up and use you for bait."

"What are you pitching, Riddick?" she demanded. "That you cutting out was a good thing, that you had my ass covered from halfway across the universe?"

Again he gave her his back. Arrogance or trust, she didn't know which it was, but either way it grated on her nerves. How could anyone that damn cocky have survived this long? How could he trust her when he'd done such a spectacular fucking job betraying her trust?

"You signed with mercs," he muttered, and he had the goddamn nerve to sound sad, to sound betrayed and fucking wounded. What right did he have to sound like that? This was Riddick. He'd promised to fight off her nightmares, then left her to be consumed by them.

Somewhere out there was Eric, who'd sworn he wouldn't save her, then had to be manipulated into deserting her. God, she missed him. Damn him. Damn him and Riddick, Lynn and Abu and Demarco, and anyone else who'd ever made her feel cared for. Damn to hell everyone who'd abandoned her, and everyone she'd been forced to abandon.

She looked at Riddick, leaving again, and remembered long hours spent curled in this man's arms. Tricks, she thought. There was more than one way to bleed. She made her voice soft and tired, the way Jack's had been on that dark skiff.

"There was nobody else around."

He froze, and something twisted in her chest. She thought it might have been guilt, but it'd been so long she wasn't sure. And anyway, there was nothing to feel guilty for. He'd walked away from her. She had every right to do the same to him.

X