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Damocles

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It's not the silence that gets him. She's quiet, always quiet, but he can deal with that. Ripley's spent years, decades in her own head, conscious or not. She's used to herself and Newt's used to hiding. Neither of them make much in the way of noise and he's okay with that. He whistles a lot, filling the ship's emptiness with the echoing sound and, sometimes, Bishop joins in. It's almost homey.

He's not exactly taking up cross-stitch yet, but fuck, he's not far from it and, yeah, maybe he's okay with that.

It's the other part. The waiting.

She's right. Ripley's always right about them. The xenomorphs. The aliens. Whatever the fuck they are.

"Someone moved them," she says one night. His head is pressed against her chest, her heart beating out a familiar pattern beneath his ear and he closes his eyes to listen. "LV426. Someone moved them there. Had to have."

He shifts, nods, and slides a hand over her hip. There's a scar there. Raised flesh that slides easily beneath his fingertips. "No sign of advanced intelligence."

They hunted pretty damn good—he has the nightmares to prove it—but that was it. None of them tried to escape. None of them tried to work the computers, repair one of the ships, they just sat there and waited for someone else to come.

"Question is why," he says, lifting his head. He's thought about that too. He can see some of his ideas reflected in her eyes.

None of them are good.

She combs fingers though his hair, calm and steady. She's adjusting now. Getting used to living like this.

Somehow, that hurts worse than everything else. She's the strongest person he's ever met. Smartest. She's not just worried. She's running on adrenaline. Ripley can feel it coming, like scenting snow on the wind, and his hand feels empty without a gun.

"We need to get out of here," Ripley says and he doesn't argue.

He just nods and shifts to one side, looking down at her. "We'll need a ship."

She smiles. "That won't be a problem."

-

He doesn't know what she said to Weyland-Yutani, doesn't want to know, but the ship's waiting. It's not the newest, not the fastest, but the lines are clean and the engines hot. She'll do.

"The Damocles?" he asks as Newt leans against his leg.

Ripley's mouth tugs up in a grin. "I thought it fit."

He laughs. It does.

-

Ripley finds the first device three days out. It's feeding telemetry and hourly status reports. She leaves it. It's the other two levels of surveillance she needs.

When she finds those, she ditches them all.

He takes them off course at her word and, a day after that, they're completely off the grid.

-

"Christ, I hate waiting," he says, whispering it into her skin.

Ripley smiles and hooks a leg around his. He lands on the bed with her staring down at him. "We're not waiting," she says, kissing him. "Not for them."

He groans, fingers digging into her thighs, as he rocks up against her. "Then what—"

She rocks down into him. Sharp and good. "Do I have to answer that?"

He goes tense. "Ripley—"

"What would someone want with those things?" she asks, dark and angry. "You've thought about it."

He has. He's thought about it just enough to know he doesn't ever want to find out.

-

She gets intel, from Earth, from someone better left unnamed. Weyland-Yutani's data. Reams of it. Reports, speculation, and a debriefing from Earth from, "Christ," Hicks says, staring at the data. "Is this real?"

Ripley nods. "Real enough."

"There was one of those things in the fucking ice?" He thinks of Antarctica and all the land as yet untouched.

"Fuck."

-

Reports come in, whispers on comm channels, about colonies, ships, but nothing concrete. Nothing to follow. Just screams sometimes. Enough.

Ripley listens to each one and looks at him.

Hicks thinks of those reports and cringes. Fucking xenomorphs. It was easier when they were a goddamn joke.

He kisses the top of Ripley's head. Indulges in the luxury of the moment and pretends not to hear the screaming over the channel.

This will end bloody and he's been deluding himself to think otherwise.

-

"They're going to keep coming," Newt says over breakfast. She's got eggs and toast. He's got a hangover and a hickey. Ripley's drinking coffee and staring at charts. "Aren't they?"

"Maybe," Ripley says. She reaches out, brushes a hand over Newt's hair and smiles. "We'll be fine."

It's a casual response. He's not sure if she's even thinking about the words when she says them,m but it doesn't matter.

He believes her anyway and, maybe, so does Newt.

And that's what gets him. Not the waiting for them. The xenomorphs or the others.

It's always been her.

-

He curls fingers around her wrist, tugging her against him. She moves with him easily and, for a second, they press together in the dark.

"You know what's going to happen," he says, kissing the corner of her mouth.

"Maybe," Ripley replies. She licks into the kiss, pressing him back against the wall. Her hand's in his pants a second later and his head's thudding back against the wall. "But I don't mind being surprised."

He laughs. "The hell you don't."

-

A colony goes dark. Then another. And another still.

-

Wait's over.

Good.