All the Voices Never Stop
Riddick sat back against his out of the way log and regarded the folks dancing around the fire. Triumph wasn't a bad moon as moons went. The people were fairly congenial, didn't ask a lot of questions and except for a small bandit problem it was pretty peaceful. He'd been making a decent living, hunting and trapping across the upper portion of the moon. Folks were always glad of a strong back, fresh meat and tanned hides so he was usually greeted with a smile, strange headgear aside. Explaining that he hunted better at night because his eyes were sensitive to light was usually a simple matter of taking the elder of whatever village he was in aside and having a small word.
Afterwards, in the evening, he was usually a magnet for small children and fascinated women. The kids were amazed by his eye shine and he'd been cajoled into more than one surprisingly fun game of hide and seek in the late evening hours. Kids were always a helluva a lot of fun for him. The women... well... that was a more complicated situation.
He made no claim to understand the religion of Triumph; it varied a bit from village to village. In most villages the unmarried girls were kept in a place called the Maiden house. Married women were fairly subservient to their husbands apparently; not something he was interested in. Though he'd seen quite a few women give their husbands an eye and suddenly the husband was quite interested in whatever his wife wanted to tell him quietly in the ear. He guessed however they acted in public a lotta women wore the pants in private. At least in this particular village. Certainly the docile attitudes seemed to be more than a little tongue in cheek.
He liked the simple world but at the same time, after three years of it, he was getting a little bored. Luckily life was hard enough that he hadn't dulled his own edge. Again. It was a quiet, simple life, if a solitary one. Simple, but not luxurious by any means in tangibles or intangibles. Sometimes he wondered if the Elder was right, that he wasn't meant for a life alone. And at other times he was grateful for his solitude.
No one here knew him well enough to realize this wasn't his native system. In three years he'd learned enough Chinese to pass for native though it wasn't completely second nature to curse in it. He'd managed to make his way to Triumph by stowing away on a cargo freighter bound for the moon with seed wheat. And before that it had been a spot on the floor of a transport ship with forty other people out to Beaumonde. And before that…numerous miscellaneous ships with no interest in him beyond a fee for transport. No records of transport had given him three years of freedom from the mercs that would never stop hunting him.
Something told him things would change soon. Shirah's whispers had gentled after he'd killed Zhylaw. He'd thought she had gone until he'd been left for dead on Not Furya. But once he'd embraced his Animal side again she'd come back to life.
Shirah hadn't been as…strident or demanding in his thoughts after he'd been left on Not Furya. She was more sympathetic and that in turn made him more inclined to listen to her. It helped that getting answers about Furya, about his people, was no longer like pulling teeth. She'd explained a great deal about his people, their people, and why his instincts demanded certain things.
It had been a relief to know that he wasn't insane, not by Furyan standards anyway. And an even greater relief to learn that he wouldn't always be alone. Shirah had explained to him that part of the reason he was drawn to children and protected them was due to his Furyan nature. Furyans, even Alpha Furyans like himself, were essentially pack animals. He needed people, needed children so he could indulge the softer side of his animal. Otherwise he'd become feral and too dangerous a man. But he needed conflict as well, or he'd become too soft.
Shirah was more a comfort these days than she was an irritant. She'd told him what to expect, why he heard echoes of the past in his dreams and sometimes when he was awake. And she'd promised him that he would not be alone forever. His line would continue, his people return, through him. Furyan genetics always bred true. But he needed a strong mate. Someone who would understand him. Someone who would trust him.
So he'd been waiting. Wondering if he should be doing something different. Wondering if he should go searching. But Shirah always calmed him, promised him that he was exactly where he needed to be. That something was coming.
He could feel that she was right. There was a change riding the wind. It felt like Furya was whispering from deep in his brain, to watch and wait and seize his chance when it was offered. His chance for Home. Shirah's whispers echoed through him as he watched the village celebrate. Home was coming for him.
The village had been dogged by bandits for a while. Some pissants thought they were big bads an' kept robbin' the traders that used the river as a road. He hadn't had any trouble with 'em since he never killed more than he could carry. Running overland was just as fast as a meandering wagon and it kept him from getting soft.
He'd been looking for some decent metal though and couldn't find it with the bandits stealing all the goods. It had become enough of an irritant that he'd given some thought to doing somethin' about the riffraff but the Elder, Gommen, they called him had already made arrangements when he offered.
Sure 'nough, not four days later a semi beat up Ought Three Firefly had set down near the village. Riddick had beat a strategic retreat until he could get a read on the situation. They didn't seem to be lawmen, just regular folk with guns and some semblance of brains. Gommen had talked to them as they'd descended the ramp from the ship and the tall man in the dark coat had nodded and smiled, all amiable like. The tall fellow, a stern dark-skinned woman and a man that practically had a sign flashing above his head saying 'hired gun' in Mandarin and English had a confab and gave the Elder a nod.
Gommen had seemed relieved and Riddick had watched as the original three disappeared into the ship while several others came out. A white haired, dark skinned man carrying a bible spoke with the Elder and the two men exchanged seemingly friendly words. As they were speaking a short curvaceous woman and a light haired man in a patterned shirt descended the ramp. They were followed by a trio that Riddick would have guessed as the most unlikely visitors to Triumph that he would ever see.
The man wore a crisp white shirt, a vest that gleamed and dark trousers. His hair was carefully cut and styled and his skin was pale. He was the picture of a Core gentleman at least as Riddick understood them from what he'd seen in the short time he'd been on Rubicon. The Core man's opposite was a disturbingly beautiful woman with dark curling hair and an artfully painted face. Her gown was just that, a gown rather than a dress and perfectly suited to her beauty and surroundings for all its glamour. And between the two of them...
Well, she was a girl. Had coloring similar to both the woman and the man. No cosmetics, nothing artificial about her. Her companions each had one of her hands as wide dark eyes looked all around the immediate area. Her hair was long and messy, falling in her face at times. She had a slender pretty face, pale skin like the other two and a tentative smile. Unlike the other two, she wasn't dressed like she was Core. She looked more like she'd gotten into the rag bag. The skirt she was wearing was limp around her legs and the boots she wore looked to be too big for her feet. And the less said about the shapeless sweater that covered the rest of her the better. But those eyes…huge and dark and deep as the Black.
A scuffle of grass sounded from behind him on the hill and Riddick slanted his eyes to the side for a moment. "Jacob," He acknowledged quietly before putting his eyes back on the strangers.
"Elder Gommen says they'll get rid of the bandits," The boy told him with the air of imparting important news. "So tonight there'll be a dance and lots of food to celebrate."
"Yeah?" Riddick nodded as the boy moved closer. The kids had learned to wait for permission before coming too close to him. Sometimes he wasn't in the mood for company or he was working and company wasn't appropriate. But right now... "What about the rest of 'em?" He indicated the other folks who'd emerged from the ship. "They gonna help?"
"Dunno," The boy, at ten, was caught in the in-between stage of life when playing was fun but responsibilities were also felt more keenly. "The girl in the coverall, she's their mechanic. Last time they were here, she fixed the cortex and the pump for the well. An' she says machines talk to her. She just knows how to fix 'em."
"Keeps their ship runnin' huh?" Riddick sent the boy a half smile and Jacob grinned back.
"Her name's Kaylee. It's longer but she just tells everyone to call her Kaylee 'cause her real name's too much fuss," Light hair fell in the boy's eyes and he blew it away with a huff of annoyance. "The one with the funny shirt is the pilot. He tells good stories. He says there's a planet where people juggle geese. Have you ever heard of it?"
"Baby geese, yeah," Riddick nearly chuckled at the memory. "What about the others? Know 'em?"
"The real pretty lady with the dark hair... Mother says she's a Companion and I'm not to speak to her," Jacob was frowning from the sound of his voice and Riddick slanted a look at him. "I don't see why though. The Bible says woman was created to be man's companion and helpmeet. She is created from him and is part of him and she shall be his mainstay. And he shall be her sword and shield and keep her from harm."
"Huh," Riddick really didn't care for Bible talk but it was about the only book the people around here read.
"So if woman is supposed to be man's companion, and the lady is a Companion, why am I not to talk to her?" Jacob persisted with his line of reasoning and Riddick nearly chuckled.
"Kid if I explained that one to you I'd be in more trouble than I wanna handle," He shook his head. "You best ask your momma that one. What about them other three though? Don't know 'em?"
"Never seen 'em afore," The boy shook his head. "The man sure is fancy lookin'. Whadda ya think he does?"
"Guess we should go find out," Riddick rose from his relaxed crouch and checked the fit of his blades and gun, adjusting the rifle minutely before he lifted the carcass of the deer he'd brought down earlier. "You run on ahead, let the Elder know I need someone to open up the back of the shop."
"Yes sir," Jacob took off, eager to be of use. Riddick walked at a more sedate pace behind him, choosing his steps carefully. By the time he'd reached the clearing of what served as the center of the village Jacob had spoken to the Elder and run off on some other errand.
The curvy woman had already decided to make herself useful and the pilot was with her on the opposite side of the clearing. The two Core folk and the girl they held were standing in the shade of the ship. The man was looking lost; the woman serene and, according to her body language, the girl between them was interested in everything. She kept trying to get away from the two taller people surrounding her and was growing increasingly frustrated from her expression. Every now and then her gaze rested on him and he could feel her eyes like a caress.
"Ah, Richard," Gommen raised his hand in a hail as Riddick moved into the clearing. "Please, if you can bear the weight a moment longer, meet Shepherd Book."
"Weight's no trouble," Riddick nodded as he strode easily towards the two men. He was aware of a shocked and wide gaze from the Core man, a slight tilt of the exotic woman's head and an increased struggle from the girl. "Richard Bledig, hunter, tracker."
"A pleasure," The shepherd inclined his head. "These are Inara, Simon and River," He indicated each in turn and Riddick tilted his head at the three Core folk. "Simon is our ship's doctor; Inara rents a shuttle on the ship. River is Simon's younger sister."
"Shuttle must be somethin' to get a Companion rentin' it," Riddick observed looking up at the old ship. "Fireflies are always little mysteries waitin' on a solution," He grinned wolfishly at the Core man. "If you're really a doctor, you might wanna take a look at the kids. Couple of 'em got a cough won't leave 'em."
"I'll get my bag," The man released his hold on the girl. "River you stay with Inara. It's very important all right?'
Riddick watched as the girl sighed and muttered something incomprehensible about wolves and smells and trees flickering. Her brother seemed to take it for agreement and hurried back into the ship. Then the girl looked straight at Riddick and smiled a slow pleased expression with a sweet brightening of her eyes. "A mighty hunter," She murmured thoughtfully. "Provides for people. Mighty heart."
Riddick couldn't help that his grin spread wider. Call him vain but he liked a compliment as much as the next man. "Mighty kind of you to say Miss," He drawled. "Long time since I seen someone pretty as you." He looked at the Companion and tilted his head toward the girl next to her. "Seems like being stuck on a ship all the time, a walk'd be welcome. Might take a stroll around the village. It's not Sihnon but there's plenty to see."
"Thank you," The Companion was gracious even to a man carrying a buck carcass around. "I think that's a good idea. Shepherd Book, perhaps you'll walk with us a while?"
Riddick couldn't help winking at the pretty little woman with the tangled hair and big dark eyes. "Well I'd better get this down to the shop. Get it drained and ready for butchering," He nodded at the remaining folks and continued on his way.
Behind him, he heard the Elder explainin', "Richard is a traveler but he's known to us. He tends to stay for several months at a time and keeps a home here. He's quiet, but he respects our ways and he looks out for our children. However, he's not much for...small talk. For him that was practically a week's worth of words."
He wasn't much for big fires either, he thought with a mental snort. Flames played havoc with his eyes. They weren't steady. All the flickering was as bad as a strobe light for irritating his sensitive pupils. He'd found himself a quiet spot, had a cup or two of the corn liquor being passed around and a decent meal so the liquor didn't go to his head.
The crew of the ship were celebrating along with the village folks. The dark woman and the pilot were snuggled together near the fire, swaying happily with the music. Elder Gommen was making the rounds, talking with the obviously married couple for a bit before he moved on to someone else. The little mechanic was dancing with some of the village girls. The tall guy with the long dark coat had been walking the Companion earlier. Now he was sitting next to the gun hand and getting drunk. So was the gun hand.
Riddick looked around curiously. He couldn't see the Doctor or the Companion now. They probably had gone back into the ship. Most likely they'd taken the girl with them. Pity. She'd seemed like she'd have more fun looking around the village on her own or dancing with the mechanic an' the other girls.
As if his thoughts had conjured her presence, the girl appeared out of the shadows on his right side. She'd either been hiding there for a while, silent the entire time, or she'd just snuck off the ship. Either way he hadn't heard a peep and his ears were better than his eyes.
"He is Richard," Her voice was quiet and had a sweet sound to it. "Hunter, tracker. Wanderer."
"Yep," He tilted his head back to look at her. "Your brother likely to come lookin' for you? Make a fuss?"
"If he notices that she is gone, yes. But he chases images in his sleep and will not wake until the sun touches the horizon." She moved a step closer and regarded him with those huge dark eyes. "Richard... Richard Bledig... meaning 'like a wolf'."
He frowned a bit, "You scared a me or somethin'?" She wasn't coming any closer and he was as unthreatening in appearance as it was possible for him to be. He was leaning back against his log, his legs outstretched in front of him. His rifle was in easy reach and he was armed but so were her crewmates. Well, most of them anyway.
"Have not been given permission to approach," She shook her head. "One does not invade another's territory unless invited."
"It's a free moon isn't it?" Riddick shrugged. It was up to her. He couldn't turn into a cuddly puppy any more than he could fly.
"Simon does not like it when she talks to strangers," She announced in a quiet voice. Still, she came closer and bent down to look into his eyes. Unlike others when they realized he could see perfectly well in the dark her heart beat didn't start to race. Either she didn't realize he was a predator or it didn't frighten her.
"Your preacher introduced us," Riddick reminded her with a half smirk. "Mean's we're not 'xactly strangers. Right?"
"A correct conclusion," The girl nodded and took a seat beside him. Her shoulders fit nicely against his arm resting on the back of the log. "River Boadicea," She offered him her hand politely.
He took it and looked at those slender fingers. She had calluses on her palms and fingertips, the kind that came from familiarity with weapons. Riddick turned her hand over in his and looked at her palm, tracing the lines of it with his fingers and heard her inhaled breath turn into a gasp. She was still staring up at him, her eyes wide and the scent of desire rose off her body. "So what are you doin' out here River Boadicea?" He continued to explore her palm. She was shivering slightly at the touch of his finger to her skin but she wasn't trying to pull away. The Furyan took a deep breath; the scent of her want teased his nose pleasantly.
"Need a favor. A large one," She said in a hesitant voice. "Only have one other choice, but it is not...optimal.
"And that means what?" Riddick was more interested in how she was reacting to his fingers on her palm than whatever favor she wanted. He'd never met a woman who reacted to his touch like that. Most women were nervous around him. Too nervous to respond to his touch with shivers of need.
"She is...damaged. Simon thinks she is broken and beyond mending," River wasn't looking up at him anymore, her head bowed so she was staring at his fingers playing with her hand. "Still a genius though. Know what I need to be fixed."
"Right," Riddick slid arm behind her a little closer and let his fingers touch her hair. It was silky even if it was tangled up and he tugged gently on one lock until she looked up at him. "So how are you busted?"
"Simon does not know what is wrong with me. He gives me medicines and tries to fix what is broken. But there are parts missing and she can never be a whole girl without them. Not without help." Dark eyes looked up into his, "She was...cut open. Her amygdale was...nearly removed. Scarred beyond repair."
"All right," Riddick frowned thoughtfully. If he remembered his reading correctly, and he damn well did, the amygdale was the part of the brain that controlled emotion. Helped you deal with the flight or fight responses, kept you from goin' insane with panic or whatever. "What kinda help would you need?"
"She needs..." She was blushing. Blood was rushing to the pale skin of her face, the scent of her body flushed with heat. A groan of mortification rose in her throat, "It is not easy to say what she needs."
"Well it's not like I'll laugh at you," Riddick shrugged easily. "You're a woman, women got needs. Some I can even help with. Dunno if I can help you unless you ask." Something about this girl, this woman, he liked her. She was trying to be straightforward and she smelled like delight and truth. And desire still, that need was one he'd gladly help her with.
"Is she pretty?" The question, according to his nose and ability to sniff out the truth, was of genuine concern to her. "Her mother is a beauty but she does not look like her."
"I'm no judge of beauty," Riddick warned her. "My eyes...they don't see regular colors. Everything's shades a purple or black an' white an' grey. Ever since my eyes turned. Remember colors okay just can't see them anymore. But you look real fine to me. Better'n that Companion with paint on her face." Her smile was hopeful as she looked up at him.
"He thinks she is pretty? That is...perhaps a good sign." She looked down at his hand, still stroking her palm and took a deep breath.
Riddick lifted his fingers from her hand and touched her chin, prompting her to look up at him. "Yeah, you're a pretty girl. Already said as much," He told her quietly. "What you'd want with a jackass like I me I got no clue." That was the honest to God truth. He had no clue what she'd want him for. He could admit he wanted her, pretty girl who liked his touch, but why would she want anything to do with him?
"She is... I, I am damaged," River began slowly. "But even damaged, even broken, I am still a genius. I was able to determine that my...problems are due to... two different factors." She looked down and then up again. "My amygdale...cannot be replaced. There is no way to regrow it or to reproduce its effects chemically. Not without making me into an unfeeling mindless automaton."
"You don't seem like you have problems now," Riddick observed. She was telling the truth as she saw it; he had no doubt of that. He just didn't understand how she could be as busted up as she said and still be walkin' an' talkin'.
"Now it is only the two of us," She shrugged. "You are calm, everyone is happy. Nothing...pushes at my mind. I don't have to...deal with any emotions that require an amygdale." Her dark eyes were showing a hint of worry and he could smell the anxiety on her. "In the place where they did this to me... they had others. Boys and girls, men and women. People with different abilities or talents. I think...they meant to team us up. Make us work in pairs or trios, quartets, I don't know. But I do know that every mixture of volatile chemicals requires a stabilizing agent."
"All right," Riddick knew he wasn't stupid but he wasn't exactly seeing what she was getting at.
"They turned me into a Reader. I hear the thoughts and emotions of everyone around me. I see everything; hear everything and I can't turn it off." She explained without stopping for breath. A huge gulp of air and she continued on, "The only time it's ever been quiet was when I was in the Black. On a tether on the back of Serenity waiting to go back in after the Feds left. It was peaceful. As peaceful as I've felt since they sliced me open. Even cryo fills my head with sounds. All the voices never stop."
"You can hear me thinkin'," Riddick asked with a tilt of his head. When she simply nodded he shook his head. "Why in the world are you even sittin' with me? If you can Read my mind you know what I am. You know I'm gorram dangerous."
"So am I," She shrugged and tangled her fingers in his. "But you have been kind to me in your way. Told me I'm pretty. Touched my skin and made me feel. Thought on me when they escorted me out of the ship. Thought I would have fun dancing. I would. I love to dance." Dark soft looking lips curved in a smile as she looked up at him. "I killed a man with a pen. I shoved it into his carotid artery and he bled to death. That was before I even...before I was fully trained. I'm not afraid of you Riddick."
He liked how his name sounded on her tongue, he had to admit that. And he liked that she was honestly not afraid of him. If she had the training he figured she had...well she was probably almost as dangerous as he was and if she wasn't it was only for lack of experience. All the training in the world couldn't make up for a lack of experience.
"She does not have much practical...familiarity with killing," River told him. The confirmation of his thoughts and his startled look got a tiny smirk curving her lips. "But...now that you know why she needs help... she should tell you the sort of help she needs."
"Yeah..." Riddick was wondering what in the world she would want him for. He couldn't think of what use he could be to her. Unless she wanted him to hunt down and kill the bastards who'd hurt her. Now that would be an amusin' hunt. He could get behind that notion. He never had taken to people who hurt kids.
"Needs a stabilizing agent please," She said quietly. When he simply lifted an eyebrow she sighed and wiggled closer to his body until her side was pressed to his. Only then did she continue, "She requires... someone whose amygdale is intact. Someone who is skilled in controlling his reaction to emotions."
"You want me to...what exactly?" Riddick understood what she was saying. It was simple enough but he wasn't getting the how of it. Or even why she was asking him. There were plenty of people on her boat that seemed in control. The Companion looked to have that particular quality down to a fine art.
"He misunderstands," River shook her head. "It cannot be any person. Must fit specific criteria in order to have the effect needed. Emotional control, a warrior, intelligent enough to understand her. And she finds you very handsome. She, I...find you to be the epitome of what a man should be."
"Huh," He had to think about that one. She'd given him a mess of compliments and he was still trying to figure out his part in this favor of hers. "So what do you want from me?"
"Want to marry you."
The blunt reply had him drawing in a gasping breath of shock and he stared down at her in disbelief. "Are you gorram crazy? Why'n the unholy fuck would you want to marry me? You know who I am? Really know?"
In response, she climbed into his lap, straddling his outstretched legs. Her knees pressed to the ground on either side of his hips and strong slender arms rested on his shoulders. Her hands stroked the back of his neck pleasurably and he stared at her. She was looking down at him with a tiny smile on her face and he couldn't understand what she could possibly be pleased about. He was a gorram animal. He was murderer, an escaped convict, and more than a few folks thought he was out of his mind to boot. If she had any sense she'd run in the opposite direction.
But the very thought of her running from him was wrong. It went against everything inside him to let her go. Shirah's whisper was getting louder inside him, murmuring coaxingly of home and family. Was this slender girl who he'd been waiting for? Was she the reason his instincts had been strung tight for weeks?
He was dimly aware that the celebration was still ongoing even as she giggled down at him and answered his rhetorical question. "She knows very well who he is. Richard Bledig Riddick. Escaped Convict. Murderer. Furyan. Lord Marshall. Castaway. Warrior. Likes him. And she already told him that she is crazy. Need him to be not crazy anymore. Will still like him when the insanity has fled. Promise."
"Why me?" He wanted to know, "Don't you have other men on your crew? Beside your brother?" Not that he minded her straddling him or the feel of that soft yet firm body pressing down on his. She felt gorram good on top of him.
"Captain is smitten with Inara, but too stupid to do anything about it. Pilot is married to the First Mate," She half turned, pressing the side of her body to his chest and indicated the gun hand sitting next to the captain both of them well on their way to very drunk. "Shepherd is celibate, not allowed to marry, and not appropriate besides. The only other possibility is the gun hand. And he does not like her. Saw her naked and still finds the idea of sex with her highly disturbing."
Now that he did not care for one bit. The hands that were resting lightly on her hips tightened on her body, "Whadda ya mean he saw you in your birthday suit?" He growled the words out and smelt her scent warm as a smile curved her lips.
"She came out of cryo early. Didn't like it. The voices wouldn't stop. Cold agonizing light, reborn into Serenity's arms. Captain Daddy broke the lid off my box and I fell out screaming. Entire crew saw the girl without clothing. Except Kaylee and the Shepherd. Unconscious and out of the room respectively," She shrugged and the movement pressed her body against his, moving her breasts pleasurably over his chest.
"Well that's one less man I'll wanna kill," Riddick muttered to himself. "So the gun hand doesn't suit you?"
"Thinks she is dangerous. Crazy. Unpredictable and trouble. Does not want trouble," River told him softly. "His mind is... well," She shrugged eloquently. "It would work, but not as well as yours. And I do not want to be his wife. He would not want a wife like me. I am... not easy. Or sweet. Or nice."
"So, what? You'd marry me and then be on your way?" Riddick got the feeling that wasn't what she had in mind even as he asked the question. It wasn't really what he wanted either, if he gave any thought to what he wanted. His brain, and other less evolved parts, kept going back to how she'd reacted when he touched his fingers to her palm.
"She, I, would very much like it if Riddick joined Serenity. But she would stay here with him if he did not wish to sail the Black," Her little white teeth had caught her bottom lip between them and she was worrying the tender flesh in her stress. "In order to be a person again, to have her mind, she would stay here. She would like building a life with him as her husband. But she...they...would need to have a proper...actual marriage."
"Wouldn't it be more likely your crew'll come for my blood and I'll end up killin' 'em all?" Riddick slid his hands to the small of her back and pulled her closer. She felt damn good against him. Strong but like silk under his palms.
"She is confident that she can prevent bloodshed. And the captain will wish to ascertain the marriage is a true one before anyone is actually killed," River told him with a hopeful smile. "Does his question mean he is considering her proposal?"
"You a virgin?" He knew it was blunt as hell but it made a little bit of a difference in how this would go.
"Never had sex with a man. Doesn't make her a virgin. Gifted with a Companion to introduce her to pleasure when she was fourteen. Ceremony to remove the hymen when she was thirteen," She tilted her head thoughtfully. "The Companion was skilled and she was pleased but..." She shrugged but began to look a bit worried. "Does it matter so much?" Her nerves showed more as she continued, "Please. I want this, with you. I want your mind to be with mine. Strong and safe and free but alive with intelligence and courage and the Animal inside you. Please. I...I want all the voices to stop unless I go looking for them. I don't want to be fractured and broken. Please don't make me..."
He stopped her anxious babbling and the rising scent of fear with a shake of her body in his arms. "Gorramit, I haven't changed my mind. Nothing to change when I'm just askin' a question is there? For the record? I don't care, just like to be prepared," Riddick shrugged. "Case you didn't notice, I'm not exactly dainty."
Her giggle was a wicked sound that sent a pleasurable thrum through his muscles even if it was half nervy with relief. "She is glad of that. Do not find slender men appealing. Very much approve of physicality; his muscles and skills and especially of all his knives."
Riddick looked at her, slender body pressed against his, pale skin and dark eyes surrounded by tangled but somehow luscious looking dark hair. He wanted her, wanted to keep her, wanted what Shirah had promised him in those haunting dreams. He wanted his home. But this girl/woman wasn't anything like the hardy girls in the Maiden House or the rawboned women that were the norm on Triumph.
He wasn't like the men of Triumph either. He was Furyan. A murderer. An escaped convict. His animal side was demanding his mate become his without any more waiting or consideration. Once he touched her, took her, he'd never be able to let her go. Deep inside where all of Furya lived within him he knew, felt with absolute certainty, that his people only mated once. It was rare to marry as young as he was. Long lived, powerful and spiritual, the consequences of mating would resound through lifetimes.
Riddick studied her expressive intelligent face and wondered what she was thinking of his silence. She'd freely confessed as to why she'd chosen him, told him that she needed him. Did she know that he needed her just as fiercely? That once they were married, bound by rites and her body joined with his that she would become his world? There would be nothing more important in his life than this woman. She could become his greatest weakness or his most powerful strength depending on her character.
It was a risk.
And he didn't care about the risk. If she was strong enough to be honest with him… Strong enough to tell him why she needed him, that there was another possibility but he was still the best choice for her. Then she was strong enough to deal with him once he took her. She was intelligent enough to entice him with compliments that reeked of her veracity and not so proud that she wouldn't show him her fears when he seemed to reject her offer.
His curiosity was piqued as well. She was strong, intelligent and beautiful but by her own admission she was damaged. What would she be like when her mind was healed or, to use her words, stabilized? How much more of powerful a woman would she become if he chose her, chose to bind himself to her? She could be his equal. Could be everything he wanted and needed.
But she had to know. It would be the worst kind of lie to not tell her what he was like. To not warn her that this was an irrevocable step. There was no divorce on Furya. There was no way to dissolve the bonds they would create. Even as he considered it he could feel the knowledge trickling forward from that place of his ancestors inside him. He wondered if she could Read it, or feel it with her abilities? Or would the information come as a surprise to her as it was to him?
"Gotta tell you," Riddick began, knowing his voice was still fairly gruff with trepidation. "Won't be any goin' back. Marry me, you'd belong to me. I'd belong to you. My people, they don't split, not ever." He slid his hands up her arms, amazed at how slender she was, and gave her a little shake. "I'm not nice. Not sweet. Not even polite. But I protect what's mine. I'd expect you to be loyal and I'd be the same. But you gotta know. After... there's no backin' out. Run and I'd hunt you. Leave an' I'd drag you back. I go some where you'd come with. That's it."
Those huge dark eyes studied him for a long tense moment and she nodded slowly. "He demands fidelity and verity. Offers the same to her. Possessive of what is his. Warrior. Alpha Furyan. Powerful. Demanding. Needs strength and intelligence in his mate. She would endeavor to be everything he needs." A fleeting smile curved her lips and she nodded, "No take backs. No changies. No return of purchase. All sales are final."
Frustration twisted her pretty mouth and she sighed as if what she'd said wasn't what she'd had in her mind. Her hand lifted and hesitantly cupped his jaw before her thumb moved to caress his lower lip. "When her brain is stable she will be glad. Words will not slip and slide on her tongue. She will be capable. Will give him everything she has. Would be a worthy mate. She will honor him." She tilted her head, a slightly predatory look in her eyes as she met his silver gaze. "He will honor her equally?"
Riddick considered her little speech for a moment. As best as he could tell, she was trying to say she understood what he needed. That there was no going back for either of them. All sales were final. He almost grinned at the phrasing but her last question sobered him. Honor. With the life he'd led, no one had ever considered him capable of honor. She simply looked at him and saw right through every mask, the layers of trappings that hid the Furyan from the world, even the facade of the animal. She looked at him and knew. And expected that he understood honor and had a code of his own, strictly adhered to. She believed he was capable of honorable behavior and would treat her accordingly. It was one of the highest compliments he'd ever been given and it was bestowed without hesitation or conscious thought.
"We did this... you'd be my woman. Wife, mate, Lady...my honor is yours and yours is mine." Riddick told her finally. "No way I'd treat you bad. Wife is an equal. Treated like one." He turned his face into her hand and pressed a hot kiss to her palm, eliciting an erotic gasp from her lips. "Long's you understand, we start this, there's no stopping."
She nodded her understanding, dark mouth curving in an anticipatory smile. Those dark pretty eyes were watching him hopefully as he looked up at her. "Does this mean the proposal is accepted?"
"You know how the marriage ceremony works on Triumph?" He smirked at her. If life was as hard for her as she'd implied with all that worried talk a minute ago... Well hell. It wasn't like he didn't want her. She was fucking beautiful. Even in those clothes that looked like she was drowning in them. He'd been more interested in her than the Companion or the obviously single little mechanic. He'd barely heard this woman's voice and he'd been intrigued. And he'd acted according to his slightly atrophied conscience and warned her there was no getting away from him.
She'd seemed pleased by that. So, smart, pretty, brave and she wanted him. Of course he was gonna marry her. Any woman who could capture his attention like that, wasn't afraid of him and wanted him on top of it? He'd be an idiot to turn her down. And his instincts were screaming at him that she should be his. That he'd been waiting for her. Hell, his instincts had been screaming since he'd seen her that he should be courting her. The Furyan part of him had woken up with a vengeance since he'd seen those gorgeous dark eyes.
And his smirk and teasing words just seemed to make her happier if her smile at him was any indication. Maybe it was good that she was a little crazy. It wasn't like he was the Core standard of normal to begin with.
"I must make you a wreath of branches and flowers and leaves. Present it to you and crown you with it," River told him with a smile. "I give you a bowl of wine and you drink from it. And then we must dance together with our hands joined."
"That's how I've seen it done," Riddick agreed. "All right," He sighed. "Can't believe I'm sayin' this. I must be outa my mind. Or maybe it's been too long and I'm itchin' for some fun an' trouble." He pulled her so close her mouth was only an inch from his. He felt compelled to warn her again for some reason. Because he wanted this to happen now. He wanted her. To make her his wife. His. To keep her. One last warning and then…well then he was going to take what she was offering.
"I'll take care of you. I won't baby you and I won't treat you like you're helpless. But you better have thought this through because if I take you... 'F I make you mine...you stay mine. 'Til fuckin' death do us part. You got that?" He gave her a little shake that was completely unneeded as she grinned happily down at him. Why him threatening her and acting like a Neanderthal made her happy he might never understand.
"I will not share either," She warned him. "Will make sure he is satisfied. Very fast learner. Dancer. Acrobatic and flexible. Will make every attempt to please him. But if he strays she will cut off his man parts and display them in a jar along with his heart and eyes."
"Yeah?" He grinned and shifted under her. His wedding tackle was definitely interested now. Nothing sexier than a woman staking her claim. "What'll happen to the woman I'd be cheatin' with?"
"She will skin her alive and sell her hair before throwing her out into the Black to be turned into space trash," Her little hiss of fury was almost as arousing as her words. "Will not share. 'Til fuckin' death do us part." Her imitation of his words and accent was spot on and he pulled her face down to his. Sweet, hot, soft lips pressing down on his, opening and letting his tongue slip though. Her tongue slid hesitantly against his and Riddick groaned. That tore it. He started to devour, pulling her body tight to his until they were both moaning and gasping into each other's mouths. Her hips were rubbing against his and somehow his hand had gone from her back to her ass.
"Son of a bitch," Riddick took a deep breath as he pulled his head back. "Guess that answers whether or not we got chemistry." He looked at her, "Tell you what. You go find a way to make that hat. Get a bowl of that wine. I'm gonna move closer to the fire."
His reward was a shy little giggle and a hesitant attempt to move backwards on his legs. Riddick couldn't help chuckling at how awkward they both were. Half a moment ago he'd had his tongue doing some serious investigating of her mouth and he really wanted to get back to that. Part of him wondered if getting married was really necessary or if sex would do it but in the end he figured it didn't matter. He'd made up his mind to keep her so married didn't make much of a difference.
Riddick put his hands on her hips and helped her stand smirking at her when her legs were noticeably wobbly. She gave him a pout and shook her finger at him reminding him of the wives he'd seen around the village. "He must not mock her for being weak-kneed. His kisses are disorienting and perhaps doubly so because the last kiss was when she was eleven and she was not terribly interested in such things."
"The Companion didn't kiss you?" Riddick picked up his rifle and slung it over his back. A hand under her elbow to steady her on the uneven ground led to her giving him another smile.
"No," She shook her head. "No, it was not done. Certain things are only for the husband. A Companion is to teach pleasure; that the body is not to be feared. To teach a girl that her body is meant for wonderful things. But kissing is only for the girl's husband. A kiss is intimate, romantic. She should only know the lips of her suitor once her parents have approved the match. The same with...intercourse."
"That mean your brother's gotta approve of me?" Riddick wondered idly. Not that it would stop him if the man disapproved.
"Simon is not my guardian," River giggled at him as he sat down closer to the fire and only a few feet away from the gun hand and her Captain. "Technically he is my kidnapper. He has no authority over me. In a legal sense."
"How old are you?" Riddick caught her hand before she could scamper off to make him the wreath.
"Seventeen. To be eighteen in five months," She shrugged. "On the Rim I am considered an adult already."
"Long's you're not a baby. I don't sex kids," Riddick muttered and let go of her hand. To his surprise she caught his fingers in her smaller hands and lifted his knuckles to her lips.
"Future wife is not a child," She told him with a smile that promised she would prove it later. Riddick nearly groaned as his cock tried to bust through his pants at the thought.
Author's Note: So this little idea grabbed hold of me and wouldn't let go. It's entirely in Riddick's POV because I didn't want it to go to novel length. I might do River's POV eventually but most likely not the exact same sequence of events.
My time line puts the Firefly season after the last Riddick movie by at least three years. He's had some time on his own, time to relax a bit, but keep his edge sharp.
I hope this is fun to read. Not a whole lot of plot involved, just character interaction. It was fun to write. And editing it gets me going to write more on Animals. A lot of times I'll get going on a new idea and it helps to put me in writing mode. Lots of ideas...so little time.
This will probably be posted weekly...not quite sure, depends on how the editing goes. Any questions or comments I'd love to hear from all of you. Remember, reviews are love! And I'll do my best to answer any questions without getting too spoilery.